Easter, George Fideric Handel & Keith Green

So write the music historians, “The oratorios of Handel are choral dramas of overpowering vitality and grandeur. Vast murals, they are conceived in epic style.”

Most popular of Handel’s compositions in modern times is his oratorio, “Messiah”, from which we find “Hallelujah”, better known as “The Hallelujah Chorus.”

“It was 1742, and Handel, working as a man possessed, completed the entire oratorio in an inconceivable twenty-four days. Moreover, Handel’s servant found him just after the completion of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. With tears streaming from his eyes, Handel exclaimed, ‘I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the Great God Himself!”

Handel is now in Paradise. And so is Keith Green, tragically killed in a plane crash in July, 1982. Green, a modern-day musical prophet, is my favorite all-time Christian singer/songwriter. Listen as he sings, “Hear the bells ringing! They’re singing Christ is risen from the dead! Hallelujah!”

It’s Easter. The tomb is empty. And that changes everything.

Hallelujah, nw

Day 2 (of 3) – A Sermon for the Ages

What was Jesus doing between his death & his resurrection?

No one knows for certain. But there is a most curious passage in Peter’s first letter. Here it is:

1 Peter 3:18-22 (NLT) – Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison (cf. 2 Peter 2:4) — …[freedom in Christ] is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.

What does “So he went and preached to the spirits in prison” mean? There are varying schools of thought on this passage. Here’s one opinion….

John MacArthur comments on this passage: “Between Christ’s death and resurrection, his living spirit went to the demon spirits bound in the abyss and proclaimed that, in spite of his death, he had triumphed over them.”

If MacArthur’s right, all I can think is: Can you imagine hearing that sermon from Jesus?? It must’ve gone something like this: “You tortured me. You killed me. But, behold – I AM quite ALIVE! I AM the firstborn of all creation! I AM the Lamb who is the Shepherd! I AM the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. I AM the resurrection and the life! And you? You are going to regret you ever met Me. You are going to regret you ever hurt my children.” (I’m guessing there was no “invitation” at the end of the service.)

In my mind’s eye, I can see the demons cowering in unspeakable terror as the Lion from the tribe of Judah ROARS!

Listen this day for the roar of the Lion. Can you hear it? He’s roaring, “Remember…you were separate from [Me],…without hope and without God in the world. But now in [Me] you who once were far away have been brought near by [My blood!]” (Eph. 2:12-13)

Soli Deo Gloria (and for Narnia!), nw

Aslan

Good Friday – Twenty Centuries Ago…

By Good Friday morning, the rooster has crowed, alerting Simon Peter to the fact that, just as Jesus predicted, he would deny Jesus not once, but three times. The other disciples have scattered in fear.

Jesus has spent the entire night facing a very illegal, very hostile, kangaroo court designed to railroad him into a verdict of execution.

The Jewish leaders have demanded an audience with Pontius Pilate, who, normally in Caesarea, is in Jerusalem because of the crowds associated with Passover. Pilate tolerates the Jewish leaders, hearing them out. But, seeing through their false accusations, Pilate agrees not (yet) to have Jesus executed, but to have him flogged.

Jesus is about to have his back shredded, ripped from his body, producing voluminous blood-loss and hypovolemic shock.

Friday morning, while we go through our daily routines, use your imagination and travel back twenty centuries. The crowds are satisfied with the flogging.  They want death!  “Crucify him!”, the shout repeatedly.  So verdict is handed down….a death sentence. For only Rome has the authority to execute a death sentence. And their favorite form of execution? Crucifixion.

Crucifixions are “events” intended to send a message of terror to the onlooking crowds: “Thinking about rebelling again Rome? Behold! This is your fate should you follow through.”

But, this is Good Friday. Why? Because, without the crucifixion, there can be no resurrection.

I saw a sign once sitting outside a coffee shop on the Friday prior to Easter.  It read:

“Come on in – where every Friday is Good – and no one has to die.”

That’s a nice sentiment, I guess.  But it completely contradicts what God says:

“For all have sinned…. [and] the wages of sin is death.”

Translation:  The verdict is in.  We’re all guilty of sin.  Every last one of us.  God’s payment to us for our sin is death.  An eternal death sentence.

Today, consider Him who died, so that we wouldn’t have to.

This is the Gospel.

To put it in the words of contemporary culture:

karma

From John MacArthur’s brilliant “God With Us”:

“Think for a moment about how Jesus died. It was not an easy, gentle passing from this world. It was excruciating agony and torture of the worst kind, for it was on a cross. He suffered in His death. He drank the bitter cup at Calvary in its fullness – He drained it to the last drop. He experienced all the pain, all the loneliness, all the torments that have ever been associated with death…..The death He tasted was the penalty of our sin.

The prophet Isaiah, seven centuries before Christ was born, put it this way:

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain,… Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,… He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (53:3-5; emphasis mine)

MacArthur adds,

Jesus Christ received the full force of all that the devil could throw at Him. More than that (far more), He received the full expression of God’s wrath over sin.”

Why? Because of his relentless love for us all.

It’s Friday,…but Sunday’s Comin’, Nick