Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lesson 13. Crucified and Risen

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Matthew 

Lesson 13. Crucified and Risen


Jesus did no work on that last Sabbath as He lay in Joseph's new tomb. Now He rested from His long, hard work, as Savior of the world. It had been an extremely busy week.

The anointing at Bethany; the ride on a donkey into Jerusalem at the beginning of this busy last week; meeting the contentions of the Jewish leaders who opposed Him; preaching His sermon on last-day events of Matthew 24; His last meeting with His disciples when He organized the Lord's Supper on Thursday night; the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when He nearly died and would have had not an angel come to strengthen Him to endure more suffering; His disappointment at His disciples sleeping through His period of agony; the betrayal by Judas and the cruel arrest by the police; the forced march to the high priest's house, then the all-night (illegal) trial when He was mocked, spat upon, beaten, ridiculed and despised; the terrible sorrow at hearing Peter deny Him three times with cursing and swearing; the trial before Pilate; the forced march again to Herod, and his sneering contempt that Jesus had to endure; the march back to Pilate; having to listen to the people shout "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"; the last visit with Pilate when the governor almost yielded to his wife's pleading not to condemn Jesus; the sentence of death; the mocking of the soldiers; the crown of thorns on His head; the jeering of the mob; being forsaken by all of His disciples; the forced march this time to the hill called Calvary when they forced Him to carry His heavy cross; His fainting beneath the burden; hearing the women weep and wail because of Him and His last sermon to them when He said, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children!" (Luke 23:27-31); the actual crucifixion with its physical pain; the exertion of His soul to say words to the penitent thief, "Thou shalt be with Me in paradise!"; the taunting of the priests and rulers and the cruel crowd as He hung on His cross in pain and shame; the terror of the great darkness that came at noon that Friday when He cried from his broken heart, "My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"; His refusal to taste the intoxicating drink they offered Him to help to deaden His pain; His mental agony as He fought in His mind against despair (such a struggle would exhaust anyone!); His choice with His last ounce of strength to believe that His Father would not abandon Him, that His sacrifice would be accepted, that--yes! He had saved the world!

And then He bowed His head and prayed, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit," and He died.

He was tired, oh, so tired! But He had finished His hard week of work and now He was resting in the tomb on the holy Sabbath day.

The 1888 message shows us the special kind of death which Jesus, the Son of God, died (Gal. 2:20). He "tasted death for every man" (Heb. 2:9), not the ordinary kind of death which we call "sleep." No, Jesus did not "go to sleep for our sins," He died for our sins! He died the equivalent of what the Bible calls "the second death," the real thing (Rev. 2:11). He went all the way to hell in order to find us and to save us. Since the world began, He is the only person who has ever truly died; all the others have gone to sleep!

On the cross Christ felt the horror of eternal separation from the Father. This was due to infinite guilt, but not the self-righteous, self-justifying pain of a sinless person who feels his innocence; it was the total self-condemnation felt by One who was "made to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21). The "us" is the entire human race. Combine the guilt of all the sin of the world: that is what He bore "in His own body," in His nervous system, in His soul, feeling as if the guilt were His own (1 Peter 2:24). He died for the human race and He died as the human race, for He became our second Adam. In dying the equivalent of our second death, He delivered the human race from that death ("perish," John 3:16).

One need only ask two questions: "What is the punishment for sin?" and the answer has to be, "death" (Rom. 6:23; Eze. 18:4; Gen. 2:17; Rev. 2:1120:14). The first death, which the Bible calls "sleep," can never be the punishment for sin. The Bible does not say that "Christ went to sleep for our sins," but "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3). "Did He suffer the true punishment for our sin?" The answer had better be "yes," or we are lost for eternity. Thus Christ died every man's second death (Heb. 2:9).

But how then could He be resurrected the third day? The second death is not the mere degrees of heat and physical pain of the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). On the cross, Christ hardly felt the physical pain, so terrible was His spiritual anguish, being "made ... sin for us." [1] Likewise, the lost will hardly feel the physical pain, so great will be the spiritual anguish sensed because of their true guilt--which now at last they fully realize. The anguish of despair which Jesus endured on the cross was itself the precise experience the lost will have at last--the second death (Rev. 2:11). Isaiah describes it clearly: "He poured out His soul unto death." "Therefore" the Father honors Him supremely, to "divide Him a portion with the great." "He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11, 12).

It had to be that "God raised [Him] up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should be [held by] it" (Acts 2:24). Those were not the "pains" of mere sleep! Not only did He make the total commitment of His "soul" unto eternal death--not seeing "through the portals of the tomb," [2] He actually did experience the total agony of the real second death. Those who deny this do not understand why His agape made it "not possible" that He should be held in the tomb. Christ's resurrection is an eternal principle. All who choose to be "crucified with Christ," motivated by this agape of Christ to die with Him the second death, says Paul, cannot "possibly" be held in its grasp: "If we have been planted [united] together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5).

But that awful second death could not hold Him. Satan wanted to keep Him a captive there, but it was impossible. The Son of God had lived and died triumphant over sin and Satan; He had "condemned sin in the flesh," our fallen, sinful flesh, and had gained the victory for the entire human race; He had single-handedly wrested from Satan the control and rulership of this world. He had conquered sin. Now He must be resurrected as triumphant over death as well!

The voice of the Father called, "Jesus! Come forth from that prison house of death!" It was so real!

He carefully folded the grave-clothes they had wrapped about Him, and laid them down neatly. Then He stepped out of the dark tomb into the everlasting light of His resurrection life.

Yes, in Him you and I are resurrected also. "He that hath the Son hath eternal life," says John (1 John 5:11, 12). Jesus had said, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19).

That is why when Jesus was resurrected, you were resurrected "also"! Now, be happy forever; and demonstrate your thankfulness by following Him "whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:4).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 753.
[2] Ibid.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Monday, June 13, 2016

SST #12 | Jesus' Last Days | 1888 Most Precious Message

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Matthew

Lesson 12: "Jesus' Last Days"

Our lesson this week uses a unique approach to understanding the cost of the cross in focusing on the lesson of "freedom and free will." Without the proper understanding of the nature of Christ as developed by the 1888 message pioneers, the cross can never be properly understood.
While there were many people making choices during the week preceding Calvary, none were more critical than the choice Jesus had to make. We can sometimes be tempted to think Christ's nature was so different from ours that He serenely floated through what is called "passion week" with no doubts, reservations, or concerns. We make a mistake if we think Jesus used any of His divine powers to get through the rough parts of that week. One of the key points of the 1888 message is a proper understanding of the nature in which Christ lived during His time on this earth. Without that, it is impossible to understand the cross.
Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," wrote: "The humiliation which Christ voluntarily took upon Himself is best expressed by Paul to the Philippians: 'Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being originally in the form of God, counted it not a thing to be grasped [that is, to be clung to] to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, becoming in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross' (Phil. 2:5-8, Revised Version, marginal reading). ...
"It is impossible for us to understand how Christ could, as God, humble Himself to the death of the cross, and it is worse than useless for us to speculate about it. All we can do is to accept the facts as they are presented in the Bible." [1]
Some can accept this only if the nature Christ assumed was that of sinless Adam. "A little thought will be sufficient to show anybody that if Christ took upon Himself the likeness of man in order that He might redeem man, it must have been sinful man that He was made like, for it is sinful man that He came to redeem. Death could have no power over a sinless man, as Adam was in Eden; and it could not have had any power over Christ, if the Lord had not laid on Him the iniquity of us all." [2]
Having properly understood this, we can begin to understand the reality of the choice Christ was required to make in Gethsemane. The decision Jesus had to make was not from the vantage of His divine as well as human natures. He had laid aside the divine ability of knowing the future (foreknowledge), so He did not know for sure that His sacrifice would be accepted. How Satan must have gloated, urging Jesus to doubt whether His life had indeed been perfect so He could continue the path to the cross without compromising His mission. He had lived His entire earthly life completely dependent on His Father, through the Holy Spirit to direct His thoughts and conduct. Now, He was to be separated from that power. The temptation to doubt must have been tremendous, and his disciples offered no encouragement because they were sound asleep.
Yet during the week before Calvary, Jesus had been given a precious gift in the actions of Mary Magdalene, a woman who in many ways represents His wayward corporate church. She was plagued by the spirit of seven demons which Jesus cast out of her, and she yielded her heart to Him completely when she saw the agape that Jesus unconditionally gave her. Her outpouring of gratitude must have been a memory of comfort that the Holy Spirit could bring to Jesus' mind during His suffering.
We know that she was not a theologian, but only Mary out of all Jesus' followers had some level of understanding that His mission required Him to die for her sins. The disciples' self-centered notion of Christ's mission prevented them from believing that He was to die in disgrace. They firmly believed He had come to overthrow the hated Romans. They missed that the lesson of all those sacrifices was that the Gospel promises involve a cross from which all the benefits of the plan of salvation flow. The nation of Israel had come to believe that by bringing their sacrificial animals they were reinforcing a bargain with God. They believed that God was obligated to save them if they performed the rituals He required. They had lost sight that salvation has always been by faith in the saving grace of the cross of Christ.
Waggoner saw this: "All the misunderstandings of the promises of God to Abraham and his seed have arisen through a failure to see the Gospel of the cross of Christ in them. If it be continually remembered that all the promises of God are in Christ, to be gained only through His cross, and that consequently they are spiritual and eternal in their nature, there will be no difficulty, and the study of the promise to the fathers will be a delight and a blessing." [3]
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked that, if possible, the cup pass from Him. The imagery here is that of the sanctuary services. When the repentant sinner brought his lamb, he was required to slit its throat; the priest then caught the blood in a cup or bowl and symbolically transferred it into the Most Holy Place by sprinkling it on the veil. We know that the life of the animal is in the blood. Jesus had been taught the significance of this since childhood, and the time had come for Him to become the ultimate type of all the sacrificial antitypes. The humanity Christ had assumed at the incarnation shrank from the task, especially since it meant separation from His Father.
The struggle Christ was going through was real because the integrity of the Godhead hung in the balance before the watching universe. He could not use His divine foreknowledge to literally see through the portals of the tomb. The separation from His Father was wrenching His soul. In the same nature that we must fight the battle of faith, Christ chose to grasp the promises of God, and hold on to them by faith in His word. His faith triumphed when He finally could say, "Into Thy hand I commend My spirit." When we understand that He went through that struggle and separation for each one of us individually, like Mary, our hearts will be melted in gratitude, unless we refuse. Judas was disappointed that Christ would not fulfill his plans for an important position in the new government Judas coveted. Ironically, the gratitude Mary showed from her humble heart, is what tipped the indecision in Judas' heart. He decided that he would not believe in Christ since He allowed this woman to honor Him.
Peter's problem was different. He was blind to his true condition; he believed he would be loyal to Christ regardless of what happened. God later told His Laodicean church that He rebukes and chastens those He loves. Peter was given a simple test to help him see his true condition. What made the difference? Peter humbled his heart and let the rock he fell on break it. Judas must have felt a pull when Jesus responded to his betrayal kiss by saying, "Friend, do what you have come for" (Matt 26:50, NASB). Why didn't Judas repent like Peter? It's simple, he hardened his heart. It isn't more complicated than that.
May God give us humble hearts to receive His wonderful grace.
Arlene Hill
[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 29-30 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[2] Ibid, p. 31.
[3] Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant: God's Promises to Us, p. 41 (Glad Tidings ed.)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

SST #10 | Jesus in Jerusalem | 1888 Most Precious Message

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Matthew

Lesson 10: "Jesus in Jerusalem"

Now we join Jesus on His last fateful journey to Jerusalem to be disfellowshipped by the true church of His day (remember, up until the Temple veil is rent, it is still the Temple of God's true people). It's a terrible feeling to be disfellowshipped by the true church. What hurt Jesus the most was not the physical pain of crucifixion but the awful sense of being "forsaken" by His Father and by His people.
When we come to the story of the cross we will see how He worked His way by faith from that "forsakenness" to joyous at-one-ment. If you ever feel "forsaken," you can retrace His steps into the sunlight of the Father's smile where you can see it too, by faith.
Think how on this final journey His heart is heavy with serious thought! Our minds search. We recall that some will live through the great time of trouble "without a mediator" [1] after the heavenly sanctuary has closed. If so, they are in the world today quietly bearing the cross with Jesus, humble people you and I might easily miss. The Gospel of Matthew is a prelude to living in 2016 A.D. Don't desire the top job; but do be faithful now.
His public relations strategy was professional; He didn't want to die in obscurity. He wanted that cross to be lifted up so high that all would see what was happening. Only then could He "draw all to Himself" (John 12:32). Not self-aggrandizement but soul-saving was His burden.
We talk longingly of the great days of the "loud cry" yet to follow our "latter rain." God's public relations plans will be perfect when Christ's mission meets its final fulfillment before probation closes. But just as the disciples were greatly disappointed in how "Palm Sunday" led to crucifixion, so we may be surprised how the true "loud cry" that "lightens the earth with glory" may be a very self-humbling experience for all of God's true people.
Ellen White pinpoints the initial outpouring of the "latter rain" as the coming of the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness; our dear brethren had expected it to be great emotional upheavals that would be like spiritual thunderstorms. They were taken by surprise—it turned out to be humble, quiet Bible studies on Romans and Galatians by two unworthy young "messengers" with undiscerned "heavenly credentials." But the two let in opened windows of "new light" which to the old men became bitterly unwelcome.
In deep discernment, Ellen White perceived what was happening. Calvary's week was being re-played. Over a hundred times the next few years she likened the reception which that "most precious message" received as being a re-play of how the Jews received their Messiah. The last week of Jesus' life that we are studying this week becomes therefore a vital "present truth."
We need to understand the good news encouragements in the account of the fig tree that was "cursed" (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:12-14, 20-26). Christ's greatest disappointment was that the nation did not respond. He upbraided "the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent" (Matt. 11:20). He likened the nation to the unfruitful "fig tree planted in His vineyard. ... For three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none" (Luke 13:6-9).
The barren fig tree which Jesus cursed became a symbol representing not merely the mass of individual unrepentant Jews, but the corporate people which as a nation rejected Christ: "The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable. That barren tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation. The Saviour desired to make plain to His disciples the cause and the certainty of Israel's doom." [2]
Only a day after Jesus cursed it, it "withered away." Sad; but grasp the positive thing Jesus said. If He curses a tree and it dies in 24 hours, if you through earnest prayer will bless a problem or frustration in your life for Him, it too will "wither away." In other words, your prayers for blessings will be as dramatically answered as was Jesus' prayer for a curse on that tree. But in your great rejoicing, be humble as you contemplate how little "fruit" your tree has borne, and let's be very careful about flouting "nothing but leaves" which elicit "amens" from the congregation but have no lasting substance.
But a prayer that has apparently been unanswered must not be forgotten. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward" (Heb. 10:35) if for no other reason than this: the Father remembers that prayer better than you do. It will be answered for good when you may least expect it.
The Jewish leaders asked Him by whose authority He did these things? They were trying to get Him to say it was by God's authority. But they denied that God had sent Him. Jesus sought to link His authority with that of John the Baptist's credentials. He asked the leaders whether John's baptism of repentance was authorized by Heaven or man.
If they replied, by man's authority, the populace would turn against them because they all believed John was a prophet sent by Heaven. If they replied that John was sent by Heaven's authority, then they would have to concede that Christ's authority was from Heaven, because John was the Lamb's forerunner. So the leaders simply denied knowing John's authority.
We want to be very careful that we know how to recognize "Elijah"/John the Baptist, when the Lord sends him again. Every one of us without exception should walk in fear and trembling lest we make the same mistake the Jews did in the days of John the Baptist. Their "Elijah" came and went and they had no idea what had happened! Consequently, they missed their Messiah and crucified Him.
See how Jesus "confronted" the leaders of His day. Jesus went to the Temple to teach and heal.
We are led to ask: "Are there ever times when we, too, should challenge the establishment?" This question is not trivial nonsense. Just be sure you're right before you challenge God-ordained leaders, but remember that the time may come when faithfulness to Jesus will require a challenge to leadership. Keep step with Him! You, too, be crucified with Him.
Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 425.
[2] White, The Desire of Ages, p. 582.