It Is Finished

The general religion of mankind is “DO,” but the religion of a true Christian is “DONE.” IT IS FINISHED is the believer’s conquering word. INCARNATE LOVE has fulfilled His self-imposed task. Jesus, as the Substitute for sinners, was condemned to die, and He died that He might finish the work of our redemption. Your sins have sustained their death-blow, the robe of your righteousness has received its last thread (cf 1Cor 1:30, 2Cor 5:21). It is done, complete, perfect. It needs no addition; it can NEVER suffer any diminution. Oh, Christian, do lay hold of this precious thought.

—Charles Spurgeon

Come

Come to Calvary’s holy mountain,
Sinners ruin’d by the fall;
Here a pure and healing fountain
Flows to you, to me, to all,
In a full, perpetual tide,
Open’d when our Saviour died.

Come in poverty and meanness,
Come defiled, without, within;
From infection and uncleanness,
From the leprosy of sin,
Wash your robes and make them white:
Ye shall walk with God in light.

Come, in sorrow and contrition,
Wounded, impotent, and blind;
Here the guilty free remission,
Here the troubled peace may find;
Health this fountain will restore,
He that drinks shall thirst no more:—

He that drinks shall live for ever;
‘Tis a soul-renewing flood:
God is faithful; —God will never
Break his covenant in blood,
Sign’d when our Redeemer died,
Seal’d when He was glorified.

—James Montgomery, Sacred Poems and Hymns, 1854

The Supper

The Lord’s Supper should not “be viewed as a funeral for poor Jesus rather than the wedding supper of the victorious Lamb.”

—Laurence Hull Stookey, Eucharist: Christ’s Feast with the Church, 153

Since Christ is the host of the meal, and very much present in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the focus and central dynamic of the event are in the present, not the past. We are not, then, reliving or reenacting a past event—neither the event of the cross nor the event of the Last Supper. We are, rather, allowing a past event to shape and inform the present.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 40

The Lord’s Supper is the meal of the church, the body of Christ, and our basis for gathering around this table is not our blood affiliation but the fact that we have been called together by Christ. This meal, in the language of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” is the holy food of the faith community:

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 54

Lavish Giving

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me.  (Mark 14:3-6)

There are many mausoleums that crumble to decay. But this monument to Jesus fills the whole world still with its fragrance.

—S. Lewis Johnson

The Lord raises for all time a memorial to her who had done her best to honor Him.

—author unknown

A great deal has been made through the years over the question of apostolic succession by certain churches, but I would rather be in Mary’s succession than in the succession of the whole crowd of the apostles on this occasion.

—author unknown

Undoubtedly Mary’s act of total commitment and love meant so much to Jesus because it was itself so Christlike—it was suggestive of what He what about to do: give Himself completely for the sins of the world, to allow himself (as the song puts it) to be “broken and spilled out” in an act of total selflessness.

Mary’s act also is a faint reflection of what the Father Himself was about to do: to give the very best He had—His only Son—for the salvation of the world (John 3:16). The Father is the author of lavish giving: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

—RM

 

In Remembrance of Him

Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.

—Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, 744

The Center of History

This is a great word (ephapax): “once for all.”  [Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12,26; 10:10] The effect it has is to make Jesus the center of history. Every work of God’s grace in history before the sacrifice of Christ looked forward to the death of Christ for its foundation. And every work of God’s grace since the sacrifice of Christ looks back to the death of Christ for its foundation. Christ is the center of the history of grace.

—John Piper, “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever” (sermon: December 8, 1996, Bethlehem Baptist Church)

Hosanna!

So “Hosanna!” means, “Hooray for salvation! It’s coming! It’s here! Salvation! Salvation!”

And “Hosanna to the Son of David!” means, “The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!”

And “Hosanna in the highest!” means, “Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!”

—John Piper, “Hosanna!” (Sunday evening, March 27, 1983, Bethlehem Baptist Church)

The Great Exchange

Christmas is the season of the great exchange. Greeting cards are exchanged, as are social invitations and visits. Gifts are exchanged around the Christmas tree on December 25—and at store counters on December 26. But none of that begins to approximate what is meant here by “the great exchange.” For in the depths of its meaning, Christmas is about the exchange of divinity and humanity, of eternity and temporality, of life and death.

The season’s familiarity and its immense popular appeal obscure the fact that Christmas is a mystery comparable to that of the Pasch and fully dependent on faith in the Paschal victory. The wonder of Christmas is not, as might be supposed, “How can a virgin bear a child?” The virginal conception of Jesus is not in itself the mystery but is rather one way of pointing to the mystery, of indicating that what occurred at Bethlehem is outside the bounds of both human experience and explanation. The marvel is that the creator of the cosmos comes as creature for the purpose of setting right all that has gone wrong on this tiny planet. The wonder is that the Eternal One who can be neither created nor destroyed willingly becomes subject to both birth and death.

—Laurence Hill Stookey,  Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 105

O Come, Let Us Adore Him! (2)

1 O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Christ ist erschienen, uns zu versühnen:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

1 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
grace-revealing Christmastide!
Jesus came to win us
from all sin within us;
glorify the holy child!

2 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
love-revealing Christmastide!
Loud hosannas singing,
and all praises bringing,
may Thy love with us abide!

1 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
A este mundo herido,
Cristo le ha nacido:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

2 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
Coros celestiales
Oyen los mortales:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

—Johannes Daniel Falk, Heinrich Holzschuher

Acts 3:1-10, in the spirit of the season!

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The following whimsical musical version was prepared with classmates for an assignment by Professor Howard Hendricks in his Bible Study Methods class at Dallas Theological Seminary in December 1977: we were to fashion a creative retelling of Acts 3:1-10, and since it was the Christmas season, carols seemed to be an appropriate vehicle!

(sing to tune of “It Came upon a Midnight Clear”)
It came about in Jerusalem,
At the ninth hour of the day,
That John and Peter, our heroes,
Went to the temple to pray.
A beggar, lame from his mother’s womb
They met along the way;
This man would daily sit by the gate
To beg for what he may.

(sing to tune of “The First Noel”)
He look-ed up and asked them for alms,
With the old classic gesture, the open palms.
But that preachers are all poor, we need hardly to tell;
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well.

(And Peter said:)

(sing to tune of “Away in a Manger”)
“I’m living on faith and I ain’t got* no bread;    [*fisherman jargon]
The apostle business is still in the red;
And taking an off’ring’s not yet invented.
But how ‘bout a miracle maybe instead?”

(to tune of “Joy to the World”)
“All praise to God, I now can walk!
Just see them stand and gawk!
I’ll walk and leap and praise His name,
And all will see and shout His fame.
I used to sit and wait
Down by the temple gate—
For signs and wonders how does that rate?”

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (17)

Here are two mysteries for the price of one
     the plurality of persons within the unity of God,
     and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.
It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas,
that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation tie.

“The Word became flesh,” John 1:14; God became man; the divine Son became a Jew;
the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and talked to like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this:
the babyhood of the son of God was reality.
The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 58

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (16)

There is no Gospel at all if Christ be not God.
It is no news to me to tell me that a great prophet is born.
There have been great prophets before;
but the world has never been redeemed from evil
by mere testimony to the truth, and it never will be.
But tell me that God is born,
that God Himself has espoused our nature,
and taken it into union with Himself,
that God Himself has espoused our nature,
and taken it into union with Himself,
then the bells of my heart ring merry peals,
for now may I come to God, since God has come to me.

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Christ’s Incarnation

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (15)

The very possibility of the incarnation of the Son of God itself rests on our possession of the image. It is because man fundamentally reflects the personal character of God that God himself can take on flesh and blood. We can make sense of incarnation only in the light of what we know already about the constitution of man as the highest of all the creatures of God, whom God has made for fellowship with himself. The high dignity which this confers upon human existence is radically underscored by the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ. God commits himself to us forever by clothing his own Son with human nature.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 27

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (14)

Christianity is a faith of paradox.

The key paradox to all paradoxes is the Incarnation. We confess Jesus to be the God-Man. Both. Not one or the other, but both. We can stress his deity to the point of forgetting his humanity. We can focus on his humanity to the point of denying his divinity.

The truth of the Incarnation is not an either/or but a both/and.

—Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship (email) 10/29/03