Archives For Greg Strand

A New Home For Strands of Thought

Greg Strand – April 6, 2018 Leave a comment

It has been a great joy and privilege to write and post on Strands of Thought. I pray it has been helpful. More so, I pray I have been faithful.

This will be my last post on this site. Strands of Thought is moving to a new home on the EFCA blog. I will continue to write and post as I have in the past, but you will now access them from a new website. You will be able to search and access all previous posts, both from the archive and new articles, through the author page. You will also have to subscribe to this new site in order to receive updates whenever new posts are published. This can be done in the blog sidebar. I encourage you to read and comment, so that we can continue learning together. As I often say, theology is best lived in community.

As we make this transition, and as you make this journey with me to a new site, I remind us of two important truths in the Christian life with an accompanying call to remain faithful.

First, having just celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are reminded that we live and wait between the times of Christ’s first and second comings. As we do, we seek to live faithfully as those who waited for Christ’s first coming who “died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:13-16). We are living and waiting in and by faith for Christ’s return with the absolute certainty that his second coming will be as certain as the first. Being strangers and exiles with a heavenly home elsewhere, affects how we live here and now. This has much to say to us in the present day.

Second, it the midst of changes and transitions, we are reminded of the absolute truth that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). This does not make us passive, but gives us convictional certainty, compassion and courage.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

This week is referred to as the Passion Week or Holy Week of Christ.

It begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, what has traditionally been referred to as Palm Sunday, his final entry into Jerusalem on his way to the cross.

It consists of Jesus’ celebration of the last Passover meal with his disciples, a meal which will transition and be transformed into the Lord’s Supper after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It consists of the crucifixion of Jesus, what is referred to as Good Friday. It is not good in the sense of what we would normally consider good. But it is good in that it is through the death (and resurrection) of Jesus that our sins can be forgiven and we can experience peace with God. This is reflected in Jesus’ final words from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).

It culminates in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ on “the first day of the week,” Sunday, which transformed this day to be known as the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). After his resurrection and upon meeting the disciples, Jesus greets them with the words, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19, 21, 26).

The bookends of Jesus’ last words on the cross and these first words spoken to the disciples go together. The peace promised in his birth (Lk. 2:14) is accomplished through his death on the cross, which is the foundation upon which we, through faith, have peace with God (Rom 5:1).

Here is a series of readings from the Gospel of John for your mediation, reflection and worship this week.

Palm Sunday: Triumphal Entry – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13)

Thursday: Passover (Last Supper/Lord’s Supper) – “He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Friday: Crucifixion – “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Sunday: Resurrection – “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem

Greg Strand – March 26, 2018 4 Comments

As we enter begin this Passion (Holy) Week focusing on life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our Savior and Lord, I trust your meditations and reflections will lead to that of thanks, gratitude and worship for what Christ did. Although we remember this historical event as occurring in the past, we can never only approach it as a past event, since we live in the present tense on the basis of the implications of what Christ did.

A right understanding of the gospel requires us to say, “what has Jesus done!” not “what would Jesus do?,” since the right understanding entails a done, i.e., “it is finished” (Jn. 19:30), not a do. If it is a do, then we are still in our sins. Thanks be to God it is done, which means we can be saved, which makes it good news! Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience and died a sinless death of submission. This he did to display his nature and uphold the justice and righteousness of God. He also did this for us and for our salvation.

This Palm Sunday we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on his journey to the cross. In our morning gathering as the people of God, we read Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry (11:1-11). In the evening during our family devotions, we read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ riding on a donkey into Jerusalem (21:1-11).

In this historical account, we read the crowd picked up a liturgical expression from Psalm 118:26, which was also a prophecy. Through their recollection and exclamation of these words, they were also playing an important role in redemptive history as part of the fulfillment of this prophecy. The psalmist writes (vv. 25-29),

Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalms 113-118 are referred to as the Hallel Psalms. This title is fitting for two reasons. First, the command to praise recurs throughout these psalms. Second, they became part of the Jewish Passover liturgy, remembering and celebrating their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and freedom to worship and serve God: God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule and blessing. Although we are getting slightly ahead of the events that occurred this final week, after celebrating the Passover meal, the disciples departed singing a hymn, which was most likely from these Hallel Psalms (Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26).

These psalms of praise were not only the hymns of Israel, they were the hymns of Jesus, Israel’s promised Messiah. Here are the accounts from each of the Gospels.

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9; cf. 23:39)

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)

As he was drawing near– already on the way down the Mount of Olives– the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38; cf. 13:35)

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)

The crowd exclaimed, “Hosanna,” a Hebrew expression meaning “save!” This term also became an expression of praise. Salvation results in praise! And the praise, the notion of blessed, is centered and focused on the one who comes in the name of the Lord – Jesus Christ.

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, noted above, he includes further interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees (19:37-40):

As he was drawing near– already on the way down the Mount of Olives– the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

As we read, Luke records that the Pharisees, the religious leaders, were incensed to see and hear the disciples use their Old Testament Scriptures in reference to Jesus. Jesus’ response indicates they not only misunderstood their own Scriptures, they also missed him. This is why when they asked him to silence his disciples, he responded with the statement that even if they are silenced, then even the stones will cry out. What will they cry out? Their cry will be twofold. It consists of praise of the Messiah, the one who will redeem creation that now groans (Rom. 8:19-23), and that cry will also render a verdict against those who attempted to silence the confession and worship of the one coming in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Lest we forget, as this week unfolded, the crowd that so exuberantly celebrated and worshiped Jesus by waving palm branches and placing their cloaks on the road before him, was also fickle. As quickly as they were to place a kingly crown on Jesus’ head, in a few short days they were crying for his death, desiring to place a crown of thorns on his brow. As those who would kiss him out of love and adoration, in a short while Judas would betray him with a kiss of deceit (Matt. 26:48-49; Mk. 14:43-45; Lk. 22:47-48). A kiss represents friendship, love and devotion, not deceit and betrayal. Even in the midst of this betrayal and what the kiss represents, Jesus refers to Judas as “friend” (Matt. 26:50).

Jesus’ death absorbed and reversed that deceit and betrayal, and all other sins against God and others, ultimately absorbing God’s wrath in the great exchange: our sin placed on Christ, Christ’s righteousness imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:18-21).

So for all of us who live on this side of these events, and now experience the life given to us by faith in Jesus Christ, his death, burial and resurrection, that which is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:1-5), who is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1), we remember and worship.

Hosanna to Christ is a hymn written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), which captures the truth of these biblical texts. I include it as an aid in your worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hosanna to the royal son

Of David’s ancient line!

His natures two, his person one,

Mysterious and divine.

 

The root of David, here we find,

And offspring, are the same:

Eternity and time are joined

In our Immanuel’s name.

 

Blest he that comes to wretched man

With peaceful news from Heaven!

Hosannas, of the highest strain,

To Christ the Lord be given.

 

Let mortals ne’er refuse to take

The Hosanna on their tongues,

Lest rocks and stone should rise and break

Their silence into songs.

I am grateful and encouraged by what the Lord did at and through our Theology Conference: The Gospel, Compassion and Justice, and the EFCA.

God provided to us the right speakers who were committed to the Scriptures and the gospel and who addressed the important issues and did so with the right spirit. The Spirit is always present as God’s people gather. This time the Spirit’s ministry was also evident. God was also gracious in guiding us to include the right topics to address, and in the order they were addressed. Each message built on the other and the whole was much greater than the parts.

The key now is to continue to pray for God to guide and lead us so that we can “continue to bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). What does this mean individually, what does it mean as pastors and leaders of churches? What does it mean for our churches?

As we remain committed to the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as God guides and leads, may we be sensitive and obedient to the Scriptures and manifest in greater ways the reality of the newness and nowness of the kingdom. God not only commands us to live out the reality of the kingdom, he also compels or empowers us to do so. This is the new community created by God (Eph. 2:14-16). And though we do not create this community, once we are in this community through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).

Based on comments I received from others, the Lord used our time together significantly in the lives of many. Please pray with me as there is a weightiness to steward this moment and these next days well.

One other important matter to mention is that the recordings from the Theology Conference are now being posted on the EFCA Theology Podcast. Here is the brief explanation of the initial, introductory post, which consists of the Introduction:

Earlier this year, our 2018 EFCA Theology Conference theme explored The Gospel, Compassion and Justice and the EFCA. Recent events in our nation and world have made it clear it is both timely and necessary to address the topics of racial reconciliation and immigration. The gospel is being undermined and tarnished by the lack of reconciliation among believers and the lack of concern for the immigrant. Join with fellow EFCA pastors and leaders in listening and learning from the speakers at our 2018 conference as they address this theme from biblical, theological, historical and pastoral perspectives. 

Once all the messages have been posted on the Theology Podcast, I will link all of the messages on the blog. In addition, I will include the bibliographies provided by the speakers, and I will also include questions we prepared for each of the speakers to address after their lectures. Because of the eager engagement and participation of participants, we did not get these questions.

I encourage you to consider listening to these messages and then engage with another about what you learned, or questions that were raised. Or, listen to them with another, or as a staff, and then discuss them together. God has much to teach us, and there is much to learn and live out.

In the Evangelical Free Church of America, we focus on the essential truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ while allowing differing understandings of some doctrines within certain theological parameters.

For example, we do not require agreement regarding the age of the universe, time and mode of baptism and whether faith precedes regeneration or regeneration precedes faith (the Arminian and Calvinist discussion).

We refer to our openness regarding these theological differences as the “significance of silence.” As we explain in Evangelical Convictions, “This expression does not mean that we will not discuss and debate these issues but simply that we will not divide over them” (p. 24, footnote 18).

To read the rest of the article, please see here.