Christians tend to believe what they are told, instead of what Scripture has taught or Scripture itself. Yes, there is a huge difference between the two.
For instance, we were told that Christ Jesus was nailed to the cross and died of crucifixion on a Friday, and He resurrected early Sunday morning. Yet in Scripture, Jesus Christ clearly said, “He would be three days and three nights buried in the ground.” See Matthew 12:40. Jesus said: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
No matter how good a person is in manipulating days and nights, no way can three days and three nights be fitted into Friday to Sunday. TRADITION has it that Jesus Christ resurrected early morning of Sunday. Jesus Christ clearly died at three in the afternoon (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34; Luke 23:44-46, 9th hour, Jewish time) and was buried before the Special (high) Sabbath. See the following statements in Scripture. First, John 19:30-31.
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.”
Next, John 19:38-42.
“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”
Jesus Christ was clearly buried before the “high Sabbath,” the Jewish feast day, on the 15th of Nisan. The “Jewish day of Preparation” was the 14th of Nisan before sundown. At sundown, at the start of “high Sabbath”, no work can be done. Obviously, the conditions for a Sabbath day when no work can be done applies on a special Sabbath. Yes, the “high Sabbath” could be any day in the week, for as long as it’s the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan.
So we see the Jews wanting to take Jesus down from the cross before sundown – the beginning of the “high Sabbath” – and also, Joseph and Nicodemus taking the body of Jesus, making all the necessary Jewish burial custom and laying Him in an empty and unused tomb before sundown. This is before the “high Sabbath” kicked in.
Now, to illustrate the impossibility of fitting Friday to Sunday to three days and three nights, let’s just – FOR THE MOMENT – agree with a Friday death by crucifixion at 3:00PM, yet be mindful that the Jewish cycle for a day begins at sundown (6:00PM) to before sundown the next day. Friday, 3:00PM to before 6:00PM (sundown) cannot be a day by any count. So the truth of the matter is, there was only one full Saturday, then at sundown it’s Sunday – which again, according to tradition, just hours later, Jesus Christ resurrected.
Obviously, Friday to Sunday is a misrepresentation of the Word of God. And mind you, it’s not a non-essential detail because the integrity of Jesus’ words is at stake.
I recall once, while I was still a seminary student, we had a mission exposure trip encountering Muslims. We met an Imam (a spiritual advisor and expert in Islamic Law), he is well equipped with the Christian Bible. So he asked us a few questions that was based on Christian tradition but clearly not supported by Scripture. One of the questions he asked was about Jesus’ three days and three nights statement vis-a-vis Christian’s claim of Friday to Sunday burial and resurrection. No one was able to defend the faith when confronted by knowledgeable questions. Consequently, it’s not enough that we claim faith that is not according to knowledge. We will forever be struggling when confronted by legitimate challenges. How then can we convert intelligent people of other faith?
Christians have been chopping up theology or chopping up reading of the Bible and have become easy prey to tradition. Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) was disconnected from ecclesiology (doctrine of the church), also from eschatology (doctrine of last things) and etc. Then, sad to say, once rebuked or challenged, they would justify it as inconsequential compared to the overall message. Worse, they would bring the “love one another” cliché.
We all commit mistakes believing in traditions that are not founded in Scripture. However, when corrected and proven wrong, we should not justify ourselves by using the “love one another” cliché. The Christian “love one another” teaching of Jesus Christ cannot be divorced from the need to hold on to the truth of the Scripture. See John 15:12-15.
“This is My (Jesus Christ’s) commandment, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for his friends. YOU ARE MY FRIENDS IF YOU DO WHAT I COMMAND YOU. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, FOR ALL THAT I HAVE HEARD FROM MY FATHER I HAVE MADE KNOWN TO YOU.”
Christians cannot simply “be the kind one”. The apostle Paul never used the “love one another” cliché when there is wrong committed. Persisting on a wrong can be a sin against the body of Christ, the church. See 1Timothy 5:17-20.
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
Now, going back to my discussion on Jesus’ death and resurrection. For context, in Matthew 12, the Pharisees had been challenging the miraculous deeds (signs) of Jesus Christ. Among other things, the Pharisees attributed Jesus’ healing miracles and His casting out of demons to that of the prince of demons, Beelzebul. In response, Jesus made clear He cast out demons by the Spirit of God, thereby announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom (Matthew 12:28), which of course also meant He was the Messiah. In return, the Pharisees continued in their disbelief and asked Jesus to provide a sign that He indeed was the Messiah.
To prove without a doubt that indeed Jesus Christ was the Messiah who was to come, He gave them the sign of Noah – that, He will be three days and three nights buried in the ground before His resurrection.
To briefly point out the truth, allow me to high key passages only. See Matthew 12:22. “Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to Him (Jesus Christ),and He healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Can this be the Son of David?” (Take note, the “Son of David” was the prophesied coming Messiah; see 2Samuel 7:8-16; Matthew 21:9) But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, He (Jesus Christ) said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
See also Matthew 12:38-40. “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him (Jesus Christ), saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Consequently, Jesus Christ’ death, burial, and resurrection have to be exactly three days and three nights before He would be seen alive. Anything short of that would be a discredit to His claim that He was the Christ, the Messiah. Obviously, that can’t be non-essential in any sense because it had to be fulfilled exactly as Jesus Christ had pronounced, authenticating that indeed He was the Messiah. And if there was any contradiction to His pronouncement of three days and three nights, just a fraction short of that, the Jews could have denounced Jesus as having a fake claim to God’s promise of the Messiah.
The Jewish religious leaders of Old Covenant Israel recognized the veracity of Jesus raising back to life after three days and three nights, so they made sure it could not be fake. See Matthew 27:62-64.
“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while He (Jesus Christ) was still alive, After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples go and steal Him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”
Christians ought to be apologists (defenders) of the faith, not defenders of themselves. Once truths of the Scripture are challenged, compromised or inadequately presented, we have a responsiblity to correct and explain the truth. But we ought to know the truth firsthand before we can do so. In the Book of Acts, Apollos was described as eloquent in Scripture, but he only knew about John’s baptism. So he too was instructed by Priscilla and Aquila on the Scripture more accurately. Obviously, Priscilla and Aquila practiced the Christian virtue of “loving one another” that they taught Apollos more accurately about Christ Jesus our Lord. Similarly, Apollos embraced the correction and instruction in the spirit of loving one another. Go read Acts 18:24-28.
No Christian can sincerely say they are obedient to Christ’s command of “loving one another” – at least, not until we learn to love Christ Jesus and His word. Loving God’s Word means we are ready to protect at all times the integrity of Jesus’ Words and declarations. No ifs and no buts.
Perhaps for a time, some passages in Scripture might be unclear or vague to us. Yet, Scripture said, “Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5)
In conclusion, let us meditate John’s writing on the virtue of love. See 1John 4:7-19.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”
“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit [Keep in mind, Jesus said “His Words are Spirit and life, see John 6:63; John 12:49-50; Romans 10:17; 1Corinthians 2:9-14; 1Thessalonians 2:13; 1Peter 1:22-23]. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not abeen perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.”
Also, Peter’s words on God’s Word and loving one another. See 1Peter 1:22 to 2:3.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Let us refrain from using the “love one another” cliché as a way of escape when we have committed wrongs or misrepresentated the Word of God. Christ Jesus died for our sins so as to free us who believe in Him from our wrongdoings and shortcomings. Salvation is never a pass for saying nonsense and then atoning by claiming the “love one another cliché”. Scripture said, “Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (1Peter 2:1)”.
Christians should always be humble before the Word of God. Always ready to be corrected and rebuked when confronted by Scripture. Similarly, always be ready to learn and be equipped by the Bible.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2Timothy 2:15)
The apostle Paul instructed, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Take note, Paul’s words and doings are in the Scripture. We can surely learn from him.)
Again, Paul instructed, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2Timothy 2:1-2)
Once more, Paul instructed, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
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