Stephen Nichols: In order to understand the story of Christmas, we have to go back. Not back just a few thousand years to the birth of Jesus, but all the way back, back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. God placed them in the lush and perfect garden of Eden. They had everything they needed. It was perfect. Then they sinned. As a consequence, God banished them. Now Adam and Eve lived under the curse. But as God pronounced the curse, thundering from heaven, He also gave them a promise. God gave Adam and Eve the promise of a Seed, a Seed who would be born of a woman. That Seed would make all that was wrong, right. He would make all that was broken, whole. This Seed would bring peace and harmony where strife and conflict raged like a storm-tossed sea. In the Old Testament, the third chapter of the very first book, Genesis, speaks of conflict and enmity. Adam
Joel R. Beeke: In John 3:9–15, Nicodemus, a “master of Israel,” receives a remedy for his troubled soul from the Master Physician. The Son of God gives this night-disciple an eye to behold the Messiah lifted up on the cross of suffering and death. To do this, Jesus brings in vital imagery of the bronze serpent from Numbers 21:7–9 to reframe Nicodemus’s knowledge of the Torah. In so doing, he makes us lift up our heads as well. Jesus presents himself as the true Bronze Serpent who must be lifted up and looked on for us to truly live. What exactly did Nicodemus learn in these moments? And what can we learn from this intimate encounter with the Lord of life? Beholding the Bronze Serpent As we examine John 3:14–15, we must ask why Christ mentioned Moses. Why the allusion to Numbers 21:7–9? For Nicodemus, as for us, the law is given to convict him and drive him to the gospel. Here, for the first
Justin Dillehay: This year the Jewish celebration of Passover will begin on Wednesday, April 8, two days before the Christian celebration of Good Friday. The proximity of these two religious holy days is nothing new. It reminds us that Jesus was crucified during Passover, and that as a Jew he had come to Jerusalem to celebrate it. But is that just a coincidence? Did Jesus just happen to die during Passover? The biblical answer is no. The reason he came to Jerusalem that final time wasn’t just to celebrate Passover, but to become our Passover. As the apostle Paul says plainly in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” But what does that mean? To see the answer, we need to begin at Exodus 12, the story of the first Passover. There we’ll see why the Passover was necessary and what it meant. Having learned Passover’s meaning, we’ll then look at how Christ became our Passover. Exodus 12 and the First Passover
Justin Dillehay: When I was a church teen in the 1990s, one of hottest new Christian bands was Third Day. The name seemed like a riff on the mainstream band Third Eye Blind, but we all know where it really came from. According to Paul’s gospel, Christ was “raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” This is “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3–5). We all know that Christ rose on the third day. But we probably aren’t as familiar with the latter half of Paul’s statement, namely, that Christ was “raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4). This wasn’t just something that happened in history; it was also prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus himself says the same thing in Luke 24:46: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” Which raises the question, where? Where is it written that Christ would
WHEN ETHICAL AND MORAL IMPERATIVES ARE PROCLAIMED AS SUFFICIENT, EVEN ABSTRACTED FROM JESUS, THE RESULT IS A CROSSLESS CHRISTIANITY IN WHICH THE CENTRAL MESSAGE BECOMES AN EXHORTATION TO LIVE ACCORDING TO GOD’S RULES. By David E. Prince Satan does not mind expository preaching — as long as it misses the main point of God’s Word. In fact, Satan himself engages in a form of expository preaching and encourages that form of biblical exposition to be practiced as a means of his deception. Russell Moore writes: Throughout the Old Testament, he preaches peace — just like the angels of Bethlehem do — except he does so when there is no peace. He points people to the particulars of worship commanded by God — sacrifices and offerings and feast days — just without the preeminent mandates of love, justice, and mercy. Satan even preaches to God — about the proper motives needed for godly discipleship on the part of God’s servants. In the New
Michael Morales: Atonement—that is, reconciliation between God the Creator and sinful humanity—is at the heart of the Pentateuch’s theology. Indeed, the Day of Atonement is found at the literary center of the Pentateuch’s central book, Leviticus 16. Simply called “the Day” by ancient Jews, the Day of Atonement is dubbed a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” in Scripture (Lev. 16:31), a day of solemn convocation where all members of Israel were called to participate both by ceasing from labor and by “afflicting [their] souls” (Lev. 16:29)—understood as the one annual day of fasting mandated by the LORD. Failure to observe this Day would result in being “cut off” from among God’s people and being “destroyed” by the LORD, a sobering threat meant to underscore the gravity of the liturgy (Lev. 23:26-32). The ritual drama performed by the high priest, along with the severe warnings against neglecting this convocation, served to catechize Israel about the dire need for cleansing and the forgiveness of sins.
Nicholas Batzig: As a young man, I would sometimes spend time talking with a family friend who was a watch expert. I was fascinated by the way in which he could quickly distinguish a true Rolex from a fake. On one occasion, my friend pointed out the seemingly microscopic initials that a watchmaker had engraved into the underside of a timepiece. It was this small detail that enabled my friend to authenticate this particular watch. I would never have thought to look for such a small and seemingly insignificant detail if he had not pointed it out to me. Similarly, the Scriptures identify the Lord Jesus as the true Israel of God by means of the smallest and seemingly most insignificant details in the records of His temptation in the wilderness. No sooner had God brought His son (Ex. 4:22), Israel, out of Egypt and through the waters that He brought him into the wilderness for forty years—to be tested
J.D. Greear: If you ask Christians for their favorite book of the Bible, hardly anyone is going to answer, “Leviticus.” (I do know one guy at our church who loved Leviticus—he called it “The Book of Enchantment,” though we could never figure out why—but he was probably the only one.) The book of Leviticus can seem downright strange to us. It’s got a lot of odd rules that don’t always make sense. It’s often tough to get through: more Bible Reading Plans have shipwrecked on the shoals of Leviticus than perhaps any other book of the Bible. But if we just skip over all the ceremonies and rituals and rules, we would miss one of the clearest images of Jesus in the entire Old Testament. Right in the center of Leviticus, in chapter 16, is a ceremony the Jewish people held to be more holy and crucial than any other—a day so thick with meaning and sacredness that they simply