It Is Finished | Day 29

When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30 ESV)

Christmas means nothing without the cross.

Indeed, it is a miracle that Jesus was born of a virgin, fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies, and healed the sick, yet without the His death, none of it would have mattered. As the Messiah, Jesus came to defeat sin and death; however, Jesus could not save us from sin without first paying the price of our sin, which is death. If God simply overlooked our sins, He would cease to be just.

Jesus, therefore, satisfied the mercy and the justice of God.

Though He was without sin, Jesus faced death in our place. He absorbed the serpent’s venom, becoming the sacrificial king of Isaiah 53. Christ suffered the wrath of God in order that we might know the grace and mercy of God. This means that we are only saved from God’s wrath by Jesus’ atoning death.

If the entirety of our salvation is dependent upon Jesus’ death, its sufficiency is of the utmost importance.

Should there be one sin that Jesus did not atone for or if there is one drop of God’s wrath not satisfied, we will be undone.

Thankfully, such is not the case.

Instead, Christ proclaimed that His work is finished. Jesus’ blood is entirely sufficient for our redemption and justification.


Are there still areas of your life where you strive to earn God’s favor apart from trusting in the finished work of Christ?


 

Advertisements

Week 5 | Introduction

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13 ESV)

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.  (Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ first advent dramatically changed the world. Since humanity first fell into sin, God promised the Messiah, a savior who would crush the serpent’s head, defeating sin, evil, and death. For millennia and generations upon generations, people waited faithfully for the King to come and reign. Last week, we glimpsed how Matthew aimed to prove that Jesus was indeed the descendent of David that would sit upon an eternal throne.

In this week’s readings, we will view the culmination of the first coming of Christ, His death and resurrection, and then we will turn our eyes toward Jesus’ second advent. After ascending into heaven, Jesus gave us the promise that He would return again to permanently defeat death and sin for all to see. This hope in Christ’ second coming is what Paul calls “our blessed hope (Tit. 2:13).” As we conclude this season of remembering Jesus’ first coming, let us also hopefully encourage one another to anticipate the second advent.

Are You the One? | Day 28

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3 ESV)

Herein lies one of the most tragic, but hopeful, accounts in all of Scripture. Sometime into Jesus’ ministry, Herod arrested John the Baptist because he was declaring some of Herod’s actions to be sinful. Ultimately, Herod would end up beheading the prophet, but in Matthew 11, John is still alive and in prison. Given the brutal conditions that ancient prisons maintained, John apparently begins to have some level of doubt about Jesus, so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus one critical question:

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

In the midst of his desperate situation, John longs for a confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah because if Jesus is the Savior, then suffering is nothing compared to following Christ. Jesus responds by reminding John of numerous signs of the coming Messiah (Isa. 26:18-19, 29:18-19, 53:4, 61:1), which John’s disciples have seen happening with Jesus: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lepers are clean, the dead live, and the poor hear good news. Finally, Jesus tells John, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me (v. 6).”

There is, I believe, great comfort to be found here. After John’s disciples leave, Jesus informs the crowds that John is the messenger from Micah 3:1 and that “there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist (v. 11).” But in spite of these glowing words from Jesus, John still had doubts; he wondered in his darkest hours whether it was all worth it.

Fortunately, Jesus is big enough to overcome our doubts. Just like He calmed John’s fears, Jesus is ready to “have mercy on those who doubt (Jude 22).”


Consider past and/or present doubts concerning Christ. How has the LORD helped (or is helping) you resolve them?


 

The Kingdom of Heaven | Day 27

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Matthew 4:23 ESV)

After Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast and be tempted by the devil for forty days. Though the devil offered to Him glory and fame, Jesus triumphed over temptation, relying upon the Scriptures. In overcoming temptation, Jesus begins His ministry by preaching the same words of John:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (v. 17).

Verse 23 is Matthew’s summation of Jesus’ earthly ministry: He healed diseases and afflictions while teaching and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.

To give clarification, gospel means good news. Thus, Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of heaven.

What sort of good news could this be?

As the Messiah, Jesus is the Serpent-Crusher of Genesis 3, He is the blessing to all nations from Abraham, and He is the eternal King from David. As we read in Isaiah and Daniel, this King is far more than merely human.

He is a heavenly King; He is God.

Thus, being God with humanity, Jesus proclaimed the good news that God’s kingdom was now invading earth and that all of the promises of old were coming to fulfillment.

As the God-King, Jesus proclaimed the good news of Himself. He is the gospel, the hope in Whom Abraham, Moses, and David waited. And in healing the sick, Jesus displayed physically what He came to do spiritually, which was push back the curse of sin and death.

Jesus established His kingdom to end sin’s reign over the earth.


Remember today the reason for Christ’s birth: He came ultimately to die as an atonement for our sins, and with His resurrection, He crushed the power of sin and death decisively.


 

The Beloved Son | Day 26

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17 ESV)

Jesus’ baptism by John is a sort of passing of the baton. With this action, Jesus officially inaugurates His earthly ministry, and as such, John’s work of preparing the way for Christ begins to come to a close.

Of course, John is not bothered by being overshadowed by Jesus. Knowing that Jesus is the Messiah, John attempts instead to be baptized by Jesus, and when his ministry dwindles because of Jesus’ rising ministry, John declares that “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30)”, which I believe must be the heart of every disciple of Christ.

John did, of course, baptize Jesus at his Lord’s command, and in doing so Jesus affirmed the validity of John’s message. Yet in these final two verses of the chapter, we see something incredible happen. The heavens are opened up, the Spirit descends upon Christ like a dove, and a voice proclaims, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Thus, Jesus’ ministry begins with a heavenly affirmation that He is truly the Messiah. In being called the Son, God is identifying Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 2:7, and the LORD being well pleased with Him matches similarly to Isaiah 40:1.

We now see that Jesus has the direct validation of God the Father upon His work as the Messiah.


Prayerfully recall the beauty of the gospel as displayed in this verse: because Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in Christ we now have the good pleasure of the Father, not His wrath.


 

The Messenger in the Wilderness | Day 25

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 3:1-2 ESV)

Though the birth of Christ was miraculous, much of the world gave it no notice because it occurred in the small town of Bethlehem. But almost three decades later, things begin to change. Since the days of Malachi, God sent no prophet, and though the Messiah was born, 30 years passed with very few people knowing about Him.

But then John appears in the wilderness.

Luke reveals that John is a relative of Jesus who was born to his formerly barren mother, Elizabeth, in her old age. As a man, John became the first prophet to be seen in over 400 years. As with any prophet, John sought to proclaim the Word of God, and his message was similar to the prophets of old but also very different.

First, repentance was the most common prophetic message. The LORD sent prophets to His people as warning sign, begging them to turn away from their sins or suffer the God’s judgment.

Calling people to repentance was normal of a prophet, but John’s proclamation of the kingdom of heaven was not common. In declaring the coming of God’s kingdom, John was preparing the way for the King, the Messiah, to usher in His reign. In this way, John is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40 and Micah 3, which both speak of the messenger who would be the Messiah’s forerunner.

Indeed, John’s entire life was entirely devoted to making Jesus known and seeing Jesus glorified.


Read John’s thought about Jesus and himself in John 3:30, and consider whether his words could also describe your heart. Why or why not?


 

Wise Men Worship the King | Day 24

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

Possibly more so than any other aspect of the story of Christ’s birth, the wise men are incredibly misunderstood.

First, they are often called the three kings or wise men but the actual word is magi (from which the word magic derives). We might even go so far as to call them astrologists, religious observers of the sky.

Second, though they brought three gifts, there is no indication as to their number. There might have been two or a dozen; we simply do not know.

But here is most the crucial question regarding them: why are they significant to the story of Christ’s birth?

I believe the answer is found in God’s promise to Abraham.

The LORD told Abraham that his offspring would be a blessing for all nations of earth. Coming from the east, the story clearly presents the Magi as foreigners, as non-Israelites.

Yet despite not being from the chosen people of God, the Magi sought after Jesus, heard and believed the Word of God, obeyed God instead of man, and ultimately worshiped Jesus.

In fact, by defying Herod’s command to return to him, they revealed that they valued Jesus’ kingship over Herod’s. The Magi were Gentiles who came to worship their King (though it was a great expense to them), which is a sign of how the gospel would soon go forth into all the earth and all people.


How is the miracle of the Magi coming to worship Christ similar to when you first believed the gospel?