The Reality of a Virtual Funeral

The Reality of a Virtual Funeral

This COVID-19 pandemic season has been dark. Our church family has experienced three deaths since we have been separated from one another. As I write this article, I’m preparing to preach my third virtual funeral through livestream tomorrow. Although it’s being called a virtual funeral, the truth of the matter is—it’s real and such reality necessitates tangible hope.

The Reality of Pain

The family members who prepare to bury their loved ones during this pandemic experience the reality of loneliness as they walk into an empty room. The funeral directors don’t have to ask everyone to stand as the family enters, because the room is literally empty. The pain is only intensified through an empty room with friends and family watching through a camera positioned at the back of the room.

As we navigate the pathway of this pandemic, we hear the word virtual being used in church contexts and business circles. Initially when you hear the word virtual it brings to mind virtual reality which makes you think of something that looks real, but it’s really a fake pixelated imaginary world. In a virtual reality world you merely remove the glasses when you are experiencing fear and whatever you were experiencing immediately disappears. That is not possible at a virtual funeral service. It’s real and so is the pain and sadness.

The Real Challenge of Social Distancing

As Christians, we are taught in the Scriptures to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). During this season of social distancing, the Christian community is unable to embrace one another properly as boundaries are placed before us preventing social comforts.

As the church watches hurting friends in their pain through a livestream service—even video calls following the service can only provide so much comfort. There are no hugs, handshakes, or Christian fellowship during these livestream virtual services. This goes against the grain of what the church is called to do. There is a low ceiling to technology when it comes to demonstrating true love and comfort to those people you love the most.

The Real Hope of Jesus

As we sit in empty rooms for virtual funeral services, we must look to our real hope that we have in Christ Jesus. In a strange providential season when friends, family, and our church body is kept at a distance—we must cling to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. We must remember the words of Jesus as he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

We have hope in Christ and we must remember that he has gone before us—passing through death—and now ruling from heaven’s throne. Jesus holds the keys of death in his hand (Rev. 1:18). In that same verse, while speaking to John the apostle while he was on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel, Jesus said, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).

Although death is a powerful enemy and we will all have our time to face death—while we walk through the dark valleys of life and mourn the death of loved ones during a season of social distancing, we must remember that Jesus’ tomb is still empty and heaven’s throne is still occupied. Jesus is alive and he intercedes for us in seasons of real pain and sadness.

We do not weep as those who do not have hope—for our hope is in Jesus, the risen Redeemer who will one day give life to our mortal bodies when Christ raises us in bodies that are immortality (1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15).

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54–57).

Three Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Go to Hell When He Died

Three Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Go to Hell When He Died

Anyone who has studied 1 Peter 3:18-22 understands that it’s a challenging passage of Scripture to exegete and teach. There are some rather difficult passages to unpack and yet, there is one specific line in that section of verses that has caused many people to embrace a false teaching about Jesus.

Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” Did Jesus go to hell?

The Death of Christ Was Sufficient

A popular heresy the circulates from heretic to heretic is that Jesus’ death on the cross was insufficient, so when Jesus died, he had to go to hell and suffer for three days before his resurrection. According to the Roman Catholic Church’s catechism, Jesus went to hell:

Jesus “descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens.” The Apostles’ Creed confesses in the same article Christ’s descent into hell and his Resurrection from the dead on the third day, because in his Passover it was precisely out of the depths of death that he made life spring forth. [1]

Some renderings of the Apostle’s Creed says that Jesus “descended into hell” while others revise it to say Jesus “descended to the dead.” First of all, we must remember that the Apostle’s Creed wasn’t written by the apostles and while it serves as a summary of biblical truth, it isn’t holy Scripture. It’s also likely that some later revision altered the original to reflect a descent into hell. Either way, it’s not part of the biblical canon and should not serve as a cross reference of biblical truth when studying this subject. 

Popular charismatic preacher and a modern day false prophet, Joyce Meyer, teaches that Jesus suffered for our sins in hell. She states the following:

He became our sacrifice and died on the cross. He did not stay dead. He was in the grave three days. During that time he entered hell, where you and I deserve to go (legally) because of our sin. He paid the price there. [2]

Following the same heretical path, Joel Osteen makes the following statement about Jesus going to hell. Interestingly enough, Osteen avoids the subject of hell in his teaching, but is willing to teach that Jesus went there. Notice what he says:

The Bible indicates that for three days, Jesus went into the very depths of hell. Right into the enemy’s own territory. And He did battle with Satan face to face. Can you imagine what a show down that was? It was good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. Holiness vs. filth. Here the two most powerful forces in the universe have come together to do battle for the first time in history. But thank God. The Bible says Satan was no match for our Champion. This was no contest. Jesus crushed Satan’s head with His foot. He bruised his head. And He once and for all, forever defeated and dethroned and demoralized our enemy. [3]

What does the Bible say about Jesus’ death? Was it really insufficient? Was it necessary for Jesus to go to hell and suffer more under God’s wrath? According to Romans 3:25, Jesus’ blood served as the propitiation and satisfied the Father. That same truth is taught in 1 John 2:1-2. The most powerful verse that lays to rest the idea that God was not satisfied with Jesus’ death alone and required him to do more punishment in hell is found in Jesus’ own words from the cross in John 19:30 as John records the words of Jesus, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

What exactly was finished? It’s clearly a reference to the work of atonement that Jesus accomplished in his death. To suggest that Jesus had to descend into hell and suffer more is simply a heretical addition to the gospel that must be rejected.

Jesus’ Promise from the Cross

The Biblical text teaches that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of his people (John 10:11). It never teaches that Jesus went to hell for the sins of his people. That’s a foreign concept to the gospel. 

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he was hanging between two criminals. As Jesus was suffering under God’s wrath (Isaiah 53:10), one of the criminals criticized and railed upon him saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39)! However, one of the criminals embraced Jesus and was saved. He confessed his sin and called out to Christ (Luke 23:40-42). It’s essentially the only death bed conversion that we see in Scripture. Jesus made a promise to this criminal that echoes throughout the ages as a glorious promise of victory for all those who call upon the name of the Lord. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). 

Jesus didn’t say, “I will be with you in paradise after I go to hell for three days.” Jesus made it clear that when he left that cross, He went directly into the presence of the Father—into Paradise. The criminal, now redeemed by Jesus’ blood, would join him. This is a glorious truth that dispels the false teaching of Jesus going into hell.

The Meaning of 1 Peter 3:18-19

What exactly did Peter mean when he referred to Jesus going to preach to the spirits in prison? Martin Luther admitted, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” [4] The main interpretations are as follows:

  1. Peter was referring to the preaching of Noah and those who perished in the flood while they were imprisoned in their human depravity.
  2. Jesus was proclaiming victory to the Old Testament saints who died and were liberated by Christ between his death and resurrection.
  3. Jesus preached to the people who perished during Noah’s flood by descending to hell and offering them an opportunity to repent and be saved. This is postmortem salvation and must be rejected. 
  4. Jesus proclaimed victory and judgment over the evil angels who had engaged in sexual relations with women and were imprisoned due to their sin (Gen. 6:1-4).

The key that unlocks the meaning which fits into harmony with the greater body of biblical teaching is Peter’s reference to Noah’s day. Peter says:

because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

As is the case when every sermon is preached, it’s not the preacher who communicates his own ideas to the people in the audience. It’s God himself. The preacher is the herald who serves as his representative, but it’s God who is communicating the truth. When Noah preached to the people—it was Jesus who was preaching to the people through Noah, by the Holy Spirit. 

Admittedly this is a difficult passage, but the reference to Noah’s day is key and one that I believe sufficiently points us to the meaning of the text. Jesus had no need to go to hell to proclaim victory to angels. His resurrection would serve as the proof that all beings will bow before Christ and confess him as Lord (Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to satisfy holy justice and to redeem fallen sinners. Therefore, when Jesus died, he ascended to the Father and would remain there until his bodily resurrection on the third day. 

Imagine the thrill of the angels when Jesus returned after his bodily resurrection to assume the throne in human flesh!

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 631. 
  2. Joyce Meyer, The Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make, (second printing, 1993), 35
  3. Joel Osteen, Easter service message at Lakewood Church, Sermon #CS_002 – 4-23-00, April 23, 2000, transcript formerly online at, transcript archived online at, retrieved August 12, 2019; cf. Joel Osteen, Easter service message 2004 on Discover the Champion in You program, Trinity Broadcasting Network, April 26, 2004).
  4. Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter & Jude, 166.
Why Is Isaiah so Important?

Why Is Isaiah so Important?

Years ago, a boy made one of the greatest discoveries in modern history as he was walking along a path and casting stones into a cave. The discovery was not gold or diamonds, but something of far greater value. What the boy discovered was the Dead Sea Scrolls. In those caves were ancient scrolls and fragments of others that not only impacted the world of history and archeology, but likewise theology and our understanding of the reliability of God’s Word.

Among the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was a complete manuscript of Isaiah. It dates to over 1,000 years older than any of our older manuscripts that we previously had on record. Interestingly enough, the wording of that ancient manuscript was nearly word for word identical to the manuscripts we had on record. This points to the reliability of God’s Word. As we consider the numerous fragments found in the caves among the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was another partial scroll of Isaiah and at least twenty other fragments from other Isaiah scrolls. What does this tell us? It confirms what we already know—Isaiah was not only important in the ancient world, but his prophecy is vitally important for us today.

Key Prophecies of Isaiah

Seven centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Isaiah predicted that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). In a strikingly clear prophecy, Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would rule the nations (Isaiah 9:6) and we know that all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18-20). Isaiah also predicted that the Holy Spirit would rest upon the Messiah in a unique way (Isaiah 11:2), and that was ultimately fulfilled in the earthly ministry of Jesus (Matt. 3:16).

Out of  all of Isaiah’s predictions, the prophetic announcement that Israel would reject the Messiah (Isaiah 8:14) coupled with the enormity of Isaiah’s prediction of the Messiah’s crushing death in Isaiah 53—we get a picture of the most intense and important prophecies that Isaiah recorded. Although the Jews often misunderstood the prophecies, we stand at a place in history to where we can see with crystal clarity the precise details recorded about Jesus’ death. To the skeptic who refuses to believe the message of Christianity—it must be noted that if you’re planning to start a religion, you don’t want to do what Isaiah did. He predicted a virgin birth, the sad betrayal, and crushing blow of God’s wrath and it all happened precisely the way he predicted. Any religious startup isn’t going to take that route—seven centuries before it actually happened. That points to the reliability of the Christian message.

New Testament Quotations of Isaiah

Isaiah is often referred to as the “fifth Gospel.” The New Testament authors quote Isaiah at least sixty-five times—more than any other Old Testament prophet. He is mentioned by name a stunning twenty-two times as well. In other words, Isaiah was not only important in the Old Testament, but his prophecy is central to redemptive history as a whole which encompasses the totality of God’s Word.

One of the most important citations of Isaiah is found in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Philip is sent out into the wilderness region and he encounters a man on a chariot. The Holy Spirit sends Philip to join himself to this chariot and he discovers this man (who was returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem) who was reading from Isaiah 53. As they begin to talk, Philip points to the scroll and explains that it was a prophecy about Jesus. Not only do we see a New Testament believer using Isaiah’s scroll to point a man to the gospel, but we also see that in God’s providence, he would send the gospel to the continent of Africa through this one man who was evangelized by connecting the dots from Isaiah 53 to John 3:16.

In an age where modern preachers are sending mixed signals suggesting that we must unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament—Isaiah is a breath of fresh air as we read his prophecy and see how God brought it to pass in striking detail and precision. John MacArthur rightly describes Isaiah 53 in the following way in his excellent book, The Gospel According to God, “Although it is part of the Old Testament, this vital chapter of Holy Scripture features truths that are cardinal points of Christian doctrine” (31).

Jesus Died for God

Jesus Died for God

We often cling to phrases, while considering Jesus’ death, that say, “When he was on the cross, I was on his mind.” That is true to a degree, but we must not forget that when Jesus was on the cross, the Father was on his mind. He came to do the will of his Father. Therefore, in the truest sense, we can say that God satisfied God. In other words, Jesus died for God. Our natural mind often drives us to the center of the story of redemption, when in reality the whole story of redemption is centered on God.

Jesus Died for God as Planned

One of the key passages of Scripture that points to the preplanned redemption mission is in a sermon preached by Peter. At Pentecost, as Peter lifts up Christ as the Messiah before a Jewish audience, he drives to the reality that the cross was both murder and the glorious plan of our Triune God that spans back before the foundation of the world. Peter thunders these words:

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).

Years ago, I recall seeing the movie, “Passion of the Christ.” Following the film’s release, many people spoke of how they were driven to tears as they considered the horrific betrayal and crucifixion. While we must acknowledge the weight of such aspects of the death of Christ, we must balance the reality that it was not a sudden turn of events for Jesus. He had been warning his disciples all the way up to the cross that he was leaving (John 14:1-6) and that he would be put to death and be resurrected from the dead (John 2:19).

At this exact same time, we must never minimize the reality of pain and discouragement in Jesus’ death. When the text of Isaiah 53:10 says that the LORD crushed Jesus, that’s exactly what happened. There was nothing pleasant about the Roman cross, and to add the crushing wrath of the Father on top of it made it that much worse. Jesus experienced the totality of pain and discomfort as a human being. While being God, he was also man and his flesh was brutally murdered as the preordained blueprint of God’s redemptive rescue mission. In short, Jesus died as the fulfillment of the Trinitarian plan of redemption.

Jesus Died for God as a Substitutionary Sacrifice

Our culture often enjoys the lighter side of theology. That’s apparent in everything from the songs that we sing in church to the bumper stickers that appear on automobiles. People in general enjoy hearing that God loved them so much that he sent his Son to die for them on the cross. While that is true, we must never forget that Jesus was dying on the cross for God. Sin belittles the glory of God, and the death of Jesus exalts the glory of God to its proper level in the face of sinful humanity. As the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus was dying for God—in order to fulfill the Father’s will. John the apostle records these words of Jesus:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 6:37–38).

When Jesus died on the cross, he was giving his life for the sheep (John 10:11). As the angel spoke to Joseph from the beginning, Jesus came to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Therefore, as Jesus died on the cross, he was dying in the very place of every one that the Father gave to him (John 6:37). While Jesus was dying on the cross for sinners, he was dying on the cross for God—in the place of sinners.

We must remember that Jesus was dying for God, in the place of sinners, in oder to satisfy God (1 John 2:1-2) which would ultimately result in the satisfaction and joy of salvation for all who believe (Rom. 10:13; ). When we talk about the death of Jesus, we should not be driven by sentimentalism and emotionalism. We should be driven to joy and worship as we are driven by the Spirit through clear application of what the Bible says. Jesus died for God, but the question remains, did Jesus die for you? Can you say, Jesus died for me?

I want to urge you to see yourself as a sinner who has transgressed God’s law and positioned yourself against God. He did not owe you anything nor was he forced to love anyone. However, he has chosen to demonstrate love and mercy to countless sinners. Come to the point to where you see yourself beneath God’s wrath and deserving of holy justice. See the death of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s plan that settles the account for guilty sinners. See yourself there in this equation and respond in repentance of your sin and faith that Jesus’ death was poured out for God—in your place. Call upon the Lord and you will be saved.

Good Friday Was Not Cosmic Child Abuse

Good Friday Was Not Cosmic Child Abuse

On Good Friday each year, Christians remember the most glorious sacrifice and the most horrific murder that ever occurred in human history. Why do we refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” and the Friday before Easter “Good Friday”? Should they be reversed? It’s the day set aside on the calendar to remember the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of his people and the heinous murder of God’s Son. Why would we celebrate that day as a good day? Many people flow through Good Friday as if it’s a normal day and they give little to no recognization for the significance of what happened on the day Jesus died. Others celebrate it from a heart of worship. Still others mock the day—calling it cosmic child abuse.  Famed atheist Richard Dawkins writes the following:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. [1]

Is God guilty of abusing his Son on the cross? According to Isaiah 53, “It pleased the LORD (YHWH) to crush him (Jesus)” (Is. 53:10). Some have stated that the Father was “well pleased” with his Son at the baptism (Matt. 3:17), and then he was vengeful with his Son on the cross. How should we reconcile such statements? Why was Good Friday a good day? How can the death of Jesus be considered a good thing? Is it cosmic child abuse worthy of laughter or substitutionary sacrifice worthy of worship?

Good Friday Was Good Because God Is Good

The entire scene of the cross is filled with brutality, blood, insult, shame, and death. That does not exactly sound like a good day, but it was. When we look at Good Friday and all of the events that transpired on that day through the lens of human self-preservation and humane concepts—it’s a horrible day. When we view the events of Good Friday through the lens of God’s justice—things are put into perspective. Just the statement, “God is good” is often thrown around so casually that people fail to get the point. By the goodness of God, we don’t mean God gives us good things like a cosmic grandfather figure. God is good and because God is good—he must punish sinners for their guilt. This is demanded by the justice of God.

Far too often, God is misrepresented by the Christian community as a cosmic bellhop or a loving grandfather in the sky who showers all people with salvation regardless of their sin. Still others misrepresent God as a vengeful and hate-filled cosmic being who is always looking to zap people with judgment. God is neither of those caricatures. When we see God issuing love and grace to guilty sinners—it’s based on God’s ability to love which is not disconnected from his necessity to judge. Grace is offered on the basis of his satisfaction. The only way God can offer grace is by the fulfillment of his justice. However, if God judges sinners—he is good. If God saves sinners and spares them from wrath—God is good.

God would not be good if he merely bypassed the demands of justice and allowed guilty sinners to sneak in the backdoor of heaven. Such underhanded deals are common in this world of sin, but the moment that God offered such a corrupt deal to a guilty sinner is the moment that he would cease to be good. The holy justice of God is pure and righteous and it requires that all sinners will be justly judged for their sins. Therefore, as God is punishing his Son on the cross, we must remember that he was not punishing him for his sin. Instead, Jesus became a substitute and was being punished for the sins of God’s people (every person who would be the recipient of grace through Jesus Christ—every one of God’s elect past, present, and future).

According to 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus took on himself the sins of his people (Matt. 1:21) in order that they would receive the righteousness of God. There was a great exchange that took place. The sins of his people were placed upon him and he suffered immensely for them while his righteousness was imputed to the account of the sinners—freely received by faith.  According to Stephen Nichols, ‘The word imputation comes directly from the Latin. It is an accounting term; it means “to apply to one’s account.’ Expenses are debited and income is credited. The old King James word is ‘reckon.'” [2] The apostle Paul provides the plain truth of this doctrine in his letter to the church at Corinth as he states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Good Friday Was Good Because God Was Satisfied

All through the Genesis account of creation, we see the phrase repeated, “it was good.” God was satisfied with his creation—but when sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12)—it was not good. God was angry with his creation. The demands of God’s holy law demonstrated the need for God to be satisfied. On the eve of the final plague, God promised to judge every home and take the life of their firstborn if the blood of the lamb was not on the doorposts. The death angel would visit each home—including the home of Pharaoh. God demanded that each year on the Day of Atonement that the blood of the lamb would be offered and the blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat. All of this blood was necessary and it likewise was a foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God who would one day come and take away the sins of his people throughout the world (John 1:29).

When Isaiah prophesied of the birth of the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), he was not merely thinking of peace between animals so that the lion would lie down with the lamb. He was looking beyond to a greater peace—one that would reconcile sinful man with holy God. As Charles Wesley would write so eloquently in his hymn, “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” From birth, all of us are under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18). We have all sinned against God and we are all born into sin as we’re connected to Adam (Ps. 51:5). As a result of our sin, we’re considered the enemies of God. It’s by the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute that we are no longer the enemies of God—but now we’re reconciled to him. Paul articulated this truth in his letter to the church at Rome as he wrote, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).

When Jesus died on the cross, Charles Spurgeon said, “It became midnight at midday.” It was a dark day as God died in human flesh. The death of the second Person of the Trinity was a horrible act of rebellion and human depravity. It resembled the act of Satan seeking to dethrone God from the beginning. It had all of the marks of evil and twisted human depravity—yet at the same time what man intended for evil—God intended for good. It was on that very day when the heads of the homes in Jerusalem were slaughtering their lamb for Passover that Jesus was dying on the cross to be the propitiation for the sins of his people (1 John 2:1-2). The reason that Good Friday was good is because God was satisfied with the death of his Son in the place of guilty sinners.

Nothing that you do can impress or please God. The very best that you can offer God is human effort stained by sin. You need something greater. The only way that sinners can be reconciled to God and find peace with God is through the substitutionary death of Jesus and the righteousness of God that is received by faith. Will you come to God today by faith trusting that the death of Jesus on the cross was a good thing? Mark Dever explains:

God’s answer for your guilt is not to explain it away by circumstances that have victimized you, but to call you to own your sins fully and to entrust them all to Jesus Christ by faith. Jesus Christ is our substitute. He has taken our penalty. [3]

  1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Bantam Press, 2006), 51
  2. Stephen Nichols, “The Doctrine of Imputation: The Ligonier Statement on Christology” [accessed 3-28-18]
  3. Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, It Is Well, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 57.
Why Is Isaiah so Important?

Three Reasons Why Jesus Was Hated

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why Jesus is so hated in our culture?  We must remember, hating Jesus has always been a popular position by many different cultures.  In fact, any society that rejects God ultimately rejects Jesus.  This has been the case from the beginning of time.

As we read through the Bible, we see three main reasons why the people of Jesus’ day hated him.  That same hatred continues to compound from generation to generation.

Jesus Confronted Empty Religion

One glance at the twenty third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel will reveal the polemical style of Jesus’ ministry.  While Jesus was not always polemical in his approach to preaching and teaching, he certainly did confront the empty religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees.  On one chapter alone (Matthew 23), Jesus is recorded as having used the “woe to you” bombshell seven times.  In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus said:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

It was John Calvin who said, “a pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.” [1]  Jesus certainly possessed both voices.  As the Good Shepherd, Jesus called his sheep to him and they heard his voice clearly.  As the Prophet greater than Moses, Jesus spoke with authority and defended the truth of God’s Word from the hypocrisy of the legalists and false teachers of his day.  For that, Jesus was hated.

Jesus Loved the Outcasts

The religious leaders of the day hated Jesus.  He did not spend time with them nor did Jesus show them honor as they were accustomed to receiving from the community at large.  Instead, Jesus spent time with the outcasts, the poor, the lowly, the sick, the needy, and the helpless.  Consider the fact that Jesus called a group of disciples together from the fishing industry and tax collection.  Those people were looked down upon greatly—yet Jesus called them to himself and after discipling them—he sent them out on a mission.  Their mission turned the world upside down.

According to Matthew 11:19, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”  The religious establishment did not know what to do with Jesus—he broke their categories and confounded their minds.  Since the rabbinical society was the highest ranking class in the Jewish society—for Jesus to be a powerful teacher and to associate with the lowly and sinful was taboo.  While it was considered out of bounds by cultural standards, Jesus literally exemplified how the Church of Jesus should engage all classes of society.  For that, Jesus was hated.

Jesus Forgave Sinners

Out of all of Jesus’ miracles including turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding the 5,000, raising Lazarus from the dead, causing the lame to walk, the dumb to speak, and the deaf to hear—the greatest miracle was when Jesus revealed his power and authority to forgive sin.

Luke, in his Gospel, records a story about Jesus healing a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus on his bed.  Because the crowd was so dense, the friends took the man onto the roof and took apart the roof and lowered the man in before the presence of Jesus.  Sitting around on the peripheral were scribes and Pharisees watching the whole scene unfold.  When Jesus saw their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Immediately, the scribes and Pharisees protested.  They said, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? (Luke 5:21)”  As everyone was intently watching the whole drama-filled scene unfold, Jesus responded to the religious leaders.

Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he said to the man who was paralyzed—’I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God (Luke 5:22-25).

Jesus was hated for many things, but at the heart of the religious community was an intense hatred for Jesus’ authority to forgive sins—an authority that transcended their own and it caused jealousy.  They didn’t believe Jesus looked like the promised Messiah.  And when Jesus taught, he did so with authority—unlike the scribes (Mark 1:22).  The reason Jesus was eventually nailed to a Roman cross was based on a fundamental rejection and hatred of Jesus’ divine authority.

When Jesus died, they thought their problem was finally gone.  When they heard news of the resurrection, they were greatly troubled.  Their only response was to lie.

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matthew 28:11-15).

The world continues to find Jesus’ authority troubling.  They continue to spread and believe lies about Jesus ignorant of the reality of what will happen before the throne of God in the near future.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).