Pentecost for over 1000 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed!
Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers.
We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity!
Please join us this Sunday as we begin a series of messages called We Are: Pentecostal. You can find a map here, or if you live too far away to join us in person, be sure to check out our Facebook Live broadcasts every Sunday morning.
The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).
“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”
And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”
Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50.
The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.”
Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—
It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.
What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion, and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19).
If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).
The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!
Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God!
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)
After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye.
Jesus knew this time was coming too (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4). Recall that His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers.
But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.
The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it too.
Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.”
Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, has no standing army, requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.”
Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.
What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God.
No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18)
“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle
Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB)
Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on you. Jesus loved you so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him.
The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love?
Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross?
If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love (John 13:34-35)?
Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did for you there.
Jesus is journeying toward the Cross. On Thursday, it’s His last opportunity to impart His most important thoughts to His disciples. He is about to be arrested, and everything is about to go sideways for the disciples—“this isn’t the way this is supposed to happen!”—and Jesus needs to prepare them with the truth they will need to sustain them through this.
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” Jesus says (Luke 22:15).
So Peter and John are sent to make arrangements for the Passover meal, but one of the arrangements that they overlooked was the host duties—washing the feet of each guest, anointing them with perfume, and giving them a welcoming kiss.
As they are eating dinner, Jesus makes four important statements:
“One of you will betray Me”
“All of you will abandon Me”
“I will rise again and restore you”
“I have prayed for you”
These statements get the disciples arguing about who’s going to betray Jesus—“It’s not me, is it?!”—and over how faithful they are—“I would never abandon Him!” Ultimately they begin to argue over who is the greatest disciple among them.
Jesus not only explains to them how the servant is greater than the master in God’s sight (Luke 22:24-27), but He then becomes the living example of that when He washes their feet (John 13:1-5, 12-17).
Here’s an important principle—Only secure people can lovingly serve others.
Insecure people don’t like to serve others because they feel they are being misused, or taken advantage of, or that others will look down on them.
Jesus “knew” (John 13:1, 3) how much power His Father had given Him, making Him secure enough to serve. Security really means, “I am loved by God, and I know who I am in Him.”
Jesus served out of love: the profound love that He knew His Father had for Him. He gave His disciples the same mandate: Serve others out of love for Me and show the world that you are My disciples (see John 13:34-35).
When Jesus ate this last supper with His disciples, He instituted a remembrance celebration that we now call Communion. The root word is “commune” which the dictionary defines as a “conversation with profound intensity and intimacy.”
This is the type of intimate relationship Jesus had with His Father, and this is the type of relationship He calls us to with Him. The broken bread of Communion reminds us that Jesus can make whole any broken area that would keep us from communing with Him. The cup of Communion reminds us that Jesus can instantly and fully forgive any sin that would keep us from communing with Him.
Jesus set the example—we are to commune with our Heavenly Father through the way He made by His broken body and His shed blood. It’s out of this communion that we are empowered by His love, and then feel secure enough to serve others in love too.
It is very telling the none of the Gospel writers tell us about the Wednesday during Christ’s Passion Week. That silence actually speaks volumes to us! Here is a the recap Pastor Craig shared of his message.
On the Wednesday of Christ’s Passion Week, all of the Gospel writers are in perfect agreement. Between all four of them they write not one word about what happened on that day. That silence actually speaks volumes to us!
Jesus is almost surely in Bethany (since that has become is nightly retreat this week), and He is taking a Sabbath rest. “Wait,” you might be saying, “sabbathing on Wednesday?! I thought that was supposed to be Saturday or Sunday?”
The Sabbath is not a day; it’s an attitude of the heart.
Jesus followed the example His Father set right at the beginning.
The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between Me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:16-17)
Notice that God rested and was refreshed. The word rested means to stop working and celebrate. It’s a time to reflect on the work completed and celebrate what has been done. Then the Bible says God was refreshed, which literally means “God refreshed Himself.” He took a deep, satisfying, rejuvenating breath!
Resting and being refreshed—or sabbathing—is not a luxury; it’s a necessity!
Jesus understood this principle of sabbathing. Remember that He had only a limited time to accomplish all that the Father had for Him: “We must work the works of Him Who sent Me and be busy with His business while it is daylight; night is coming on, when no man can work” (John 9:4 AMP). If anyone was a Man on a mission, it was Jesus, and yet rest was vital to Him…
…from the very beginning of His life Jesus practiced healthy habits
Now—just before the intense, horrific, inhumane experience He is about to go through—Jesus is sabbathing. He is resting and refreshing His body, soul, and spirit.
So what keeps us from sabbathing?
Guilt—“I feel guilty taking time off.” Remember that is Jesus did it, we should too.
Misplaced priority—“If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” But remember Who is in charge. The psalmist reminds us, “The Lord is king!” (Psalm 99:1).
Fear—“If I ‘tune out’ what might I be missing?” Remember: Your Father is watching over you every single moment (see Psalm 121).
If you wanted to experience more productivity in your life, don’t try to go 24/7—take a sabbath break. Stop working and celebrate what God has done, then take a deep breath of worship in God’s presence. Jesus demonstrated that sabbathing was vital for ministry success.
After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples.
Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.
It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path.
Jesus prepares us for…
Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that they would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways:
Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own.
You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.
Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer.
The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
Consider the source of the questioner.
We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things.
Love fulfills the law.
When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.
2. DAILY LIVING
Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons.
The power of faith-filled prayer
Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs
We are only stewards of God’s resources
The ugliness of hypocrisy
3. END TIMES EVENTS
Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21.
Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29).
So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is.
As we continue our close inspection of the activities of Passion Week, Pastor Craig shared this recap of his message about Monday of that week.
On what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with the crowd shouting, “Hosanna” because they thought Jesus was going to set things right. In this, they were disappointed. Jesus knew that His time for reigning in Jerusalem hadn’t come yet, and Christ’s passionate journey meant He would not cut any corners!
Before Jesus left Jerusalem that Sunday evening, Mark noted that “He looked around at everything.” He didn’t respond right away to what He saw. This is very important to note because we shouldn’t think that His response on Monday was something spontaneous. No, it was planned out in specific detail.
On Monday morning, Jesus prepared to make the 2-mile trip from Bethany to Jerusalem. The Gospels note quite frequently the amount of time Jesus spent in prayer, including beginning His day in conversation with His Father (see Mark 1:35). On this morning, He must have talked with His Father about everything He had seen in Jerusalem the day before.
En route to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters a fig tree that gives every appearance of life and vitality. It looks like it’s ready to serve people, but upon closer inspection Jesus discovers that there is no fruit on it. He curses the tree for its deceptive outward appearance. This is definite foreshadowing for what’s about to happen!
Jesus enters the temple and begins to drive out merchants, and moneychangers, and dove sellers. He roars at them, “God says this is to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!” (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; and Luke 19:45-48).
The phrases house of prayer and den of robbers are direct quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah, respectively (Isaiah 56:3-7; Jeremiah 7:1-11), but what do they mean?
The temple had specific courts available—
The Court of the Gentiles was open to all people, foreigners included.
The Women’s Court was open to all Jews and, their “uncontaminated” wives.
The Court of Israel was limited to male Jews who were clean and purified.
The fourth court was the Holy Place limited to priests robed in their priestly vestments.
This buying and selling was undoubtedly happening in the Court of the Gentiles. As the Passover was approaching, people from all over the world were here—some purchasing animals to use as sacrifices, and some exchanging their foreign money for Israelite money for the temple tax.
There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little worship. This is what angered Jesus. The activity in the temple was like the fig tree He cursed—it looked like it was fruitful, but that was merely outward deception.
Were the merchants exploiting people? Perhaps. But they were certainly occupying the only space where non-Jews could worship. They were certainly becoming a distraction to any true worship activities. They were clearly becoming the main attraction.
There are two important lessons in this outburst that Jesus gives to all His disciples:
As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of religious showmanship should increase.
As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of unrighteousness should increase—both a greater hate for sin and a greater love for sinners!
“Let the zeal of the house of the Lord ever eat you up. For example: do you see a brother running [toward sin]? Stop him, warn him, be grieved for him, if the zeal of God’s house has now eaten you up. Do you see others running and wanting to drink themselves drunk? Stop whom you can, hold whom you can, frighten whom you can; win in gentleness whom you can: do not in any way sit still and do nothing.” —Augustine
Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means He hates anything that keeps us from His Father.
If you know God’s love, be zealous about those things that keep others from coming in to know God’s love for themselves. Not angry at people, but angry at practices and “religious shows” that hinder people from knowing God’s love like you know God’s love.
As we continue our careful look at Christ’s Passion Week, here is a recap of Pastor Craig’s message from Sunday.
The Sunday before Christ’s crucifixion is typically called “The Triumphal Entry.” But was it really? One thing’s for sure—Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem the way the people expected!
To fully get the picture of what’s happening we need to turn back the calendar several hundred years. Ever since Jerusalem fell to invading armies, the Jews hung on to the promise that God would restore their king and their kingdom. They were awaiting a descendant from the line of King David who would drive out their overlords and restore Jerusalem to its rightful place.
They clung to a promise in Psalm 118 that included these words—“Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar” (vv. 25-27).
But Jesus was prophesied to come as the Prince of Peace, gentle and unassuming, the Servant of all people (Isaiah 9:6; 42:1-3). Jesus simply didn’t do things the way the crowds expected! He was born in a manger in Bethlehem (not as a king in Jerusalem), and hailing from Nazareth caused people to mock, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?!”
So on that Sunday as Jesus approached Jerusalem, it wasn’t as a conquering King but as a humble servant. As He came near, He wept a sobbing lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37).
The crowd took palm branches (as Psalm 118 suggested) and shouted, “Hosanna!” That word means “Save us,” but what they really meant was, “Save us NOW!” Jesus came riding a mule—a lowly work animal, not a war horse—to remove any fear people may have, and to show them His servant’s heart.
Even His disciples didn’t get this. But the Pharisees sure did: They wanted Jesus to rebuke the crowd for their insolence and blasphemy! Many of the worshippers were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus, so Jesus said to the Pharisees, “They have to give praise to God for this!”
Jesus made His way to the temple but there were no sacrifices, no anointing, no coronation. Mark tells us Jesus simply “looked around at everything and then left.”
Have you ever noticed that Jesus never rushes? He’s never early. He’s never late. He’s never confused. He’s never trying to catch up.
This is because Jesus was in complete sync with His Father. Jesus said that everything He did was directed by His Father, and every word He spoke was given to Him by His Father.
We, too, should be able to move in that same unrushed pace. Because of what Jesus did for us on Calvary, we may have the same “oneness” with our Father as Jesus did (John 14:20).
Worry creeps into our lives when—like those cheering crowds in Jerusalem—we try to make our agenda happen on our timetable with our own resources. But when we look to Jesus, we see such a perfect peace as He relied on His Father.
Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us, so that we could know peace with God as we journey through life with Jesus.
Pastor Craig shared this recap from the first message in our series called Christ’s Passionate Journey.
Six days before His crucifixion and burial, Jesus was prepared for His burial by the most unlikely of people. This story take place in Bethany, where Jesus spends a lot of time during His earthly ministry.
As was customary, the most influential men in the village would try to entice visiting guests to join them for dinner. Simon—a Pharisee and a former leper—was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus. Simon is a former leper because one who still had active leprosy wouldn’t have been allowed in his own home, let alone allowed to host guests. I think (as you will see in a moment) that Simon had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus.
Although it was customary for someone like Simon to host visiting guests, in this case, the religious leaders were scheming to arrest Jesus. In other words, there was an ulterior motive for Simon to have Jesus in his home.
Which is probably why Simon neglected his host’s duties: No welcoming kiss, no foot-washing, no anointing. All normal hospitality is ignored. Jesus appears to ignore the snub and reclines at the table. But another guest takes Simon’s incredible rudeness personally.
Mary was standing or sitting along the wall in Simon’s house, as many common villagers would in that day. Luke tells us that Mary had lived a sinful life. But while sitting at Jesus’ feet earlier she heard the good news that Jesus could forgive sins, she placed her faith in Him, and her lifestyle changed 180-degrees
Mary is overcome by emotion at the inhospitable—rude!—way Jesus is being treated and tears began to well up in her eyes. Since Jesus is reclining at the table, His feet would have been pointed in her direction, and she began to use her tears to wash His feet. Then—horror of horrors—she uncovers and lets down her hair in public(!) and begins to dry His feet.
Simon the Pharisee judges Mary by her past. Simon twice says, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” Mary is in big trouble: she is publicly pointing out the rudeness of the host, she is touching a man that is not her husband, and she has uncovered and let down her hair in public.
Jesus responds not to Mary, but to Simon: “Simon, I have something to tell you,” He says and then shares a short but powerful parable of a creditor who had two debtors. One owed him the equivalent of a year-and-a-half’s wages, and the other owed about two months’ wages. Since neither could pay, the creditor forgave both of them.
Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two forgiven debtors do you think would be most grateful?” Simon correctly responds, “The one who was forgiven more.”
Jesus points out that Mary’s acts didn’t bring her forgiveness, but that her acts were a loving response to the forgiveness she had already received. Jesus said things like, “You have been forgiven,” and “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you.”
Jesus took the anger that was focused on Mary and redirected it to Himself, as Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do (see 53:4-5).
At the same time He is also challenging Simon, “Don’t you have something to be grateful for? Weren’t you once a physical leper? Mary was a spiritual leper, but she has been forgiven and is now overwhelmingly grateful. What about you?”
Mary was forgiven. She gave all she had in worship. Her anointing oil was lavishly poured out. It was worth a year’s wages, but she spent it all on Jesus. She anointed Him for His burial. The aroma of the oil remained on Jesus throughout His Passion Week and through His crucifixion. The aroma remained on Mary’s hands and hair. The aroma remained in Simon’s house. The memory was fixed in the memories of everyone in that room.
What about Simon? Did he ever acknowledge his gratitude? Or was he more concerned with receiving praise from men?
Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers you? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to stand up for Him? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to give up everything for Him?
I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue of slow, deliberate walk alongside Jesus on His passionate journey to the Cross and the resurrection.
In some of our favorite action movies, when the crucial moment for our hero has finally arrived, filmmakers will often switch into slow motion filming. They want you to feel the tension. They want you to see the emotion etched on the face of our hero. They want to make sure you don’t miss a single detail of this pivotal moment in the story.
The same thing happens in the life of Jesus.
The four Gospels record 3+ years of the life of Jesus on earth. But when Jesus is approaching the Cross—the crucial moment of His ministry—all the Gospel writers go into slow motion.
For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. The numbers are similar for Matthew and Luke, with John devoting almost one-half of his account to Christ’s Passion Week.
Clearly, there is something happening here that the Gospel writers want to ensure that we don’t miss a single detail!
Jesus knew all that was about to happen to Him. When Peter swung his sword at the soldiers that came to arrest Him, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way” (Matthew 26:53-54).
Every step that Jesus took toward the Cross was a step of love. Every word He spoke in His final moments before His death was calculated to sink deep into the memories of all who observed this story.
We are going to go into “slow motion” as well as we look closely at each day of Christ’s final week of ministry. From His dinner in Bethany to His resurrection, we’ll slow down and ponder deeply the love message Jesus is still conveying to us.
Join us this Sunday as we begin this passionate journey. If you cannot join us in person, we will be broadcasting each message on Facebook Live.