Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.
1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”
John is watching as Jesus opens one of the seals.
The creature sounds like thunder and says “Come” – he sounds like thunder because he is speaking for God.
See John 12:28 – 29 “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered.”
2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
Here in verse 2 we see that John looks, and what does he see – the same that we see – that as each seal is opened catastrophic things happen on and to the earth – end of the world stuff.
White Horse – who is the rider? He comes with a bow, & a crown – he comes out conquering. He has all the signs of executing authority, however he is the opposite (or the counterfeit) of the rider of the White Horse in Rev 19:11.
This one is a mimic with false prophecy – the rider in Rev 19 is called faithful and true.
God is in control here – it is God who crowns kings – even the bad kings.
Who is calling “come”? Who is it who is sending them forth? – God!
Look how God used and moved Caesar Augustus, Pontius Pilate and even Nero, who was not looking to spread Christianity throughout the world – but did, through his persecution.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”
2nd living creature – 2nd seal – and again “Come”.
4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
Bright red – also called fiery red
Takes peace from the earth causing the people to kill each other.
How does he do this? He is given a great sword. Swords are the symbol of strife and war.
This is not solely a last days thing – this happened in the beginning – in the Garden as John tells us in his other writing 1 John 3:12 – “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand.
The scales are symbolizing that if you need to weigh and measure food and water you have famine and need rationing.
The famine and rationing are the result of war.
6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
Rationing leads to famine pricing. Perhaps like at one time 12 quarts for a denarius (1 day pay) and now you get only 1.
Barley is the food of the poor and you still get rationed to an amount that will not feed a family.
But a warning to them about the oil and wine.
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”
Note that each time it is a different living creature but the same message — Come!
8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
A pale green horse = the color of a corpse.
Here is a name we don’t see in the baby books – Death & Hades – this is the place of the dead.
Note that their reign is confined – they couldn’t go out into the entire world – they were given ¼ of the earth.
Their destruction was limited to Famine – Pestilence – and Wild Beasts.
At this point we have total calamity, and evil is running rampant and the demonic are all in charge … or are they??
This is the impression, but it is a false impression. God is the one at work here and he will use all kinds of instruments – but he still rules the universe – in this odd way – as the lamb that has been slain. Who would expect that?
“The mockery of Jesus’ enemies and tormentors echoed all that Jesus had ever claimed for Himself.
The titles Prophet, Christ, King, Savior, Son of God, are heard again (Matt 26:68; 27:40, 42). His perfect will of trust and obedience toward God is used to reproach Him (27:43). His prediction that He would rise from the dead is used to brand Him as an impostor (27:63)….
The governance of God was over the whole Passion history; nothing was so slight that it was not worked into His pattern and proclamation. Nothing was so adverse and contradictory but that He controlled it too and made it serve His ends.
Here the arm of the Lord was revealed, in the Servant’s rejection, dereliction, and death; and all men and all things had to serve that revelation. The cosmos served that revelation: ‘From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour’ (27:45). The disciples might well remember Jesus’ last words concerning the world’s last days: ‘The sun will be darkened’ (24:29) and be led to see in the cross the writing of God’s last chapter in history, an eschatological event. In a very real sense the cross was a last judgment on man and did usher in the Day of the Lord.
The temple served the revelation of God (27:51).
Jesus had called the temple the house of the great King (5:35) and had asserted the sanctity of the temple and all its appurtenances (23:16-20). But He had also pronounced a judgment on the corrupted cultus of that temple when He cleansed it (21:12, 13). He had proclaimed the Son’s freedom over against the temple, and the freedom of all sons (17:24-27). He had pointed to Himself as something greater than the temple, as the new and fuller Presence of God among His people (12:6); and He had predicted the utter ruin of the old temple (24:1, 2).
What His words had said, God enacted at His death.
‘Behold your house is forsaken and desolate’ (23:38), Jesus had said; God’s action executes the verdict — ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (27:51). The curtain no longer serves to veil the Presence; the temple is no longer God’s abode. When men reject the Son of God, they have lost all right to the house of God.
The grave itself served that revelation of the arm of God.
The earth shook, the rocks were split, the tombs were opened, and the dead came forth (27:51-53). The Son of man’s ministry had foretokened the overcoming of man’s diseased dying and a victory over death. The culmination of His ministry, the giving of His life as a ransom for many, signifies the release of the dead and the death of death….
But whatever the mouths of enemies and the eloquent shape of history may have said in witness to the Christ, however mysteriously and wondrously the Father may have attested the Son, the disciples were silent, fearful, and faithless.
On the cross the Law spelled out its last word, and every mouth was stopped. The Gospel is exclusively the Gospel of the Christ; He has no heroes beside Him. He will build His church, thus, in spite of man’s failure and by the Son’s sole triumph. The disciples are not heroes but witnesses, not lords but servants, not religious geniuses, not men gifted with unusual religious intuition but recipients of revelation, not men of outstanding religious attainments but objects of the boundless condescension of God, not heroes but believers. At the cross the disciples learned fully and forever the beggary of faith; they stood at the cross as Abraham had stood at the promise of God — at dead end, where human possibilities end, and God’s possibilities begin (Rom. 4:17-21). And thus they learned, like Abraham, to give God His glory. (Rom. 4:20)
They came to faith as all men must come, by the way of repentance.
The record of the Passion is the disciples’ confiteor, their confession of sins. The whole Passion account voices their confession, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray … the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa 53:6); as such it is also their Tu solus:
‘Thou that takest away the sin of the world,
Have mercy upon us….
For Thou only art holy;
Thou only art the Lord.’ ” Amen.
1Franzmann, Martin H. (2001). Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Has anyone ever asked you why the day of Jesus’ crucifixion is called “Good Friday”? To call it “good” might seem scandalous to an unbeliever. Who would believe that the goodness of God is made manifest in His suffering Son? Or put another way: How can the humiliation of the Son of God nailed to a cross be seen as “good”?
Therefore, it is with good reason that the Apostle Paul calls “Christ crucified” a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). Yet, this was God’s plan of salvation for mankind from before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20).
This year, I would like to look at a well-known story from the Old Testament, which points us to Christ and Good Friday.
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ ” (Gen 32:24-26)
The story begins at night with a wrestling encounter between two men: one was Jacob; the other was an unnamed antagonist identified only as “a man.” Although most English translations use the word “wrestle”, this encounter was not a sporting contest. It was an unexpected, violent assault by a strange antagonist. The struggle was waged on the ground, in the dust (hence the reference to wrestling), and it lasted all night.
When the antagonist saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, the man touched Jacob’s hip socket, dislocating his hip. The antagonist then demanded that Jacob release him, because it was daybreak. In dislocating Jacob’s hip with just a touch, Jacob recognized that he was contending against something greater than a mortal man. Even so, Jacob refused to release the man unless he would bless Jacob.
“And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ ” (Gen 32:27)
Jacob held no real leverage or power whatsoever over his antagonist. With a second touch, the man could have stopped Jacob’s pulse. Yet the antagonist yielded to Jacob.
The man knew Jacob’s name, but he wanted Jacob’s confession. In the Old Testament, names often signified the character or destiny of a person.In Hebrew, the name “Jacob” literally means “heel-catcher” because Jacob emerged from Rebekah’s womb clutching the heel of his older brother, Esau.
More importantly, the name Jacob also signifies that he was a supplanter (or usurper), a cheater, as it is written: “Esau said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ ” (Gen 27:36). By confessing his name to his antagonist, Jacob also confessed his poor character.
“Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ ” (Gen 32:28)
The man renamed the heel-catcher “Israel.” In Hebrew, the name “Israel” literally means “God fights.” Jacob’s name change was a type of new birth, which came with a new hope and destiny.
Jacob would no longer be the supplanter, but Israel: “for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Jacob was given a renewed character and a new relationship with God. He was no longer the strong, usurper, who attempted to control the Divine, but Israel who is totally dependent on God’s grace and lame. Israel would become the nation’s name.
In what outwardly appeared as defeat, God was the real victor. He would keep His promise to Abraham that from his offspring the Christ would come. He willingly yielded the wrestling victory to Jacob, so that he might absolve Jacob of his prior dishonest past and renew him with a new name and destiny, both individually and as a nation. This destiny would find its telos in the coming of Jesus Christ.
“Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’ ” (Gen 32:29-30)
Who was Jacob’s antagonist? The story says he was both God and man! The Prophet Hosea called him an angel (Hos 12:4), but this was no created angel: “for you have striven with God.” And Jacob’s declaration: “For I have seen God face to face.” This was God who temporarily took the form of a man!
We are given a foretaste in this short story of both the incarnation and the passion of Christ. In Christ, God came down from heaven and became incarnate to have a final “wrestling” encounter with Jacob. Israel had fallen from grace and had become Jacob again in character. But this final encounter was to the death!
Jesus struggled against the people of Jacob with His Word, calling men to repentance: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 115) Like the man Jacob, the people would not relent (i.e., believe). And thus Jesus wept: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
One final time, the God Man yielded to Jacob. On Good Friday, Jesus willingly laid down His life for Jacob and, by extension, for all of us. It was not because mankind was stronger than God, but because God’s mercy is stronger than man’s rebellion against God.
On Good Friday, Jesus died for our sins: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet 2:24). He atoned for the sins of the world with His own blood. On Easter, God raised Jesus from the dead, declaring His victory over the powers of sin, death and the devil.
Good Friday is “good” because it was God’s plan (and the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham) that in Christ all nations of the earth shall be blessed. This blessing includes the forgiveness of our sins, life and salvation through faith in Jesus. In this salvation, God blesses believers in Jesus with a new name – “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) – but more than a new name, He also blesses us with a new hope and destiny: He adopts us as children, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16-17).
Therefore, may we celebrate the cross of Christ and Good Friday as the victory of our God. On Good Friday, Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures, as it is written: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) We are forgiven! We are healed! Amen.
May His churches continue to boldly proclaim Christ and Him crucified for the redemption of the world. Amen.
In the New Testament account of Holy Week, after Palm Sunday, the Sanhedrin gathered and plotted to kill Jesus before the feast of Pesach. On the Wednesday before his death, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper. As he sat at the supper table with his disciples, a woman named Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with a costly oil of spikenard.The disciples were indignant, asking why the oil was not instead sold and the money given to the poor. But Judas Iscariot wanted to keep the money for himself.Then Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered to deliver Jesus to them in exchange for money. From this moment on, Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus.In reference to Judas Iscariot’s intent to betray Jesus, formed on Holy Wednesday, the day is sometimes called “Spy Wednesday”. (The word spy, as used in the term, means “ambush, ambuscade, snare”. Wikipedia
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1.We’re real close to the point in the public exposure of sexual abuse that an accusation is sufficient proof of guilt. That will simply open the door to different kinds of abuse and tragedy…
2. I’m actually a little bit to the right on the subject of gun control…but the passion that this country has for guns is both amazing and disconcerting.
If we attacked some of the issues that create gun violence with the same vigor we might not have anything else to fight about…
3.Look…I dislike this President more than most, but harping on his (im)morality isn’t going to sway anybody…it simply distracts from anything resembling a substantive discussion of the real issues. Raw power rarely attracts choir boys…
4.This is Holy Week…does that make a difference in anything you’ll do this week?
5.Say what you will about Larry Norman…but at least he tried to save us from the definition of banality that is “Christian” radio…
6.I’ve written a bit here about how important it is for denominations to have specific identities and shared beliefs. Without them, the group splits into innumerable sub identities and loses any real traction for growth. I think this is happening in our country…and it’s dangerous to us all.
7.Spewing invective on social media is not a legitimate or effective form of debate…
8.“He must increase, I must decrease” is a good rule of thumb for everything…
9.Being “gathered to my people” is my preferred way to describe death…
10.The marching kids did my heart good…yes, they’re young and yes, they still have much to learn…but they care. That covers a multitude of sins and may result in positive change someday…