Pontius Pilate on trial

As far as the Sanhedrin was concerned, they had arrested Jesus and put him on trial. Since Rome had long since taken away their right to carry out a death sentence, they had to take him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate for another trial. In fact, however, Jesus never was and never can be on trial. Whoever encounters Jesus for whatever reason is on trial. The stakes are higher than life or death of the body. The outcome of the trial determines eternal destiny.

The Jewish leadership dragged Jesus to Pilate’s palace and accused Jesus of sedition against Rome.… Read the rest

Light, darkness, and the return of Christ

Living by faith requires living not only in the light of the resurrection, but also in the hope of the return of Christ. Jesus himself said that he, in his earthly body, did not know when he would come back.  He told his disciples that they should always be ready, because a thief cannot surprise a homeowner who is watching.

There are times in my life when a promise of God seems so vivid that I’m sure it will happen in the next fifteen minutes. Then the waiting starts. I know I’m not alone. The whole church has been waiting impatiently for the return of Christ for about two thousand years.… Read the rest

Who is Jesus? Why does it matter?

Jesus Christ ministered in a corner of the Roman Empire known as Palestine. He rather explicitly claimed to be the Son of God, as well as the Son of Man described in the book of Daniel.

He offended the religious leaders of his day. They subjected him to an illegal trial and committed judicial murder by crucifixion. On the third day, as he had claimed before hand, he rose from the dead, appeared to his disciples, then ascended into heaven.

The earliest books of the New Testament describe Jesus’ life and ministry and explain his eternal significance. Before the end of the century, false teachers went around denying the entire explanation.… Read the rest

The violence of Jesus: cleansing the temple

We probably all have our favorite images of Jesus. In a well-known scene from Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby preferred to pray to the Baby Jesus. Others of us might be drawn to the healer, the teacher, the man who loved children. I suppose all of the favorite thoughts come under the heading “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” So what about the violent man who upset tables and drove the money changers out of the temple?

It is one of the few incidents in his life mentioned in all four gospels: Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-22. According to the synoptics,  Jesus erupted after his triumphal entry.… Read the rest

Redeemed from the curse of the law


“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” — Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV)

What, exactly, is this curse of the law that we are redeemed from? Check out Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Both chapters begin with a blessing that the people would obtain for keeping up their end of the covenant. Both chapters enumerate the dire consequences of failing to keep the covenant. … Read the rest

The most popular of 100 posts on Grace and Judgment

It hardly seems possible, but since beginning this blog at the end of October 2009, I have posted more than 100 Bible studies and devotionals. Allow me to reminisce a little and highlight the most popular posts so far.

Who are you calling evil?
Jesus prefaced a comment saying, “If you, then, being evil. . .” But no one took offense at him. Wouldn’t most of the audience be offended today?

Prayer that really works
I have learned that instead of asking for my will to be done, I can ask God to conform me to the image of Jesus. When I ask for a blessing, I keep an open mind about what it is.… Read the rest

The flood: grace and judgment on display

Here’s the quickie narrative of the flood that almost everyone knows: God made people and got mad at them, so he decided to wipe them out. He liked one fellow, though, so he made him build an ark and collect pairs of animals. Everyone else drowned, but when the floodwaters subsided, the few people and animals on the ark repopulated the earth.

On the surface, that sound like overkill. I mean, surely there must have been some nice folks that died along with the bad guys, right?  To many people who understand only that much of the story, God must be some kind of angry, capricious monster–at least until gentle Jesus meek and mild came along.… Read the rest

Gathering and restoration of a forgiven people

Because it refused to turn away from its sins and rebellions, God destroyed the Kingdom of Judah and sent the people to exile in Babylon. According to an overriding biblical principle, God is never finished with a situation after he has executed judgment on sin. The next step is always grace and restoration.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, he promised not only to gather up the exiles and return them to Jerusalem. He also promised to give them a new heart and a new spirit.

They would remove all of the abominations and detestable things from the land; no more would Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside see the idol worship that had led to judgment in the first place.… Read the rest

The tree of grace and judgment in Romans

The book of Romans, Paul’s most systematic statement of theology, moves step by step from the universality of sin in the first two chapters through the marvelous statement of what it means to be free of sin in chapter eight. His basic argument continues most logically in chapter twelve, but he interrupts it for an important but parenthetical discussion of the judgment of the Jews.

Near the end of that parenthesis, having concluded that Israel’s rejection of Christ and God’s consequent rejection of Israel are neither total nor final, Paul introduces the analogy of an olive tree.

Taking a branch from one tree and grafting it onto another is a common enough practice.… Read the rest

The blind man of Bethsaida and a warning

Blind man of Bethsaida

Blind man of Bethsaida

In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus performed his only two-part healing. In an earlier post, I pointed out the significance to Mark’s structure of the fact that Jesus had to lay his hands on a blind man twice before his sight was fully restored.

That is not the only odd thing about this miracle. Notice that Jesus and his disciples entered the village of Bethsaida, where some people asked him to lay hands on a blind man. He did not do so immediately. Instead, he took the man by the hand and led him out of the village.… Read the rest