Article: Jesus the Passover Lamb

Last Sunday we heard the story of Jesus coming to Jerusalem.

Jesus didn’t live in Jerusalem, but he spent the final week of his life in the capital city of Israel.

It was customary to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover during the time of Jesus. Passover is the primary covenant between God and his chosen people. The Passover covenant originated in Egypt when the Israelites were slaves and God set them free.

Artwork by Alex Levin.

Every year since the time of Moses the people of Israel celebrate the Passover and remember God’s faithful promise to free the children of Israel from bondage.

Jesus appears to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, but he knows something else is going to happen. He even says so… multiple times.

  1. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

  2. When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. Matthew 17:22

  3. Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:17-19

Jesus knew why he was going to Jerusalem and it wasn’t only to celebrate the Passover. He came to die.

In the celebration of the first Passover in Egypt (found in Exodus 12), God commanded the people to sacrifice a lamb to eat and smear the blood of the lamb on the doorposts as a sacrifice to God. Those who carried out that command were released from slavery and eventually made their way home to the Promised Land.

Jesus symbolically became the new Passover lamb. On the night of Passover, Jesus instituted Holy Communion that establishes a new covenant rooted in the blood that he will shed on the cross.

The covenant of Jesus frees us from the bondage of sin.

When Jesus died on Good Friday, his atoning sacrifice was complete and those who trust in him are forgiven and set free to be the people of God. As forgiven children of God, we can eventually make our way home to heaven where Jesus awaits our arrival.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:25

At the very beginning of Jesus’ public life, John the Baptist already knew that Jesus would become a Passover lamb for those who trusted him.

The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

We are free because Jesus took on the burdens that weigh us down.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: Idols Get in the Way

Long before Jesus, the nation of Israel was more of a loose confederation of tribes. There was no national government, only the 12 tribes that descended from Jacob’s sons and grandsons.

The Israelites endured slavery in Egypt until God rescued them and gave them the ten commandments and the law.

But they still struggled, like we do.

Before the time of the kings, Israel lost a battle to their coastal neighbors called the Philistines. And this is what happened…

After the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord!

They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.  1Samuel 5:1-5

Dagon was the (false god) of the Philistines. When the ark of the covenant arrived in the temple of Dagon, something interesting happened.

The statue of Dagon tipped over during the night as if it were bowing to the God of Israel (our God).

This happened a second time and it broke the poor statues head and hands off.

Eventually the ark of the covenant was returned to Israel because the Philistines saw it as “bad luck.”

But here’s the thing, just as the Philistines added the ark of the covenant to the temple of Dagon as a spoil of war, don’t we treat God the same way at times?

That somehow, we collect God and add Jesus to all the other things going on in our lives but never make him Lord over all of our joys and all of our messes.

Casual Christianity treats Jesus like “one more thing” in an already busy schedule. There is a belief in Jesus but there is little faith about his power in their life. That being a Christian is just an identity or a label.

This story is a metaphor of how to honor God. The reminder is this: surrender all the other stuff in our lives to Jesus. All of the “Dagons” in our life should bow to the King of  kings and Lord of lords. We may not have idols made of stone and wood, but anything we put above God is an idol. This includes our egos and anything else we withhold from God.

Let me leave you with this word from God…

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’
Isaiah 45:9

We were formed by God to be known by God and to be loved by God. Relinquish your control and let Jesus lead you and mold you into his likeness.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: How Can Life Become Good?

The other day, a longtime member of our church family passed along a handful of articles written by our founding pastor. Although written 22 years ago, they speak to the truth of human nature and God’s plan for our lives.

I am so very blessed that I was able to learn from Pr. Ray as an associate pastor fresh out of seminary. I deeply value Pastor Ray’s words of wisdom and I wish to share them with you today.

How Can Life Become Good?

By Pastor Ray Christenson
June 2002

The world is very busy place. A lot of things are happening-more things than any of us could ever hope to take advantage of. Bells and whistles scream out at us. Visually we are stimulated to the point where our heads must spin in order to take in even a fraction of all that is offered.

If the world is such a busy place with all kinds of opportunities and options, how come so many people are bewildered and bored and claim to have no meaning in their life? How come there are so many folks who are pedaling as fast as they can but getting nowhere? How do you get off the bike in order to smell the roses? How do you focus in on that which is significant and meaningful?

As a pastor I’ve seen more than my share of people who, on the surface, have everything you’d ever want– houses, boats, cars, vacations, stocks and bonds, looks and clothes– but inside are hollow and empty. They’ve seen and done a lot.

They’ve climbed more corporate ladders than even they can remember. But, at those rare times when they sit down and evaluate their life, they’re faced with the fact that they’ve produced a lot of heat but very little light. They’ve touched so many things in life but never really bought in on any of it. Like the wandering visitor in the Fashion Show Mall or Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, they spent the time but have very little to show for it.

Yet how do you live a life that is rewarding? How can you live each day in a way that brings a true sense of satisfaction and joy? The answer is really not as far away as you might imagine.

It begins by understanding that the world is not a place where joy and satisfaction are a God-given right. Satisfaction and joy are not things that will one day just magically drop in your laps. Those who have real joy sought diligently to find it. They also recognized that there is such a thing as “cheap joy”–joy so destructive and harmful to their wellbeing that it must be avoided like poison.

But those with real joy also came to the realization that a life of meaning and satisfaction is not a life that is focused on them and their accomplishments, but on others and what they can do to make the world a better place. History books are filled with potentates and kings who thought that the world was created so that they could amass more and more of more and more. The. world remembers them, but not kindly. There are no holidays named after greedy kings or arrogant business people. On the other hand, those whom the world honors and respects are the men and women and youth who give of themselves in the cause of helping others.

How does life become good? By doing good! How can we live a life of satisfaction and joy? By making it our goal to bring hope and joy to others.

The one who is rich, is not the one with the most money. Instead it’sthe one who understands that their life is a ministry. It’s the one who understands that everything they have is a gift from God to be used to make the world a better place.

The Joy Continues…