Five Points Blog

Being Raised to Heaven


The resurrection is naturally followed by the ascension into heaven. For although Christ, by rising again, began fully to display his glory and virtue, having laid aside the abject and ignoble condition of a mortal life, and the ignominy of the cross, yet it was only by his ascension to heaven that his reign truly commenced. This the Apostle shows, when he says he ascended “that he might fill all things,” (Eph. 4:10); thus reminding us, that under the appearance of contradiction, there is a beautiful harmony, inasmuch as though he departed from us, it was that his departure might be more useful to us than that presence which was confined in a humble tabernacle of flesh during his abode on the earth…

This our Lord himself also declared to his disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you,” (John 16:7). To console them for his bodily absence, he tells them that he will not leave them comfortless, but will come again to them in a manner invisible indeed, but more to be desired, because they were then taught by a surer experience that the government which he had obtained, and the power which he exercises would enable his faithful followers not only to live well, but also to die happily. And, indeed we see how much more abundantly his Spirit was poured out, how much more gloriously his kingdom was advanced, how much greater power was employed in aiding his followers and discomfiting his enemies.

Being raised to heaven, he withdrew his bodily presence from our sight, not that he might cease to be with his followers, who are still pilgrims on the earth, but that he might rule both heaven and earth more immediately by his power; or rather, the promise which he made to be with us even to the end of the world, he fulfilled by this ascension, by which, as his body has been raised above all heavens, so his power and efficacy have been propagated and diffused beyond all the bounds of heaven and earth.

John Calvin, Institutes, Vol 2, 16.14


Holy Week Devotional: Sunday, April 20


Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” ...

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:1-2, 28-31

 

Because the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is so hard to believe for natural minds and because it is indispensible to the Christian faith—without it all we believe collapses into mere fancy—the Apostle John supplies many clear proofs of its reality.

For instance, he gives the exact day when the empty tomb was discovered, “Now on the first day of the week.” This was the third Hebrew day since his crucifixion, fulfilling Christ’s words exactly (John 2:19-20).

John gives the exact time of day, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark.” To come early in the morning lends a great air of specificity and concrete detail to the account, leading the reader to conclude the truth of Mary’s discovery.

John makes sure we know it was Mary Magdalene who first discovered the empty tomb. Why? It honors her and establishes her role in history forever, but it also lends great credibility to the resurrection account. A woman’s testimony was not admissible in a court of law. For God to make sure that a woman be the first to find Christ’s tomb empty reveals the authenticity of her word. The disciples would not have chosen a woman to be the first to see the risen Christ. It is so like God to use the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).

John also makes clear that Mary went to Peter and John to report her discovery. There is no guile in her, no manipulation, no careful use of the information for personal gain. Only humble truth telling, and this spurs our confidence that these things are so.

John tells us her first explanation was that the body was stolen. Grave stealing
was common in the first century, especially of notable or controversial figures, but Mary’s suggestion of it reveals that she was not wildly idealistic or gullible. She is a trustworthy witness.

No wonder doubting Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” when he touched Jesus’ side (John 20:28). Yet, hear the Lord’s word to us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v.29). Would you rather be Thomas, believing only after touching? Or as we must be, believing having touched him in the Spirit only? The greater blessing comes to us who simply believe.

John concludes, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Do you believe? Do you believe that Christ rose from the dead and so proved he is God and all that he taught and did is true? If you believe, you, even you have eternal life in his name. 

 


Holy Week Devotional: Saturday, April 19


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.

John 19:38-42

"There in the ground his body lay,
Light of the World, by darkness slain"
-Stuart Townend, "In Christ Alone"

Joseph of Arimethea asked Pilate for permission to take the dead body of Jesus to prepare it for burial. Jesus was truly dead. This was no illusion or sleight of hand. Jesus, the Son of God, died innocently at the hands of sinful men. He died according to the definite foreknowledge and plan of God. And he did not do it only out of obedience to the Father’s plan. Jesus died because he loved us. J.I. Packer writes, “Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment, for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory.” Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to rescue us from sin and death. No matter what. Even if that meant he had to suffer and die himself. 

So Joseph is an example to us all. We all have to come to the cross. We all have to acknowledge what sin deserves. It deserves death. This Holy Week, if you have never looked upon your sin and what it deserves, come to the cross and look to him as the only one who can save you from destroying your life. Come to Jesus, the one who can take you off the path of sinful self-exaltation that only leads to death and eternal judgment. Come to the cross, where Jesus died in your place, and repent and believe that Jesus took it all.

As the hymn says, “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned he stood; Sealed my pardon with his blood.” Come to Jesus and find forgiveness and love, for God laid upon him your iniquity and punished him in your place.

 

 

 


The Ultimate Focus Of The Cross


“God is the ultimate focus of Christ’s death on the cross. Yes, Jesus died for sins and for the unrighteous, but ultimately Jesus died for God and his glory. For when Christ brings us to God, he brings us into a right relationship with God. It’s as if the universe is set back where it should be - a relationship in which he is the center and we orbit around him in a safe proximity and nearness, a relationship in which his glory is the point and we find our joy and meaning in being a display of his worth rather than our own.”

~ Michael Lawrence, It Is Well, 215

When we find our joy and meaning in living as “a display of his worth rather than our own”, we finally live life as we were created to live it. We experience ultimate joy when we decrease and He increases because He is the ultimate focus of everything. Though everything around us and the sin within us tells us to put ourselves on display for all to see, Christ died so we could live for Our Father and His glory alone. When He is the center, everything is as it should be… even when thinking about the ultimate purpose of the cross.


Holy Week Devotional: Friday, April 18


After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 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. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
John 19:28-37

 

It. Is. Finished.

No three words could simultaneously cause so much sorrow and so much joy from the mouth of Jesus. Having endured all the physical pain in the preceding twelve hours and all of the unknowable, insurmountable agony of enduring the full wrath of God against sin, it was now finished. The mission the Father had sent the Son to accomplish was now complete. The work was done.

God incarnate had died.

In fulfillment of all that God eternal had said would take place in the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus of Nazareth had laid down his life on behalf of his people. The heel of the Son of the Woman had been bruised. The Ram in the Thicket had been provided. The Passover Lamb had been sacrificed. The Day of Atonement had come. The Servant had suffered. The Temple had been destroyed.

And standing there, where the blood and the water came pouring out, was an eyewitness. This is no second-hand account, no hearsay. Jesus, the Son of God, died just as God had foretold for centuries. He was certainly dead—there was no fainting or feigning. Roman executioners confirmed his death.

This was done and written down for you, that you may believe. So who do you say that Jesus is? Is he the Son of God, sent to die for the sin of the world? Is his divine mission finished? Will you believe? Will you turn from the sin for which Christ died? Will you put your hope in and find your satisfaction in Jesus alone?

What about you who have marked decades’ worth of Good Fridays being found in Christ? Is the reality of your sin and Christ’s sufficient death for them just as precious as the day you first believed? Or is there still unrepentant sin that persists to have a hold on you? 

 


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