Jesus or Barabbas – Rev.M. De Vries

Image result for pontius pilate

From the pen of Rev. Michael De Vries comes these thoughts on the choice of the mob outside the Roman Praetorium, when Pontius Pilate asked the people whom they wished to be released, Jesus or Barabbas (cf. Matt.27:17-23), and the people chose Barabbas, crying for Jesus to be crucified.

These are Rev. DeVries’ closing thoughts on this answer of the crowd, which he calls a “self-condemning answer.” This is part of his meditation “Jesus or Barabbas” published in the March 15, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer.

This answer was self-condemning because the multitude clearly made known its will.  There is no excuse.  The fact that they were prompted by the chief priests doesn’t take away their responsibility.   Who could not see the stark contrast between Jesus and Barabbas?  Surely they knew that this choice was between One who was perfectly righteous and a notorious criminal.  When faced with the question,

“What think ye of the Christ?”, the multitude quite consciously prefers a murderer to Jesus!  The multitude should have rejected the shameful nomination made by Pilate.  But they have unconsciously recognized themselves in this murderer, and so they choose Barabbas and reveal their own hatred for God and His Christ.  The multitude was forced to reveal its desire for an earthly Messiah who would satisfy their carnal lusts.

This answer was self-condemning because this was the answer of the whole world.  Truly in this answer we see the condemnation of the world.  Christ said in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world;  now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”  Understand, when the multitude asked for Barabbas, the whole world asked for Barabbas!  When the multitude cried out, “Let him be crucified, the whole world cried out, “Let him be crucified!”  It was God’s sovereign purpose to condemn the world through its own testimony!  In giving this answer the world was exposed in its corruption, its hypocrisy, its worthiness of damnation.

But finally, this answer was self-condemning because this was our answer.  This answer of the multitude is our condemnation.  We by nature, apart from grace, belong with that profane, scorning, God-reviling multitude that heaped reproach upon Christ.  We must confess that we signed, as it were, our own condemnation before the terrible tribunal of God!

Yet we need not despair because of our self-condemning answer!   Ultimately our sovereign God had determined this answer.  He had divinely appointed Christ to walk this way of suffering to the cross.  He had ordained Christ to be the head of the Church.  He had required that the perfect sacrifice be made for the sins of the elect.

Don’t you see, this self-condemning answer was necessary for you and for me!  Only through the suffering and death of Christ could we be delivered from the bondage of sin!  Only through this answer could we, who are by nature enemies of God and His cause, once more be made friends.  The very blood that we demanded be shed was the very blood that washed away our sins!

Let us stand in awe at the mystery of Calvary!  For He “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification,” (Romans 4:25).  For our sakes He bore this reproach!  He was despised, rejected of men that we might be accepted by God and never be forsaken by Him!  And now Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father.  He works by His Spirit and grace in our hearts so that we count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord!

“Art thou the Christ?” Christ Taking the Oath – F.Leahy

     Warfield reminds us that our Lord’s life of humiliation ‘was not his misfortune, but his achievement’ and that ‘He was never the victim but always the Master of circumstance.’ This must be borne in mind as we reflect on the Saviour obediently taking the oath. His response was clear; ‘You have said so’, meaning, ‘Yes, indeed; I am the Christ.’

…Christ was fully aware of the authority of the Sanhedrin and of his Messianic calling. He would be faithful to both. He took the oath. …Christ knew that his answer would lead to his death, but he made his noble confession and added, ‘I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ …He saw beyond the cross and the resurrection to his glorious return as Judge and he saw his enthronement at God’s right hand. In effect he was saying that when he returned the situation would be reversed. On that day his present judges would stand before his tribunal and he would be their Judge!

…All agreed that the Prisoner was guilty of blasphemy and that he should die. They refused to acknowledge his claims. ‘His own people received him not’ (John 1:11). In the full light of his character, teaching and deeds, they rejected him. The cry of their hearts was , ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’ (Luke 19:14). So answers the heart of fallen man when confronted with Christ and the challenge of his cross and his crown. Never had the members of the Sanhedrin heard a proclamation so majestic as that which fell on their ears when Christ declared his Messiahship and warned of his second advent. But unbelief and prejudice blinded them to the truth.

There is no more solemn moment than when one is confronted by the Christ of God. Is he a fraud and an imposter? or is he the world’s Saviour and the world’s Judge?

‘What think ye of Christ’ is the test
To try both your state and your scheme;
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him.

Christ’s solemn oath before Caiaphas echoes throughout the centuries. ‘Are you the Christ?’ ‘YES.’ There is the mighty rock that bears the faith of the people of God in all ages. Those who build on that foundation shall never be confounded; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it!

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 6, “Taking the Oath” (based on Matt.26:63-64) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.34-36.

Note to Self: Love

Note-to-self-Thorn     You must love God and your neighbor, but only one can give birth to the other. Do you recall that the command to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength was the command that drove Martin Luther to hate God?  It was a command that he could not meet, and the righteous standard of God nearly drove him mad. You are like Luther. Love is something beyond your ability as well, yet the command remains.

The reality is that you only love God because he loved you first. He loved you before you were born and chose you for himself. His love for you secured your salvation, and because you have experienced his life-redeeming love you love him in return.

But for love to continue and grow, and for you to love the unlovable, it is important that you meditate on the gospel. Get this – you only know what love really is by looking to your Savior. And we learn it from him continually, not just once. You must daily go to the cross and see your Savior’s love for the unlovable (that means you).

You must learn, relearn, and remember your Savior’s love and sacrifice for the wicked, the rebellious, the black-hearted – for people like you. And when you see the Holy One’s sacrificial love for you, you not only see what love looks like, but also you find strength and power to love like him.

Taken from “Part One: The Gospel and God” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), p.36.

The Majesty of Christ’s Silence – F.Leahy

CrossHeBore-Leahy “And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace.” Matt.26:62, 63a

All too often Christ’s silence has been given a dangerous one-sidedness, as his passive obedience is stressed almost, if not altogether, to the exclusion of his active obedience. Christ’s silence was deliberate, emphatic and authoritative: it was his deed. The passivity of his suffering was real, but so was the activity of his obedience. Led as a lamb to the slaughter and like a sheep dumb before the shearers, he was active right up to and on the cross. He went as a king to die.

…Christ was quick to speak when his Messiahship was challenged (Matt.24:64). But he never spoke in obedience to man, always in obedience to his Father and in keeping with his mission. Because of his sublime and sovereign silence, he has earned the right to speak eternally. His silence was an act of mighty obedience to his Father’s will and a compliance with that wondrous mission entrusted to him in the counsels of eternity. Calvin says, ‘he is now our advocate before God, always having His mouth open.’ On Patmos John heard the voice of the risen Christ ‘like the sound of many waters.’ Hughes sees this as a reference to the ‘awe-inspiring majesty of his speaking.’ True; and yet his silence before the Sanhedrin was equally majestic, equally awe-inspiring.

At the very heart of his redemptive work there must be seen the infinite strength of the silent Saviour. In that ecclesiastical court Satan was tempting Christ with his own riddle, twisted though it was. By a single word he might have freed himself from his enemies. But our silent Priest continued majestically to his death. O blessed silence that lay at the heart of our redemption!

The Sanhedrin finally concluded its proceedings to its own satisfaction. This Holy Temple, the subject of the riddle, could now be broken down, to be raised in glory. Just as the first temple was erected without sound of hammer, or any iron tool ( 1 Kings 6:7), so this Temple of Christ’s body will be restored in a silence that nothing can profane.

Taken from chapter 5, “The Dumb Lamb” (based on Matt.26:62-63) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.28-29.

Christ in Gethsemane: The Covenant Bond

     While our Lord in Gethsemane received no answer to his repeated knocking on heaven’s door, he knew, from that profound silence, that he must drink the awful chalice that the Father had placed in his hands. Always he was fully aware of the covenant bond between the Father, representing the Trinity, and himself, representing his people – the covenant of grace. Again and again he addressed the Father, a word so often on his lips, as ‘my Father’ and ‘my God’. That is covenant language.

Christ knew that the Father smote him for the salvation of his people. Before going to Gethsemane, he warned his disciples that they would soon forsake him, quoting from Zechariah, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ (Matt.26:31). He willingly submitted to the rod. In Gethsemane he virtually said, ‘Here am I’. His obedience was covenant obedience. He was ever mindful of his eternal undertaking as the Surety and Mediator of his people, a thought that is dominant in his high priestly prayer (John 17). He never doubted that holy decree by which he came into the world to save sinners. And so the darker the night, the greater the storm and the fiercer the conflict, the more he reached out to his Father and rested in his sovereign will.

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 3, “Strengthened to Suffer” (based on Luke 22:43) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.14.

Christ in Gethsemane – Man of Sorrows

     Gethsemane means ‘the oil press’. David could say, ‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God’ (Psa.52:8). Israel in her long history could say the same. But the suffering Savior could say it best of all, for there in Gethsemane – the oil press – he was crushed and bruised without mercy. But how and why? How is the sudden and dramatic change of atmosphere between the upper room and Gethsemane to be explained, even in a measure? Christ knew all along the death that awaited him. He had grappled with Satan and his legions more than once. He had repeatedly spoken of his death to his disciples, telling them what that death would accomplish. He had prayed with the utmost confidence in his high priestly prayer (John 17).

Why, then, is there this sudden plunge into such awful agony, why this shuddering horror? Why is this fruit of the olive tree so severely crushed? Why does the divine record say that in Gethsemane our Lord BEGAN to be sorrowful, sorrowful in a new and terrible way? Was it not because God began forsaking him then? How else is this sorrow unto death to be understood?

‘Jesus wept’, but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, ‘Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? ‘THIS CUP’ – not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feast (Matt.26:27,28) and was now actual: God was placing it in the Savior’s hands and it carried the stench of hell.

But stop! Schilder is right. ‘Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary of our faith’. Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes (pp.4-5).

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 1, “Man of Sorrows” (based on Matt.26:36,37) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996).

The Wonders of Redemption – Anne Steele


For our meditation on the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ in this time of year, we consider today this poem of Anne Steele (1717-1778).

The Wonders of Redemption
I Peter iii. 18.

I. And did the holy and the just,
The Sov’reign of the skies,
Stoop down to wretchedness and dust,
That guilty worms might rise?

II. Yes, the Redeemer left his throne,
His radiant throne on high,
(Surprizing mercy! love unknown!)
To suffer, bleed and die.

III. He took the dying traitor’s place,
And suffer’d in his stead;
For man, (O miracle of grace!)
For man the Saviour bled!

IV. Dear Lord, what heav’nly wonders dwell
In thy atoning blood?
By this are sinners snatch’d from hell,
And rebels brought to God.

V. Jesus, my soul, adoring bends
To love so full, so free;
And may I hope that love extends
It’s sacred pow’r to me?

VI. What glad return can I impart,
For favours so divine?
O take my all,—this worthless heart,
And make it only thine.

Here is some biographical material on the author:

Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire, in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton. Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip. At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married but her fiance drowned the day of the wedding. On the occasion of his death she wrote the hymn “When I survey life’s varied scenes.” After the death of her fiance she assisted her father with his ministry and remained single. Despite her sufferings she maintained a cheerful attitude. She published a book of poetry Poems on subjects chiefly devotional in 1760 under the pseudonym “Theodosia.” The remaining works were published after her death, they include 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms, and about 50 poems on metrical subjects.

Dianne Shapiro (from Dictionary of National Biography, 1898 and Songs from the hearts of women by Nicholas Smith, 1903

This material was taken from the website For more on Anne Steele and her poetry visit this page.

Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 7:26 AM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self: Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves

As we prepare for worship tomorrow and for hearing the gospel, we may learn from these points of Joe Thorn in Note to Self:

We cannot properly preach the law without also preaching the gospel, for God has not given us his law as the end. But before we consider how to preach the gospel, it will be helpful to clarify the gospel itself. In one sense we must say that the gospel is history, It happened. Simply put, the gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. …In the Bible, ‘gospel’ is not something we do but something we believe. It is the good news of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.

At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption…. This is therefore very ‘good news’ (pp.29-30).

Note-to-self-ThornWe can fault Thorn for being too simplistic about the gospel here (I believe he deliberately intends it to be so for his purposes.) and for being too vague with regard to the specific intent of Jesus’ saving work (a substitutionary atonement for those sinners chosen before time by the Father to salvation and life in Christ, that is, for the elect only), and for his use of the word “offer” in his presentation of the gospel (I am not sure he understands the controversy surrounding the use of that term and the “loaded” Arminian connotation it often has in our time), but we can appreciate his point that we need to preach this message of the finished work of Christ to ourselves daily.

Here is what he adds to this section:

When we get to the business of preaching this good news to ourselves, we are essentially denying self and resting in the grace of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection (p.30).

To that we can give our hearty Amen!

Taken from Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). For the previous post, visit this page.

Christ Made Our Sin; We, His Righteousness

2-Corinthians_5-21This morning we will celebrate the holy Supper of our Lord in our home church. Our bulletin shows that our pastor will be preaching from the familiar passage in 2 Cor.5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

The following is John Calvin’s interpretation (partial) of this text as found in his commentary on this epistle (Baker ed., vol.20, p.242):

     …Righteousness, here, is not taken to denote a quality or habit, but by way of imputation, on the ground of Christ’s righteousness being reckoned to have been received by us. What, on the other hand, is denoted by sin? It is the guilt, on account of which we are arraigned at the bar of God. As, however, the curse of the individual was of old cast upon the victim, so Christ’s condemnation was our absolution, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah liii, 5).

…The righteousness of God is taken here to denote – not that which is given us by God, but that which is approved by him…. Farther, in Romans iii. 23, when he says, that we have come short of the glory of God, he means, that there is nothing that we can glory in before God, for it is no very difficult matter to appear righteous before men, but it is mere delusive appearance of righteousness, which becomes at last the ground of perdition. Hence, that is the only true righteousness, which is acceptable to God.

Let us now return to the contrast between righteousness and sin. How are we righteous in the sight of God? It is assuredly in the same respect in which Christ was a sinner. For he assumed in a manner our place, that he might be a criminal in our room, and might be dealt with as a sinner, not for his own offenses, but for those of others, inasmuch as he was pure and exempt from every fault, and might endure the punishment that was due to us – not to himself. It is in the same manner, assuredly, that we are now righteous in him – not in respect of our rendering satisfaction to the justice of God by our own works, but because we are judged of in connection with Christ’s righteousness, which we have put on us by faith, that it might become ours.

Dwelling on Christ Crucified – “Christ is All”

Gal6-14From the “collection of Puritan prayers and devotions” titled The Valley of Vision (see information at the end) comes this edifying prayer-devotional for us as we contemplate the death of our Lord this week in a special way, in view of Good Friday.

The title of this devotional is “Christ is All.” May it be our theme not only this week, but each day of our lives as we live “under the cross” of our Lord.

O Lover to the uttermost,
May I read the meltings of Thy heart to me
in the manger of Thy birth,
in the garden of Thy agony,
in the cross of Thy suffering,
in the tomb of Thy resurrection,
in the heaven of Thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,
tread down his temptations,
resist his schemings,
renounce the world,
am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to Thee,
as spiritual bridegroom,
as Jehovah’s fellow,
as sinners’ friend.

I think of Thy glory and my vileness,
Thy majesty and my meanness,
Thy beauty and my deformity,
Thy purity and my filth,
Thy righteouness and my iniquity.

Thou has loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,
may I love Thee as I am loved;
Thou hast given Thyself for me,
may I give myself to Thee.
Thou hast died for me,
may I live to Thee
in every moment of time,
in every movement of my mind,
in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
but walk by Thy side,
listen to Thy voice,
be clothed with Thy grace,
and adorned with Thy righteousness.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 18.