For Mary, the mother of her now, deceased Son, the hour was very distant and disconnected from the joyful events surrounding His birth as “Savior...Christ the Lord” attended to by angels (Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-20, NKJV) and infancy when Gentile religious men from the East amidst the stars of light He created followed “His (unique) star” to visit the family and worship Him (Genesis 1:3-5, 14-19; Matthew 1:18-2:2, NKJV). This is the condensed time period we Christians celebrate as Christmas! Mary’s soul was pierced just as Simeon had prophesied to her on the occasion of her baby Boy’s presentation and circumcision at the Temple in Jerusalem in accord with the Law (Luke 2:21-35).
The rest of that terrible day through the Sabbath Mary and all of those who knew Jesus of Nazareth mourned for Him in great bewilderment at the tragedy that had befallen Him; He who was and should have been according to the prophecies of Scripture and Him, their light of hope (Numbers 24:10-19; Isaiah 9:1-7; John 12:42-50)! But He was gone, the glory of His light apparently overcome by the darkness. Why had God forsaken His own Son? The darkness of ignorance and despair was equally deep. Determined to give their Teacher’s body a more thorough preparation, the women disciples who had been watching everything came to the tomb on the third day after His burial.
The four Gospels vary in their details about what happened next with the women.3 According to Luke, to their astonishment “they found the stone rolled away from the tomb” and after going in, “did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Stunned and confused about what they were seeing, suddenly two angels in male form appeared to and asked them the question of this mortal age: ‘“Why do you seek the living among the dead?’” They followed their question with an equally amazing declaration: ‘“He is not here, but is risen!’” The angels then charged the women to remember the words of Christ foretelling His resurrection and they did (Luke 9:18-22, 24:1-8, NKJV).
All of the Gospels agree the women went to go tell the Lord’s eleven disciples what they had seen and been told by angels and the risen Lord Himself; their devotion richly rewarded with the distinction of being the first to see Him alive from the dead. Coming to the men as they still “mourned and wept,” their first reaction was not to believe. Peter and John however, on second impulse leapt to their feet and ran to the empty tomb to see for themselves (Matthew 28:7-10; Mark 16:7-11; Luke 24:9-12; John 20:1-18, NKJV). Meantime, the Lord appeared to two dejected male disciples not of the eleven traveling from Jerusalem who were kept from initially recognizing Him (Luke 24:13-16).4
After inquiring about their conversation concerning His suffering, crucifixion, lost hope He was Israel’s Redeemer and news from the women, the risen Lord rebuked their slowness to believe all of what it was written the prophets spoke. Then, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them” everything about Himself and what had just happened as He later did the eleven who He also restored (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:17-47; John 21:1-19, NKJV).5 Witnesses of all that was fulfilled, the Lord commissioned the eleven to go tell it after being empowered by the Holy Spirit then, ascended to Heaven (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:48-53; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:4-11).
Having added Matthias to their number to replace Judas (Acts 1:12-26), the twelve apostles and those gathered with them waited for the Holy Spirit to arrive. He came ten days after the Lord’s ascension on the Jewish Day of Pentecost and mightily filled everyone in the room where they were assembled causing them to praise God in human languages they had not previously learned; Peter stepping up to give biblical explanation of what was taking place and to preach the Gospel (Acts 2:1-39). On that day the Church of Jesus Christ was born with the apostles overseeing her (Acts 2:40-47). As for Peter and the other apostles, I write about the miraculous transformation the Holy Spirit wrought in them and wills for us in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics.6
With the Lord’s instruction and help they still fled, hid or escaped harm from persecution to live to boldly testify and preach another day and never denied Him or abandoned the faith--James being the first one martyred in His cause (Matthew 10:23; Acts 4:1-31, 5:12-42, 8:1-3, 12:1-19). It is Peter that teaches us to submit to unjust suffering trusting ourselves to God following the example of Christ he witnessed (1 Peter 2:18-25, 3:13-17); a teaching corruptly used by professed Christian American slave owners to compel the submission of my forefathers to their wretched institution of slavery and its evil abuses.7 In step with the apostle Paul, Peter also informs us the Lord’s light of hope never stopped shining at His death, but illuminated Hades (Acts 2:27; Ephesians 4:7-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22).
Therefore, let us in the darkness of these latter days be encouraged as we look to Christ our example and ever shining light of hope (Hebrews 6:9-20; 1 Peter 1:3-5)! As He taught, we are not only blessed to suffer for His cause in the Gospel and God’s Kingdom (Matthew 5:10-12), but filled with His light we are also “the light of the world” exposing the darkness as faithful witnesses (Matthew 5:14-16; Ephesians 5:8-14, NKJV). Suffering as He, we are glorified with Him having also overcome the darkness (Romans 8:14-25, 31-39)! Departing this life, we live and our light continues to shine in Heaven (Revelation 7:9-17)! And just as Christ fulfilled the prophecies of His first coming, so with His star portending it, His return with us (Matthew 24:29-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Jude 14-15).8
(This was my final post for 2020. Lord willing, my next post will appear Sunday evening, January 3, 2021. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year filled with all the light of hope our risen, living Savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God imparts to the faithful among our readers waiting for Him!)
3 Detail variances do not discredit the whole resurrection account, but actually add authenticity to it since to this very hour witnesses of the same event will provide de-
tails that differ. One angel of the Lord or two does not change the fact the women found the tomb of Jesus empty as all four Gospels report!
4 In the same supernatural way these disciples were kept from recognizing the Lord, the twelve and all were kept from fully understanding what He was specifically
telling them about the suffering and death He would endure followed by His resurrection (Luke 9:43-45, 18:31-34). Hence, not understanding Christ was in part di-
vinely imposed to keep them from getting in the way as even beforehand, Peter shows he would have done (Matthew 16:21-23).
5 No doubt among the prophets, the Lord did not omit Isaiah 53! Also, please take note of the Lord’s straightforward, objective interpretation and application of God’s
Word as it is written. If He, the living Word as our example in everything handles the Bible this way, then, ought we not to do the same (John 1:1; 2 Timothy 2:15)?
6 A print copy or digital download of the book published by the Publishing Division of Open Door Communication Ministries, Inc. with fresh editing in 2019 for greater
clarity and updated web addresses in the footnotes is available at major internet booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com and Apple (digi-
tal only). You can also purchase a print copy in the Strong Man Store. Too, leaders can teach, disciple and equip through The Strong Man Of God Men’s Group
Study and The Great Woman Of God Women’s Group Study also in the Strong Man Store.
7 Folk of the same mind contrary to what Christ taught, commanded Peter on the day of His arrest and Peter’s teaching tied to this footnote also codified the right of
citizens to keep weapons and use them to violently defend themselves against perceived hostiles in the nation’s Constitution (Matthew 5:38-48, 15:1-9, 26:51-52).
The faithful in the Holy Spirit obey God’s Word before that of men even if it involves rights granted (Joshua 24:15; Matthew 6:24; Acts 4:19, 5:29)! Thus, obeying and
imitating Christ in major part, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led mostly professed Christian black Americans in the Holy Spirit to practice non-violent resistance with their
persecutors during his portion of the black Civil Rights Movement and won the day by the grace of God and to His glory! As Christ declared to Peter, they will die by
manmade weapons that take them up to violently resist the darkness. Surely, God will not honor any professed Christian that defies this teaching either. Too, God’s
judgment will bring an end to the practice of corrupting and setting aside His Word to further one’s own ends that has now, mushroomed out of control within profess-
ing Christianity (1 Peter 4:12-19)!
8 As I write in The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics, Christ’s suffering brought about salvation for the world and great reward to Him; our suffering is a tangible wit-
ness of the power of God’s salvation and Kingdom to the world and brings eternal blessing and reward to us too (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 4:20)!
What the disciples of Jesus Christ saw beginning that dark morning of His arrest and thereafter, so deeply impacted their lives they were never the same again. Though Peter and traditionally the apostle John as “the other disciple” had initially scattered with their companions, they showed up at the home of “Annas,” “the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year” “to see the end,” (Matthew 26:57-58; John 18:12-16, NKJV). It was at this point that Peter makes the first of three denials of knowing Him as the Lord prophesied “before the rooster crows” which he afterward “bitterly” regrets (Matthew 26:34, 69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:17-18, 25-27, NKJV).
I cannot begin to connect with the depths of Peter’s personal pain at that hour especially the heart rending occurrence of the Lord looking him straight in the face at his third denial. I can however, relate to having failed the Lord many times over the years. It is here that I can also appreciate doctrinally and personally the Lord’s words of encouragement to Peter in the face of his impending failure saying to him: “...I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren,” (Luke 22:31-32,NKJV). Peter’s personal faith in Christ and who He was would and did not fail that day--Peter did in his natural, fallen state as a man!
How eternally unfathomably fortunate Peter was that day and all of us who have believed in Christ since that for the cause of our natural, fallen condition as sinners, sin guilt and sins He surrendered to those that would press for His death so, we can return to Him; that is, repent and be forgiven--oh, the joy of the Lord’s forgiveness for sin (Psalms 30, 32)! Peter in the fallen natural and spiritual ignorance; as a not yet Spirit-filled, born again man in the spiritual know denied knowing or being a follower of his Lord to save himself from certain harm and obtained forgiveness for this sin because his faith (trust, confidence) in Him as God’s Son, the Messiah did not fail as He had prayed.
The forgiveness Peter and the other disciples received for not believing Scripture or Christ’s words and spiritual ignorance is granted to all the lost who repent and believe the Gospel (John 5:45-47; 1 Timothy 1:12-17)! Judas’ betrayal is a unique case (Matthew 26:14-16, 19-25, 27:3-10; John 17:12; Acts 1:15-26). Clearly, the warnings of the Lord and later New Testament writers including Peter about the eternal consequences of denying and falling away from Him speak most directly to disciples coming after His suffering, the Holy Spirit and the new spiritual birth (Matthew 10:32-33, 12:31-32; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 12:8-12; Hebrews 3, 6:4-8, 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:22-23).2
It is important to note that while Peter witnessed the first round of the Lord’s interrogation at and before his departure from the home of Annas, John apparently stayed and followed the events leading to His crucifixion since he was known to Caiaphas. With Sanhedrin members and disciples Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, he would have been close in to observe the Lord’s foretold trials before this Council, Pilate and Herod. All present would have seen His disfigurement in the aftermath of beatings and scourging; his physical weakness on the walk to crucifixion requiring help and during which He prophesied to grieving women (Luke 22:63-23:31, 50-51; John 3:1, 7:45-52).
When the death processional came to Calvary the Lord was nailed to His cross as were two criminals. He spoke to His Father on behalf of those responsible for His suffering as all that unfolded fulfilled prophecy exactly as it is written. He also brought one of the criminals crucified with Him who had repented into the Kingdom. Meanwhile, possibly to mirror the spiritual darkness that already shrouded what was taking place; it became physically dark from noon until His death three hours later as the light of the sun was kept from shining on the scene. While “all His acquaintances” and women disciples from Galilee had watched from a distance, John and His mother drew near His cross where He addressed them, then, His Father again before dying (Luke 23:32-49; John 19:25-30, NKJV).
At the moment of His death with the darkened land also uncontrollably convulsing, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” providing a monumental sign and clue as to why all of this was permitted by God and had to take place; the Roman centurion and his men on the scene guarding the Lord observing how He died and the events attending to His death in fear crying out in unison: ‘“Truly, this was the Son of God,’” (Exodus 26:31-34; Leviticus 16:2-3; Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 27:51-52a, 54, NKJV)! Those who pressed for His death, however, still refused to believe this and sought to ensure His light was put out forever even as fellow Sanhedrin members Joseph and Nicodemus saw to His burial; women followers watching (Matthew 27:57-66; John 19:31-42).
2 Thus, for this cause no professed born again Christian should believe they in unbelief can be forgiven for denying the Lord to save themselves from consequence in per-
secution or apostasy (Romans 14:23b; James 4:17)! Men are free to voluntarily walk away from the Lord in unbelief though, no evil spirit or mortal predator can “snatch”
those clinging to Him by faith out of His or His Father’s protective care (John 6:60-71, 10:22-30, NKJV). Obviously, false professors of the faith that publicly forsake it
and Christ were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:18-19). Salvation then, inures to those professed Christians that stand firm to the end in faith, love and obedience
to God’s written Word (Matthew 10:21-22, 24:13; Mark 13:12-13; Ephesians 5:1-7; Hebrews 10:32-39; Revelation 12:10-11, 14:9-13). Read the two-part post beginning
April 6, 2014, The Faith That Saves, under the category, The Faith.
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