Crossroads Connection for the Week of April 21
 
 
 
Article #1
 

Holy Week Devotional: Good Friday

Scripture: Matthew 27:45-56, 1 Peter 1:18-19 CSB

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is,“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me ?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and offered him a drink. But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

But Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.

When the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God! ”

Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him were there, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb.


Devotion: Jesus covered our sin.

After Jesus was arrested in the garden, He was taken through trials before the chief priests, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. Three trials were by the Jewish leaders and three were done by the Romans (John 18:12-14, Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:6-12, and Mark 15:6-15). The trials also featured bloody beatings and mocking from soldiers. The way to the cross was full of evil and darkness.

We call this day, “good,” because on the cross, our sins were exchanged for the goodness of God’s mercy. Jesus came as a rescue mission to save sinners like you and me.

He came, because without the shedding of His blood, there could be no eternal forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). He came to suffer and die so that we can experience redemption and everlasting life. This day broke the heart of the Father. He sent His Son to demonstrate His love to a lost and dying world (Romans 5:8).

This is a day not of celebration, but of great remorse. It was indeed our sin that held Him there. It was our rebellion that caused the death.

Take a few minutes and read the text. Soak in the reality of justice served to the only innocent and sinless man to walk the earth.

Spend today praising the Father for the gift of the Son. Praise the Father for His gift of grace shown on the cross. Praise Him that your sin was exchanged for righteousness.

Jesus indeed paid it all. Your sin was covered. No more debt is owed. This is what makes today…good.

  
 

Article #2

 

How to Spot a Fake

By Skip Heitzig

Several years ago I was walking down the streets of Kusadasi, Turkey, when I saw a sign that proudly advertised "Fake Watches." Sure enough, they were the best fake watches I had ever seen. So I bought one. Later on, a friend of mine who knows watches pretty well couldn't even tell it was a fake. But then he said, "If you opened it up and looked inside, you'd be able to tell."

The same goes for looking inside the hearts and minds of false teachers, as the apostle Peter did in 2 Peter 2. From this chapter we discover three principles for dealing with counterfeit teachers:

1. Be aware of their falsehood. Know the things that characterize a false teacher. To start with, they're always around: "There were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you" (v. 1). And as we near the end of days, you can expect it to get worse (see Matthew 24:5, 24).

False teachers also distort the truth—they "secretly bring in destructive heresies" (v. 1) or teachings. They use all the right terms—Jesus, Savior, salvation, inspiration—but not the right meaning of these terms as defined by Scripture. They also deny Christ (see v. 1), meaning they deny who Jesus claimed to be.

False teachers broaden the way to heaven—"Many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (v. 2; see also Matthew 7:13)—and they cover up their motives: "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words" (v. 3). Finally, they "despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries" (v. 10), meaning demonic dignitaries. They act like experts on all things spiritual, even when speaking about things they're ignorant of.

2. Be assured of their fate. Woven throughout 2 Peter 2 is the promise that these false prophets have a severe judgment waiting for them (see vv. 1, 3, 12-13). That's because there's nothing more offensive to God than those who falsify facts about Him.

3. Be aligned with the faithful. In the text, Peter mentioned Noah and Lot as two examples we ought to follow (see vv. 5, 7-8). Neither of them was perfect, but both did what they did because they believed God's promise of judgment and thus escaped that judgment. As verse 9 says, "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment."

Here are two thoughts I want to leave you with: First, be thankful that God loves you enough to warn you about the fake watches of the spiritual world. And second, find examples of faithful people to emulate. Take the time to grow in discernment, and shun those who try to broaden the way to God, instead being encouraged by—and encouraging—those who truly live, believe, and teach the good news.

Copyright © 2019 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
Article #3
 

Ultimate Love

By George Vink 

Scripture Reading: John 15:9-17

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
John 15:13

Jesus spoke these words to his disciples just a few hours before he was arrested. And the next day, which we celebrate today as Good Friday, he laid down his life for us all. He gave up his life willingly on the cross to pay the price for our sin.

Jesus clarifies his definition of ultimate love by adding, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” And that command is “Love each other as I have loved you.” Earlier that evening, as he ate his last supper with the disciples, Jesus had said the same thing, calling it a new command (John 13:34).

I sometimes wonder, “Do I have even a beginning of love like that? How does it show?”

Loving others by dying for them is not expected from each of us. But loving others by giving of our time and money and by sharing of our gifts and talents is a start. There’s more involved than being kind and patient. Love always trusts and always perseveres (see 1 Corinthians 13). In our gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us, we want to share his good news wherever we can. For as the Canons of Dort remind us, “God showed his love” by sending his only Son so “that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

We look to Jesus as our example. He went willingly and obediently. He laid down his life for his friends. Do you see Jesus as your friend?

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving your own life as a sacrifice for ours. May our responses of joy and gratitude show and tell others how we are your friends, to the Father’s glory. Amen.

 for us. In your name, Amen.

 
 
Article #4
 

Lydia, A Workplace Minister

"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God" (Acts 16:14).

There was a businesswoman whom Paul encountered in Philippi named Lydia. She was an early church entrepreneur dealing in purple cloth, the most expensive type in the 1st century Middle East. Most accounts believe this was Paul's first known convert. I find it interesting that his first known convert was a woman and an entrepreneur.

"We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home" (Acts 16:13-15a).

This encounter with Lydia and her women associates ultimately opened the way for ministry in that region. God often worked in and through women in the early church. Lydia was an influential businesswoman, and the gospel was affecting all strata of society, just as it does today.

Lydia was a maker of beautiful cloth mainly used by members of the royal families and Roman senators who were required to have a purple band around the edge of their togas, or robes. Purple cloth was both valuable and expensive in the culture of the first century. It was often worn as a sign of nobility or royalty. Lydia's ministry would be to the upper-class business community.

Evidence of her conversion was immediate. She told the men if they considered her a believer in the Lord, she would like for them to come and stay at her house. Evidently, she had plenty of room to accommodate the four of them; Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke was with them also. She continued to urge them and they accepted her invitation and stayed at her house.

Lydia's heart was like the good soil in the parable of the sower. When she heard the word of God, she received it with joy and obeyed the words of the apostle.

Who are the "Lydias" God has placed in your circle of influence? Pray that you will be the instrument, like Paul, to bring the gospel to influential women entrepreneurs.


Article #5
 

The Stranger of Galilee

 

What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?

Luke 24:17

 

The two disciples of Jesus were downcast as they trudged home from a Passover gone terribly wrong. Their Lord had been slain on Friday. Saturday had been a miserable Sabbath as they were unable to return to the comfort of their homes, and on Sunday they began the journey to Emmaus, discussing the tragic events.

 

 

A Stranger joined them and asked, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” The Stranger proceeded to give them a tour of the Old Testament, showing them God’s plan of redemption. He explained from the Law, Prophets, and Psalms how the Messiah had to die and rise again. Arriving in Emmaus, the Stranger revealed Himself. They had been walking with the Risen Lord!

 

The greatest encouragement we will ever know is the encouragement of knowing the Christ who rose on Easter Sunday. He walks with us and talks with us and tells us we are His own. What indescribable joy is ours—to know our Risen Savior.

 

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing / eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!

Alfred H. Ackley, in the hymn “He Lives!”

 



Article #6


The Look of Love

By George Vink 

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:47-62

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. . .
Luke 22:61

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers. A natural leader, Peter was a doer who often spoke up and motivated others when it was time to get things done. But sometimes Peter spoke when he should have kept quiet. Brave Peter promised loyalty and then didn’t follow through. Earlier he said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). But in the priest’s courtyard he denied even knowing Jesus. Still, I think Peter deserves some credit for coming around and being there that night.

While this account tells of Peter’s denial, it also shows the Savior’s love. In all that Jesus did here—allowing himself to be arrested and mocked, healing a soldier’s ear, and even looking Peter in the eye—we can see the heart of Jesus, who shows us his Father’s heart.

When we get to know Jesus, we learn—often slowly—that his way of doing things is different from ours. It is not with swords or in trying to get even with people who have hurt us. Instead, it’s the way of compassion and forgiveness.

The look and love of Jesus are a marvelous message! It was not a look of condemnation that melted Peter’s heart. It was the loving look of a Father caring for his wayward child. It was an inviting look of grace, a look that brought remorse and repentance. It was the look of the redeeming, restoring love of God.

He’s looking at us with that same redeeming love today!

Father, thank you for your look of love, and fill us today with the love you have shown in your Son. Amen.


 

 

 
 
 
A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis

Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, orsuffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in JimBishop's book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken thecrucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callousto its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurredto me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause ofChrist's death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Sincecrucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, theyundoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason wehave only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourgedJesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him."

Despite the gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many havelooked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from amedical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a Frenchsurgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wroteextensively on the topic.

An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of theIncarnate1 God in atonement2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope ofthis article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord'spassion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazarethactually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of Hisinitial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is thebloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the onlyevangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, "And being in an agony, heprayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down uponthe ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away thephenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that itsimply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting themedical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloodysweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries inthe sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone couldhave produced marked weakness and possible shock.

Although Jesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, thenext event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective isHis trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the firstphysical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face forremaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards thenblindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spaton Him, and struck Him in the face.

BeforePilate

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from asleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of theFortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, PontiusPilate. We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shiftresponsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparentlysuffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned toPilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate orderedBarabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparations for Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders. The prisoner wasstripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Romanlegionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. Thiswas a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two smallballs of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought downwith full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. Atfirst the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blowscontinued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first anoozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurtingarterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open bysubsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons,and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. Whenit was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death,the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement,wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincialJew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed astick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make theirtravesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonlyused for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaitedinto the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and againthere was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue.After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stickfrom His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper intoHis scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe fromHis back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serumin the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgicalbandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

Indeference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. Theheavy patibulum3 of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession ofthe condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiersheaded by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we knowtoday as the Via Dolorosa.

Inspite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam,together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. Hestumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skinand muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had beenpushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion,selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry thecross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat ofshock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finallycompleted. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loincloth which was allowed the Jews.

The crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic,pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulumon the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shouldersagainst the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of thewrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deepinto the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action,being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion andmovement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4,and the titulus5 reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" wasnailed into place.

The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended,toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the kneesmoderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists,excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode inthe brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve,large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himselfupward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nailthrough His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through thenerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves ofcramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbingpain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging bythe arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzedand the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable toact. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus foughtto raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbondioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the crampspartially subsided.

The LastWords

Spasmodically,He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven shortsentences that are recorded.

The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive themfor they do not know what they do."

The second - to the penitent thief7:"Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The third - looking down at Mary Hismother, He said: "Woman, behold your son." Then turning to theterrified, grief-stricken adolescent John , the beloved apostle, He said:"Behold your mother."8

The fourth cry is from the beginning ofPsalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps,intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from Hislacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of thecross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as thepericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and beganto compress the heart.

The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: "I am poured out like water,and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in themidst of my bowels."

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a criticallevel; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish bloodto the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhalesmall gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimulito the brain. Jesus gasped His fifthcry: "I thirst." Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "Mystrength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thouhas brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of theRoman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips. His body was now in extremis,and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. Thisrealization brought forth His sixthword, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished."His mission of atonement9 had been completed. Finally, He could allow His bodyto die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feetagainst the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father,into Your hands I commit My spirit."

Death

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of thebones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tensioncould not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocationoccurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiersapproached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs,upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "Andimmediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape ofwatery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interiorof the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died,not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due toshock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man canexhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and islikely to leave us despondent and depressed.

But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that wehave a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man--the gift ofatonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Eastermorning.

1Incarnate
2 Atonement
3 Horizontal portion of the cross
4 Vertical portion of the cross
5 Small sign stating the victim's crime
6 Gambling
7 The one who felt remorse for his sins and asked Jesus to help him.
8 As Jesus was dying, He gave his trusted friend responsibility for the care ofHis mother.
9 Taking our place by suffering the death penalty for our sin.

Dr.C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College ofMedicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a bookabout medicine and the Bible.

 

Editors'note: If Jesus had remained dead, Christianity would be nothing but an empty promise. But three days after His death, He rose again from the dead. This is the miracle of resurrection, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter. To learn more about the resurrection, read John chapters 20 and 21.