What on earth has Christ to do with Creation?

Lord of creationI grew up in a Church where we said the words of the Nicene Creed every Sunday. The words tumbled out of my mouth easily, though they didn’t mean much to me at the time. Especially the parts about Jesus, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made…being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made..who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven.” (Not being able to read, I misheard ‘begotten’ as ‘forgotten,’ and nothing made sense after that!)

I’ve come to love the Creed as a potent portrait of the Triune God and His stunning gospel: The Maker of heaven and earth has built a bridge, so that his finite and sinful creatures may reach Him and know Him as Father. In John Stott’s words:

“Only one bridge spans the otherwise unbridgeable gulf. It has been thrown across from the other side. It is Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, who entered our world, became a human being, lived our life, and then died our death, the death we deserved to die because of our sins.”

It’s easy to recite words, but do we really think of Jesus as Lord of Creation? And does it really matter whether this is the Jesus we believe in, or not?

In the beginning…

It mattered greatly to John, one of Jesus’s closest disciples. The risen Jesus must have opened up the scroll of Genesis with his disciples, because John began his Gospel with the same words as Genesis 1. He made some staggering statements:

Here’s what John wrote about Jesus as Lord of Creation:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind… 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:1-41418).

Here’s what Moses wrote about how the universe came into existence:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen 1:1-3).

Eternal and living Word

John deliberately echoed the first words from Genesis 1 to leave us in no doubt that Jesus is the Lord of Creation. He is also God’s perfect Son and image-bearer (John 1:1418). Yet amazingly, God’s eternal word that created the universe is also the carpenter’s son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The eternal word is also the living Word who lived among us.

John is unequivocal that Jesus is the eternal God who lit up the darkness, brought order from chaos and filled the emptiness at Creation. Christ was the creative word that called the cosmos into being each time God spoke, “Let there be…and there was…” We must let the full import of John’s prologue sink into our hearts and minds: Jesus of Nazareth existed at the beginning– before and outside of time, space and matter! This is not just something John made up, as Jesus claimed it too (John 17:5).

Last week I said that Christ is more than we could ever hope for. He is not just for a particular nation, era or ethnic group, but for the whole world and for all time. Jesus is not just Creator of our world, but the whole cosmos—even what’s invisible to our telescopes. He transformed the formless, dark void of nothing-ness into an earth and sky teeming with light and life, order and purpose, beauty and fruitfulness. It’s a picture of blessing.

Light of life

Yet, according to John, Christ’s creative work hasn’t stopped. The Creator is also the Re-creator (or redeemer) of his broken universe that’s no longer under God’s blessing (Gen 1:28), but under His curse (Gen 3:24).

Here’s how John describes Jesus, the true light:

“9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:9-13).

When I read this description of the true light, I think of a rescue searchlight in a gloomy cave, enveloped by pitch darkness— the darkness of Satan, ignorance, alienation, hatred, illness, fear and death. Jesus is the searchlight, seeking out lost people in the darkest corners of the cave, even those who have been blinded for so long, they no longer realize it’s dark. Each and every lost soul who responds to His searchlight, He rescues and restores to the sunlight of family, wholeness and fruitfulness. To blessing and life.

The curse is not God’s final word to us. Jesus is God’s final Word.

That’s exactly what John records Jesus doing when He left heaven to make his dwelling with us:

He announced, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus filled the empty wine jars of an ashamed wedding host and restored order to His Father’s house (John 2:1-1214-16). He filled hungry stomachs with overflowing food, and his disciples’ empty nets with thousands of flapping fish (John 6:1-14John 21:11). He poured living water into the dry soul of a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-42). He spoke wholeness into a lame man and brought light to the eyes of a man born blind (John 5:5-9John 9:7John 9:26-27). When He walked on water, Jesus defied the laws He embedded in His universe at creation (John 6:19). Just as he created the universe ex nihilo, He provided fish and bread out of nothing after his resurrection (John 21:9). He forgave and restored the dignity of an adulterous woman and breathed life into Lazarus (John 8:11John 8:11). He forgave Peter and re-made him as a fruitful evangelist (John 21:15-17). Jesus’ stunning words matched his works, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life”(John 5: 242125). That’s the crux of the incarnation, which every one of Jesus’ miracles pointed to.

But Jesus never acted alone. From the beginning, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always worked together to create and re-create life.

New creations

Jesus told Nicodemus that God’s Spirit breathes new life into the hearts of born again believers (John 3:7-8).  This Spirit is the same creative Spirit that fluttered over the face of the waters at Creation, waiting for God’s word to carry out His will (Gen 1:2). And exactly the same Spirit who hovered over Jesus at his baptism when the Father gave His blessing, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him” (John 1:32Luke 9:35Matt 3:17)!

Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked together to give life to the first humans (Gen 1:26), God’s word (the gospel) must go out in the Spirit’s power to create new creatures who seek after the Lord.

Renewed day-by-day

Here’s why I think it matters to see Jesus in Creation, even as we go about tidying messy homes, putting food on the table and stringing words together for blogs– generally bringing order from chaos: If Jesus really made and holds the universe together, then we’ll only find our life’s meaning and purpose in Him (Heb 1:1-3Col 1:151617). What He did at Creation, He keeps renewing day-by-day in our inner selves (2 Cor 4:16). Only the Lord of Creation can bring us through the chaos of Coronavirus and all the effects of sin, to our ultimate home. Only His Spirit can illumine the beauty of the gospel to those crouching in darkness. And only when His Spirit “hovers” over His children, will our hearts burn as we live and breathe God’s Word (Rom 12:21 Peter 1:23). If we remain in a living relationship with Jesus, we will be His faithful image-bearers who bear lasting fruit (John 15:4-5Phil 4:17Gal 5:22-23Matt 28:19-20). After all, if Christ spoke the universe into being, He can surely restore every empty, dark, chaotic cave in your life that is crying out right now for redemption!

Making all things new

Jesus is the word of renewal and hope we see in Genesis 1 and John 1. But our hope becomes reality when we see Jesus in the final scene of the Bible. Next time Christ comes, it won’t just be to visit earth for 33 years, but to make his home with us forever!

“He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

The presence of Jesus, who existed before the sun, will light the new Creation. The earth will drip with even more abundance and blessing than the Garden of Eden, and no sin or deceit will enter it again (Revelation 21:2327Rev 22:2):

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children” (Rev 21:3-7).

What on earth has Christ to do with Creation? Absolutely everything!

Lord of Creation, your word has been burning in our hearts today as you’ve searched us with your powerful light. Make us new by your word day-by -day, so that we’ll bear fruit that will last. Thank you for your beautiful world, which displays your power, glory and concern for even the smallest things. Most of all, thank you for your blessed Son, in whom we are made “very good” sons and daughters, today and forever. In His beautiful name, Amen.

Further reading:

Poythress, Vern: How to read Genesis 1-3: Let there be light. Desiring God.

Guthrie, Nancy: The Promised One.

“This will be the seventh-day rest that every Sabbath since Eden has pointed toward and implanted in us a longing for—finally like it was in the garden at the beginning, only better, and this time, forever. God’s people in God’s place, enjoying God himself in their midst for all time.” (Nancy Guthrie- The Promised One).

Is your heart burning with the truth of the risen Christ?

Burning heartBy Rosie Moore.

Imagine seeing Jesus in the flesh after his resurrection! The pair on the Emmaus road had burning hearts as Jesus walked beside them and opened up the Old Testament to them. They started their journey bewildered, sad and disappointed, but that evening at dinner, Jesus opened their eyes to see that the cross and empty tomb were part of God’s plan from the beginning.

Back in Jerusalem, the eleven disciples thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus joined their meal. But he invited them to touch his body, reminding them that his death and resurrection was all written down centuries before, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:4445). When they finally turned to their Bibles and saw Jesus for who he was, they couldn’t be silenced. The fire of the truth could not be extinguished. Is that your experience?

Today, let’s join two burning hearts on the road to Emmaus:

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

We had hoped…

Cleopas and his friend had hoped Jesus was the one to redeem Israel, but he’d been crucified instead. To them, Luke 24:19 and 20 were jarring contradictions.

Why is it so easy for us to misunderstand who Jesus is, or be disappointed that he has not done for us what we hoped? Perhaps it’s because our view of Jesus and what He came to accomplish is skewed, confused, small or incomplete. Perhaps we don’t pay enough attention to the original source, but only to podcasts and videos about Jesus, plucking from the Bible the ‘useful’ bits that fit our hopes, dreams and needs for today. Like the two disciples, we too are prone to define Jesus for ourselves but blind to God’s big story for the world. Jesus tells us where to look if we want to see Him and his mission clearly. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the whole Bible to see who Jesus is and why He’s much more than we could ever hope for.

In all the Scriptures…

“He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

 You might find it odd that Jesus’ first revelation of himself to these disciples was by way of a Bible study from the Old Testament! That isn’t exactly the kind of sentimental message we pass around social media, which makes us Oooh and Aaah in amazement! Jesus was explaining how all those flawed heroes, stories, symbols, laws, sacrifices, shadows and types were scenes from an unfinished play, awaiting their fulfillment in Him. As Nancy Guthrie writes,

“The Old Testament serves to point out our cavernous need for a better law keeper, a better judge, a better prophet, a better priest, a better king. Jesus must have looked Cleopas and his companion in the eyes that day and said, “That’s me. I’m the one the whole of the Old Testament points to. I’m the one God intended to send all along.”

It was while Jesus filtered familiar Scriptures through the mesh of the gospel, that the sparks of spiritual insight were lit, and their eyes became clearer.

Their eyes were opened…

29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! (Luke 24:29-34).

But is it true?

Today’s familiar story is happy and hopeful, but I pray our hearts are burning with its Truth. Luke intends us, 2000 years later, to be fired up by the same internal combustion engine that no one has been able to switch off since those first disciples saw Christ alive. The resurrection is a critical moment. Jesus’s whole life stands or falls on this moment in history. In fact, the whole Bible stands or falls on whether it’s a fact or fallacy. Was Jesus a blasphemer, a delusional man, a liar…Or was He speaking the truth when He called himself the Messiah-King? (Matt 26:63-64)

The only way you and I will answer that question with integrity is if we read the gospel accounts for ourselves and decide whether Christ’s claims are true.

Search the Scriptures, see Christ for yourself!

I’d like to suggest that the best way you can spend lockdown is by returning to the source and searching the Scriptures for yourself.

I’d like to suggest that one of the best ways we can use our time in lockdown is by turning to the source and searching the Scriptures for ourselves.

“Jesus showed us that the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but meditation on the Word of God…When Jesus sought to enrich others, He worked from the quarry of Holy Scripture…O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!” (C.H Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Jan 18).

Read for yourself how Jesus showed the first eye-witnesses his hands and feet and invited them to touch him (Luke 24:39-40). Join their journey from amazement to adoration as they exclaim one by one, “My Lord and my God!…It is the Lord!… I have seen the Lord!… It is true!” (John 20:28John 21:7John 20:18Luke 24:34). Read for yourself how they watched Jesus fill their fishing nets and eat a breakfast braai with them on the beach (John 21:1-14). From defeat, doubt and disbelief, they were led by the truth to clarity, joy, worship and boldness. Is this your experience?

But this story is a forewarning that the truth is flammable. Once God’s Spirit opens our eyes to see Jesus in the Scriptures, we cannot be silent about Him. The Bible isn’t just ink on paper, or inspirational thoughts, or head knowledge. It should fiercely impassion our minds, emotions, words and actions! It’s God’s true story of what He is accomplishing in the world, and in us, through Christ. And it is only this fire of truth that will make us bold and confident in the gospel over the long haul. Without the fire of God’s Spirit, we will just use the Bible to gather dry factual crumbs or inspirational quotes, instead of feasting on Christ, the Bread of life. Let us be warned by the Pharisees of Jesus’s day:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).


Lord, open our eyes to see and wonder at the truth of who you are in the whole Bible. Give us a big, beautiful picture of yourself that not only fills our hearts, but extends to the whole world. Help us to be diligent in searching the Scriptures for ourselves, rather than relying on snippets from those who are more learned. Holy Spirit, make our hearts burn with the truth of your Word every day of our lives. Soften our hard hearts that think we know it all already, but refuse to come to you personally to have life. Amen (John 20:31John 5:40).

A foretaste of our new series “Burning hearts”

The Emmaus Road was just a foretaste of the revelations to come. Before Jesus sent his disciples out as his witnesses to the world, He spent almost forty days opening up the Jewish Scriptures with them. He showed them how every book from Genesis to Malachi pointed to Himself and mapped out their gospel mission to the nations. He taught them, through the familiar Torah, how God’s promised Messiah would save them through suffering, dying, rising and returning as Judge and King on the last day. Don’t you wish you could Zoom to those Bible studies with Jesus?!

In the weeks before Ascension day, The God Walk will give a tiny taster of what Jesus discussed with his disciples in these final days. We will start at the beginning, Seeing Christ in Creation. Then the Lamb of God, Son of DavidWisdom Song and The Prophet’s Promise. I look forward to walking with you on our mini Emmaus road!

Instead of a song, here’s a video to help us to see that Jesus truly rose from the dead. I pray that you will stand alongside those first eye-witnesses and say, “It is true!” And that this truth will change you forever.

Who is it you are looking for?

Empty tomb resizedNow Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her (John 20:11-18).

Last at the cross, first at the grave

It’s amazing how the first person to see Jesus alive is Mary Magdalene, a woman with no legal or social standing in Jewish culture, and a dubious past. But Jesus had freed her from seven demons and she owed him everything (Luke 8:2). Her devotion to Jesus was so irrepressible that she had left her home in Magdala to follow and support His mission. She never left his side on the way to Jerusalem. Even when his close friends deserted Jesus, Mary stayed, witnessing his trial and sentencing by Pilate. She watched her Saviour die on the cross and helped prepare his body for burial. On the first day after the Jewish Sabbath, it was Mary who was at the tomb earliest in the morning to witness the greatest event in world history.

Imagine her grief as she stood outside the tomb (John 20:11). Imagine her confusion as she saw the ‘gardener’ and asked where he had put the body. Imagine her excitement when she finally saw Jesus for who He was: Her “Rabboni”! And imagine her astonishment when she heard him calling her to be the first messenger of the good news!

An unlikely missionary

In spite of her history and her gender, Jesus called Mary Magdalene to be his first ambassador after his resurrection. It was a scandalous honour in their patriarchal society, but after her personal encounter with the living Jesus, Mary needed no further convincing. She believed Jesus when he said, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (John 20:17). Those were radical, reassuring words to hear from the King of kings.

Mary was bubbling over with joy as rushed to obey Jesus’s first mandate to go and tell her brothers the good news. She may not have been a leader or one of the twelve, but she was a woman with a mission! And she had just heard that she was God’s own daughter, as surely as Jesus was God’s own Son!

She heard Him call her name

At first, Mary is confused about who Jesus is, but Jesus points her in the right direction with his questions, “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Jesus’s questions are full of tenderness and patience. They are personal and probing questions designed to help her discover the truth. That is exactly how Jesus deals with us as we grapple with the truth of who He is. He does not try to confound or hide from us.

Then Jesus comes to her and tenderly calls her name, “Mary.” That’s when Mary recognizes him. Her doubt and confusion give way to jubilation and affection for her Saviour. Just as Jesus had said, “His sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).

Is this your experience this Easter? Are you fully convinced that Jesus is alive today? Do you know Christ in a personal relationship, as Mary did? Do you know that He has spoken to you in the Bible, and are you eager to go and tell others the good news found in its pages?

Beyond evidence

I could give you all the arguments why the resurrection actually happened. I could spend many pages writing about the missing body, the secure stone weighing 2 tons and the Roman guards outside the empty tomb. I could tell you about the eleven separate occasions when Jesus was seen alive (including 500 people at the same time), and throw in the evidence of the cowardly disciples who became brave evangelists, willing to die for their belief in the risen Jesus. I could tell you about Jesus’ skeptical brother James, and Paul the stubborn persecutor of Christianity, who both became grace-filled preachers who suffered and died for the truth of the resurrection. As an erstwhile lawyer, I love hard evidence!

But instead, I’ll leave with you this simple story of a weeping woman, who heard Jesus call her name. Don’t let this season pass you by without grasping hold of the person at the centre of Easter. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus as her own Christ, her risen Lamb of God, her Saviour, her Lord and King. This same risen, reigning Jesus calls you by name and has made himself known to you. He asks you the most important question you can hear this Easter, “Who is it you are looking for?”

Can you say, with Mary, “I have seen the Lord!”

P.S Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Here’s a read-aloud poem to lighten your hearts during this sombre season:

How the Virus Stole Easter
By Kristi Bothur
(With a nod to Dr. Seuss)

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.
People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.
People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.
“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.
“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.
The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.
“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.
But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!

It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!
The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”
“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?
Well….the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty – but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.
So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that –
Let it start a revival.


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

God-forsaken resizedOne of the worst aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak in Bergamo, Italy, is that thousands of its victims died alone, without the comfort of loved ones at their bedside. Regardless of culture or religion, the world has been forced to discard ancient rituals to say goodbye to the dying, to honour the dead and comfort the bereaved, for fear of spreading the virus further. But on this Easter Friday, Christians can know that we will never experience the horrific separation that Christ suffered as he gasped for breath on the cross. As our substitute, Jesus was weighed down, not only by his own broken body, but by the burden of sin he never committed. Christ became a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and emptied the cup of God’s wrath. Enveloped by darkness from noon until 3pm on the Friday of Passover, Jesus owned King David’s cry in Psalm 22:

 ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt 27:45-46Ps 22:1a).

“Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest (Ps 22:1-2).

Jesus’s cry of true abandonment gave voice to an immense spiritual grief. It eclipsed all other griefs, as the perfect Son bore the wrath of His beloved Father against every loathsome sin committed in the world. For the first time in all eternity, the righteous Judge of all the earth turned his face away from his beloved Son. He shut the door in Jesus’s face, to open the door to forgiven sinners.

Let’s go back to the Psalm that Jesus meditated on as he hung on the cross. Read Psalm 22 through on your own, then keep the text in front of you as we massage its truth into our hearts:

Despised by the people

“But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him…”

The Psalmist clearly had his own enemies and personal torment. But David was also a prophet, inspired by the Holy Spirit to describe an infinitely more profound anguish to be suffered by one of his descendants (1 Peter 1:10-11).

Jesus knew more than any man what it is to be abandoned and despised. Judas betrayed him and his friends deserted him. Even Peter denied him. Then there were the three nighttime trials and the brutal flogging. The Chief Priests didn’t care that Judas had betrayed innocent blood (Matt 27:4). Nor did Pilate and Herod care that Jesus was guiltless (Matt 27:182426Luke 23:41415). Everyone knew Christ was innocent and that the trials were a complete mockery of justice. Yet, they continued to bay for blood while Pilate washed his hands.

How accurate and ironic is the taunt of Ps 22:8“He trusts in the Lord, let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him”. It was an echo of the insults hurled at Jesus by the soldiers who crucified him (Matt 27:27-3139-40); the Jewish leaders who rejected Him as Messiah (Matt 27:41-42) and the robbers who were crucified with him (Matt 27:44).

The irony was lost on those too blinded by the Enemy to see that their insults were prophetic declarations that Jesus was indeed the promised Saviour-King he claimed to be.

Surrounded by enemies

“Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me

16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me” (Ps 22:6-812-1316).

David’s lament and prayer for deliverance from his enemies hinted at a far more sinister and supernatural predator that has stalked God’s image-bearers since Eden. Until Eve’s seed would finally crush Satan’s head (Gen 3:15).

As Eve’s promised descendant, Jesus was at the centre of this cosmic war. Enemies hunted him like savage animals, even when he was a baby (Matt 2:16). Even while he prayed and fasted in the desert (Matt 4:1). Even after he healed the sick, cast out demons and announced a message of hope (Matt 12:1424Luke 4:29). Behind human agents, Satan plotted to destroy Jesus throughout his short life (John 8:44). Even in his dying hours, Satan continued to tempt Jesus to leave the cross and save himself (Luke 23:35-37). Yet, Christ loved us enough to stay— to save sinners instead of himself. He even prayed for his executioners (Luke 23:34).

Poured out like water

“I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment” (Ps 22:14-18).

Here’s why I trust the Bible is truly God’s word. There is nothing in David’s life that could align with this peculiar omnibus of torture. Psalm 22 is not an expression of psychological suffering or physical sickness, but a detailed account of execution by crucifixion. Yet, crucifixion was only invented by the Persians in 300BC and used by the Romans a thousand years after David.

Think of Christ’s nail-pierced hands and feet. Intense dehydration from his all-night ordeal, the labored march to Calvary and six hours of hanging in the sun. Gloating onlookers staring and spitting as he hung naked, at eye level. Bones jerked out of joint as he became too weak to support himself and as the cross fell to the ground. His clothes divided by gambling soldiers. It’s all in Psalm 22:14-18.

David’s lonely lament describes in vivid detail the darkness and despair of that first Easter Friday, as Christ pleads for God’s presence and rescue (Ps 22:19-20Heb 5:7). There is nothing stoic or detached about our Saviour as he carried out his mission to become sin for us. Being “poured out like water” runs much deeper than physical agony. It points to the spiritual desolation Christ experienced when God withdrew his familiar presence. His Father turned his face away, because He could not look upon sin. And his Son was riddled with sin on the cross. Our sin.

Stand in awe of him!

But suddenly, without warning, the song of desolation turns to joy halfway through verse 21. Good Friday is not just a cry of separation and agony. It is ultimately a song of rescue and praise!

“You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!”

David describes the party a Jewish person would throw when God answered his prayer of deliverance (Ps 22:19-21). It’s the kind of bash we hope to have for our son who turned 21 yesterday while in lockdown!

The guests at this lavish celebration sing songs of praise to God, whose face is no longer hidden from the forsaken one (Ps 22:24). It’s like a royal gala, with guests from many nations and families who join together to worship the King and serve him in posterity. It’s a sumptuous banquet, bursting with life, food and satisfaction (Ps 22:2225-26). Best of all, this never-ending feast is the hope of a ‘people yet unborn,’ who proclaim Christ’s righteousness! That’s us, the Church of Christ— and our children and future generations who come to love Christ as their own!

He has done it!

But why do we get to be guests at this party of all parties? The reason is that “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was not the final word. After three hours of darkness, Jesus drew his final breath and cried his last words of victory,

“It is finished!”

God did not need three days to fully atone for sin. The price for sin was paid and the fellowship with God was restored. Everything needed for the salvation of sinners and of this sin-cursed creation, was completed on the cross. That’s why the Psalmist’s final cry is,

“He has done it!” (Ps 22:31)

It’s a victory song that comes into even sharper focus when Christ rises from the tomb on Sunday morning, ascends into heaven 40 days later, and reigns as King forever (Acts 2:31).

Let’s not be slow to believe!

I told you at the start what distresses me most about this COVID-19 pandemic. But the best story I’ve heard was that of a 93- year old man who recovered from the virus in an Italian hospital. When asked to pay for the ventilator, the old man started crying. He told the doctors, “I cry because I’ve been breathing God’s air for 93 years but I never paid for it. Do you know how much I owe God? I didn’t thank him for that before.”

God has indeed given us life and lungs, and Coronavirus has made us all too aware of this free and fragile gift (Acts 17:28). But God has also given us the free gift of His Son, who gave up his own breath, so that those who believe in him will live forever (John 19:30John 3:16-18). If you are a Christian, you have the promise of God’s presence forever.

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (1 Thess 5:9-10).

No matter how alone you may sometimes feel, actively press yourself against Jesus, who is not afraid to call you his brother or sister (Heb 2:12). Good Friday confirms that there is nothing in life or death that can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:38393439). But it is also a sober reminder that the worst separation is not the kind the world has seen in recent weeks. Far worse is the ultimate separation, when Christ gathers the nations before his throne and finally closes the door of his grace (Matt 25:10-1331323441Acts 17:31). It is this ultimate separation that only Christ can bridge. Let us not be slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken and the gospels have confirmed! “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26Luke 24:44).

As you remember the meaning of Good Friday, listen to this Song by Andrew Peterson. He reminds us that on the Sabbath after Jesus died, God rested from his salvation work. That’s why sinners can rest from ours too. “It is finished! He has done it!”

Who touched me?

Who touched me? resized

By Rosie Moore.

In last Sunday’s sermon, Roydon Frost described faith as the beggar’s bowl by which we receive the gift of God. It’s a perfect picture of the three desperate people who came to Jesus for redemption in Mark chapter 5: A man tormented by so many demons that he was chained up and left to wander alone among the tombs. A woman with a chronic bleeding disease that left her ceremonially unclean, isolated and bankrupt. And the distraught father of a dying daughter. Yet, the Lord Jesus reached out to these two daughters and a son, and made them completely whole and well. By his touch, Christ became unclean and brought health to the sick, cleansing to the unclean, and life to the dead. He literally gave them their lives back.

These three interactions have really strengthened me in my faith this week. They’ve helped me remember that in these days of social distancing and isolation, there’s one person we must not stay away from and there’s one touch we all desperately need. It’s the touch of the Lord Jesus.

Please read the whole of Mark 5 on your own. We’ll focus today on Mark 5:24-34:

So Jesus went with him (Jairus, the synagogue ruler). A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed”

The story of the hemorrhaging woman is wedged between the redemption of Legion (the demoniac), and Jairus’s little daughter, who is on death’s door. In fact, Jesus is on his way to the synagogue leader’s house to attend to the girl, while the teeming crowd is pushing and shoving to catch sight of the healer. Like keen fans, they’re hungry for a piece of the action.

The bleeding woman was in the crowd, but she wasn’t just a sign seeker. For as long as Jairus’s little daughter had been alive (12 years), this woman had been hemorrhaging from a disease. Not only was it physically crippling, but it was also humiliating and isolating. She was permanently unclean, which meant that her family couldn’t eat the food she cooked, couldn’t sit on the chair she sat on, or sit around the table with her at meals. They couldn’t even touch or hug her, without becoming unclean themselves (Lev 15:25-31). She wasn’t even able to worship with God’s people in the synagogue.

For a Jewish woman, can you imagine this extreme form of social distancing? This woman had been isolated, not for 21 days, but for twelve long years, and there was no prospect of healing. She had spent all her money on human help and was now bankrupt. She grew worse every day and her great suffering touched every part of her — physically, emotionally and spiritually. We all know the story, but let’s not miss the details of this outcast’s pain, as she pushed through the crowd to the famous Jewish Rabbi. Her desperation and determination overtook her shame and fear.

Perhaps this woman was emboldened to touch Jesus’ clothes by something she’d heard about Him. Perhaps she’d heard that from His touch, lepers were fully cleansed (Matt 8:3Mark 1:41Luke 5:13). The blind received instant sight and the mute could speak (Matt 9:2920:34Mark 8:22Mark 7:33). The sick were healed by touching Jesus as he walked by (Matt 14:36Mark 6:56). Perhaps the woman was also superstitious and believed that there was something magical about Jesus’s robe.

Luke adds that she just touched the fringe or edge of Jesus’s garment. It was a silent thought and a tentative action, but enough faith for Jesus to instantly stop the chronic flow of blood and reverse the ravages of her disease. She was perfectly healthy and clean again. And all it took was a finger of faith brushing Jesus’s robe. No more, no less.

A finger of faith

Isn’t it encouraging that Jesus didn’t treat this woman as a nuisance or distraction as he made his way to Jairus’s house? She wasn’t just an unclean “God-botherer”! Rather, Jesus responded instantly to the transfer of his healing power, and stopped to ask, “Who touched my clothes?” He wouldn’t let the woman experience physical healing without a heart-to-heart encounter with the living God. Christ refuses to be a miracle-dispenser. That’s when the woman, “knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth”.

Telling him the whole truth

What I love most is Jesus’s loaded response to the truth of her messy life:

“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Those words were even more soothing balm than her physical healing. Jesus was pleased by her small gesture of faith. He even called her ‘daughter’, the first and only time Jesus gave a woman this title.

The woman had held out her empty begging bowl, and Jesus had filled it with wholeness and health, so generously and so mercifully.

“Talitha Koum!”

It’s the same with the other much younger ‘daughter’ in this story. Jairus’s little girl is dead by now and the mourners are crowding around the synagogue ruler’s house. Yet, Jesus reaches out to take the corpse’s cold hand in his own, knowing that touching a dead body would defile Him (Numbers 5). The sinless Messiah touches a second unclean daughter that day, and commands her, “Little girl, I say unto you, arise!” Immediately the little girl gets up, walks around and eats a meal as proof of life!

A posture of faith and a gift of grace

All three people in Mark 5 refused to keep their distance from Jesus, but held out their begging bowls to receive his gift of life. They approached Christ with a posture of faith, which unleashed radical restoration:

When Legion saw Jesus from a distance, “he ran and fell on his knees in front of Jesus”. He came to Jesus in torment and self-hatred, naked and chained, with not a shred of dignity left. But he left Jesus fully dressed, in his right mind, and ready to follow His Saviour (Mark 5:61518).

The hemorrhaging woman slunk up to Jesus, shamed by her indignity, uncleanness and isolation, but went home with her head held high, in peace, freedom and wholeness (Mark 5:3334).

The father of the dying girl fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded earnestly with him to touch his daughter and save her (Mark 5:22-23). Jesus met a cold corpse and a house of mourning, but left the family with life and joy.

But Jesus’s gift to these three desperadoes was just a sample of a much greater cosmic healing. His miracles were pointing to the cross, where the Lord Himself would soon be bound and abandoned. He would suffer torment and indignity, and would bleed to death, to call us God’s sons and daughters. He would become unclean and shunned by His Father, to restore us to peace with our Father. Christ’s willingness not to distance himself from humanity would come at great cost, but his ‘touch’ would reverse sin’s curse— even the curse of death. The only way to receive this gift of grace is to hold out our empty begging bowls of faith, like Legion, like the woman, like Jairus.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom 3:22-2425).

Our begging bowl of faith

In mulling over these stories, I wondered what the begging bowl of faith looks like for us now, 2000 years later, when we are no longer able to physically reach out and touch the Saviour.

The Bible teaches clearly that Christian faith is not looking for holy relics or seeking signs and mystical experiences. Nor is it amazement at Jesus’ miracles, like the crowds of teeming fans who surrounded Him. Faith is not just believing and confessing that Jesus is Lord, as even the demons do that.

A great way to hold out our begging bowl of faith is simply to pray to be forgiven, cleansed and restored. It may sound undramatic and ordinary after such spectacular miracles, but prayer is how we call out to the Lord for what we need (2 Chron 7:14Ps 38:18Luke 11:4). And Jesus said it’s the way we commune with Him in a deep, daily, ongoing relationship (Matt 6:56Matt 7:9-11). Thank the Lord that Jesus’ touch is not a once-off event, but a perpetual supply of grace to those brought low by suffering, grief and their own sin.

“To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything. Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer” (Timothy Keller).

To pray in faith is simply to recognize who our Saviour is, and to tell him the whole truth about ourselves and those we love, just like the woman did (Mark 5:33). It is admitting that we are beyond human help, like Jairus and another desperate father who cried out on behalf of his demon-possessed son, “Take pity on us and help us…I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:2224).

To pray in faith is real and uncontrived, like the many raw prayers recorded in the Psalms: “Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord heal me, for my bones are in agony, Turn O Lord and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love (Ps 6:2-4). Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble” (Ps 10:1)? Holding out faith’s begging bowl is letting go of pretences and simply telling Jesus the whole truth.

Restoration Day

Finally, this story reminds me that for us who follow the Lord Jesus, the new life that came to us when we became a new creation will one day be complete. We will see heaven standing open and Jesus dressed in a robe dipped in blood, on which is written “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:13-16). Our own robes will be washed white as snow because of the death of Christ on our behalf (Rev 7:14Rev 19:8). It will be the voice of Jesus that will wake up all God’s sons and daughters when He calls us to life in His kingdom. Somehow, He will transform our lowly bodies to be fit for the new heavens and new earth (Phil 3:20-21). And on that day, we will finally be able to reach out and touch our Saviour (1 John 3:21 Thess 4:17). That’s the power of the cross! And what a day that will be!