Friday, June 18, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 11: Providence in the Passion of Christ

The death and resurrection of Christ are the pinnacle of the Bible story. We have learned in earlier chapters of Not By Chance that God's providence still reigns, despite man's deepest and most evil designs, and hedges man's depravity. The events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ demonstrate that God can transform man's worst depravity and vilest plans into the service of His plans! Consider the implications of this!

Throughout the life of Christ, there were those who wanted to kill Him. Herod tried to slaughter Him as a baby (Matt. 2:13-18). There was an attempt on his life in Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30). There are a number of references to serious plotting against His life throughout the Gospels, and particularly during the Passion Week. In none of these, however, was Christ's life threatened; if anything, the "fear of the people" hindered those who sought to kill Him.

Christ was delivered into the hand of the Jews in God's time. They didn't want it to happen on the feast day, but God did. Pilate, whose power was from God (John 19:10-11), received Christ, delivered into his hand at the time God wanted him there.

As most people familiar with the Bible know, the death of Christ also fulfilled a myriad of prophecies. In our Sunday School class, we focused on these, particularly from the book of Zechariah:

  • Zechariah 9:9—The King will come, riding upon an ass (Matt. 21:1-9)
  • Zechariah 11:12-13—He will be sold for thirty pieces of silver, later "cast" in the house of the Lord; the money would be used to buy the potter's field (Matt. 27:3-10)
  • Zechariah 12:10—His body would be pierced (John 19:31-37)
  • Zechariah 13:7—His followers would scatter from Him (Matt. 26:31)
  • Isaiah 53:9—He would be buried with the rich (Matt. 27:57-60; consider how unlikely this was!)
One of the marvelous things about Christ's passion is that Satan was used as the tool of Christ. Satan tried to use Peter to hinder Christ's mission (Matt. 16:21-23), but Christ rebuked Peter. Satan entered into Judas (twice: Luke 22:3-6; John 13:2, 27). Satan sought—and obtained permission—to sift Peter and the other disciples (Luke 22:31-32). He was even given "power" over Christ (Luke 22:52-53). Satan was deluded into thinking that he could "get away with" this...but not so!

The latter part of Chapter 11 describe some of the elegant extra touches that God included in the events surrounding Christ's crucifixion. They give evidence to the fact that there was no way that man could have done what was done. They are, in essence, the "fingerprints" of God, showing "His hand" in the work.

Here are a number of ways Dr. Talbert described God's providence during (and leading up to) Christ's passion:
  • Providential Symbolism: The timing of the crucifixion was Passover Week. What, after all, did Passover foreshadow for 15 centuries?
  • Providential Training: The disciples were given specific—and quite honestly, rather odd-sounding—instructions regarding the provision of the colt and the upper room. Christ gave them "odd-sounding" instructions to follow, and they obeyed and witnessed God's provision and blessing. Later, they would receive other "odd-sounding" instructions, and the world would be changed.
  • Providential Prophecy: The counsel of Caiaphas in John 11:47-53 is most interesting. His motives for Christ's death are almost strictly political: He wants no problems with Rome. Yet, the words that he spoke are theologically accurate—despite the fact he never intended them that way.
  • Providential Cue: The cock the very moment Christ said it would (Matt. 26:34, 74-75).
  • Providential "Coincidence": Herod's visit to Jerusalem (Luke 23:7) was timely. Pilate would have been very tempted to stall a decision about Christ pending an appeal to Herod, but God didn't want Pilate to stall. Herod was in town already.
  • Providential Warning: The dream of Pilate's wife (Matt. 27:19), while seemingly irrelevant to the main plot, adds yet another layer of evidence that God was at work.
  • Providential Parable: The exchange of Barabbas (Matt. 27:15-26), a rebel and murderer, for the sinless Savior was a literal "death as a sinless substitute"—and what a picture for us! Also of interest: The literal meaning of the name Barabbas is "son of the father."
  • Providential Irony: Thorns were a result of the curse which Christ put upon earth for sin; then, He wears a crown of thorns upon His own head as he suffers for that very sin. Indeed: Christ became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).
  • Providential Means: Christ was crucified upon a cross; this was the only way He could have fulfilled a myriad of Old Testament prophecies. He also prophesied about His own crucifixion (Matt. 20:17-19; John 3:14, 8:28, 12:32-34). The Jewish leadership wanted it for a variety of reasons, but especially for the shame.
  • Providential Proclamation: The superscription Pilate ordered to be placed on the cross ["This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"] annoyed the Jews—and not just because it was truth.
  • Providential Picture: There was midnight at noonday. This could not have been a solar eclipse. The Jewish calendar is lunar, so Passover happens around the time of a full moon; solar eclipses happen when the moon is new. Christ is the Light of the World; His death brought darkness upon that world.
  • Providential Witnesses: The Roman guard was placed at the tomb (Matt. 27:62-66) in order that there would be no "faked" resurrection. It was also interesting that these unbelievers remembered something Christ said, in part because....
  • Providential Dullness: Why did the disciples not comprehend what Christ said? Why did they not remember His repeated and clear assertions that He would rise from the dead on the third day after His death? Talbert goes into this at some length, but a main point of the discourse is that the disciples, by their "dullness," could not and did not cast any doubt on the authenticity of the resurrection.
God, the Sovereign, was in control of everything surrounding Christ's death (John 19:11; Acts 2:23). As we read on p. 188, "If God can so sovereignly control such combined, focused chaos and hatred, is it possible that He could for a moment lose control over the affairs of your life?"

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

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