NYC15: Pictures from Day Four


Here are more pictures from Day Four ministry and touring activities! We’ll try to login tonight to share more stories from team members. Thank you for praying. Please continue in prayer today during our last day ministry. Ask the Lord to fill us with joy and draw people into his kingdom through his Son, Jesus Christ. 

In Christ,

Pastor Rex

Day One: A Roller Coaster Ride

Last night, after making it to the hotel and exploring the city a little bit, everyone here in Brooklyn with SpreadTruth met in the ballroom. We got to meet the other people we would be traveling with for the week. We sang and worshipped God, and we also had a couple speakers. Pastor Tim from the Brooklyn Tabernacle spoke to us. He has worked with this organization many times before, and he had some very wise words for all of us.

Let me just start by saying he is an extremely funny guy. I was crying I was laughing so hard. Having past experience with this trip, Pastor Tim warned us of some emotions we may feel during the week. For example, he said that we may not be able to fall asleep the first night. But, seriously, that is only the first night because it’s only been one day, but I am already exhausted. So gold star for Pastor Tim; he was spot on. Another thing he told us was that we may miraculously be feeling “not very good” in the morning. Welp. Let’s just say I woke up and thought, ‘Dang. That Pastor Tim is good.

So after overcoming my brief moment of anticipated sickness, we went to the ballroom for more worship time with all the team members. We’ll have this worship time every morning this week. I was pretty nervous to be going out into the parks talking to complete strangers. I’m just not that type of person. Today, we were at Union Park in Manhattan. Once we got to the park, we went out in pairs for safety reasons, but also so we had someone to help us out when we were evangelizing. Before lunch, I was with a girl named Rachel from Cincinnati, Ohio. Everyone in our cord (or group of people that we travel with every day) blended really well, and I can’t wait to spend this week with them! Rachel and I started out and we had some decent conversations with people. Some of them turned us down pretty quickly, but we would just move on and find someone else to talk to. We talked with about six different people, although none of them made any life-changing decisions.

We went to McDonald’s for lunch… exciting, I know. This city is the polar opposite of Lisbon. The amount of people in this city is overwhelming. And the restaurants go up and down instead of out, which is just weird. And nothing is fast except the train. Seriously, lines are like a million people long. I don’t think this city life is for me, guys.

But, anyways, moving on! We headed back out after eating, and we also got new partners. I was with Rachel’s mom, Karen. She is one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met. She is extremely good at starting conversations with strangers. So we headed back out into the park. The first six or seven people we walked up to either weren’t interested or claimed they didn’t feel they could give adequate answers to our four worldview questions. This was really discouraging. It did make me a little upset.

After that, Karen was just saying that we should sit down and pray that God would show us who He wanted us to speak with. As she said that, she spotted a homeless man sitting by the entrance to the subway. We walked over and Karen struck up a conversation with him about his leg that was all wrapped up in gauze and medical tape. He started telling us about this big book he had. It was kind of like a National Geographic; it had lots of pictures of all these different places from around the world. He was saying how he had visited all of these places through lots of meditation. I was thinking, ‘Oh, boy. God, why this one?’ After some friendly, funny conversation we started to inch towards the reason we were in the park in the first place.

He started to realize what we were trying to say, and he got more aggressive really quickly. He was trying to tell us how there was no mathematical or scientifical proof that anything in the bible was true. He was not accepting anything we were saying. He was trying to convince us that belief in anything is foolish and pointless because the word begins with “be lie” as in all beliefs are lies. As the conversation went on, it only got worse. He accused Karen of hiding behind her sunglasses even though it was sunny and 90 degrees outside. So we started to walk away, and he kept at it, saying, “You shouldn’t be here. New York doesn’t want Christianity.”

This sent me over the edge. I started crying uncontrollably. Karen suggested we sit down and take some time to just calm down and spend some time in prayer. Pastor Rex and another guy from our cord, Will, walked by and prayed with me and Karen. I was a little too upset to go any longer this afternoon, so Karen and I ‘prayer walked’ as she called it. We just took a stroll through the park and prayed quietly for each person sitting on the benches. The fact that we were just walking around and seeing how broken this city is crushed me. It’s so unbelievable until you see it for yourself. At one point, Karen said, “There are so many hardened hearts here.” And that is so true. So many lost, confused people who either can’t or won’t admit their need for God and His mercy.

We ended the day about an hour early due to mine and Karen’s fiasco with Mr. Grumpy Pants and also because it was pretty warm outside. We got some soft serve fruit from Chloe’s before heading for the subway. SUPER good, and we need to petition to get one in Yorkville.

I went to the 9/11 Museum with some of the people from our group tonight. It was so unbelievable. There are no words to describe how powerful it is to see and learn about everything related to that day. I can’t even describe it to you how absolutely amazing it is to experience that museum and memorial.

So, yes, today was a roller coaster of emotions; discouraging, but also eye-opening. I’m asking for prayer that we would be given the strength and courage to get back out on the streets and in the parks tomorrow, even though some of us had some rough experiences today. We need prayers for the people here in NYC, that their hearts would be softened and their ears and eyes would be opened. Also, prayers for safe travels for everyone throughout the city.

I can’t wait to see how God uses me this week, and I want to thank each and every person that has been praying for me and for the West Lisbon team. We wouldn’t be here without you all (:

~Emma Nelson

God Still Reigns (Psalm 2)

We seem to be living in a time laced with foreign policy nightmares. Admittedly, I know very little about the practical workings of political foreign policy, and I am really just an average guy sometimes not sure what to make of all the complicated news stories. Recently in The Wall Street Journal and again at, I read articles about a new super weapon created by the U.S. military. It’s called an MOP, which stands for Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The “bunker buster” bomb has received a “facelift” as talks with Iran have developed. The MOP is the U.S. Government’s “Plan B” just in case Iran violates what seems to be the inevitable nuclear deal. Our military knows of multiple nuclear facilities in Iran; however, the ones that concern them the most are those that the natural eye cannot see—those hidden underground or beneath mountains. Enter the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, which has the ability to burrow 200 feet into the earth and even through 60 feet of concrete before it detonates to destroy whatever surrounds it. To be honest, neither “Plan A” nor “Plan B” sound great to me!
In our own country, the Supreme Court of the Unites States (SCOTUS) has been handing out significant decisions left and right: national healthcare legislation was upheld; state bans on same-sex marriage were deemed unconstitutional, and most recently in today’s (6/30) The Wall Street Journal, the justices rejected the Obama administration’s environmental agenda because they felt the EPA had not been thoughtful and thorough enough about the costly effects such regulations may have on our economy. Whether you look at the Supreme Court justices themselves, our two major political parties, or simply spend a few minutes perusing social media comments from average Americans like you and me, it seems clear that we are nation deeply divided—made up of polar opposite worldviews leading to vastly different ends and decisions.
It is in the midst of all this chaos that I invite you into Psalm 2 for a moment. Take a breath. Set your mind on the Lord and his rule, and receive his peace in a world gone mad.
Psalm 2 is a royal, coronation psalm in which we are given an exposition on the relationship between God the King and his chosen human king who mediates God’s rule for the people of God. The psalm itself does not tell us the author; however, the prayer of the believers in Acts 4:24–31 reveals to us that David spoke these words by the Holy Spirit:
Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed”—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Throughout the article, we’ll return to this New Testament interpretation and application of Psalm 2, but for now, let’s get a handle on the Psalm in its original Old Testament setting. The Psalm may be organized in this way: (1) The Calculated Coup of the Nations (vv. 1–3), (2) The Confident Candor of the Lord (vv. 4–6), (3) The Comprehensive Clout of the Lord’s Anointed (vv. 7–9), and (4) The Calculated Consequences toward the Nations (vv. 10–12). As you can see, the Psalm comes full circle—beginning and ending with the activity of the nations—however, the beginning arrogance is stifled by the ending warning, and the rule of the Lord and his Anointed should cause a course correction, or else the nations will experience God’s wrath. Although we know that David is the author of the Psalm, we are less sure about the specific occasion that prompted the writing. It is a coronation psalm, and by measuring the content, we can assess that there must of been some conflict between Israel and its (newly?) coronated king and the surrounding nations. We do know from the end of 1 Samuel and from the beginning of 2 Samuel that Saul’s reign ended and David’s reign began in the midst of warfare. Further, Solomon’s coronation does not seem to have taken place during international conflicts (see the early chapters of 1 Kings). So, could David possibly be commenting on his own coronation? It is possible. One other thought that I have about the setting for David’s writing is that I think it is possible that King David wrote this psalm once he received the covenant from the Lord to forever bless his lineage with a king on the throne of Israel. Perhaps, upon hearing and believing the Lord’s covenant with him, David penned this psalm about all the future royalty that would come from his offspring. I think this may better explain the content. David was always a man of war (1 Chron. 28:3), so he may here in the psalm be speaking generally from his experience about the Israelite king’s conflict with the surrounding nations, anticipating that his offspring will share his experiences. Of course, David throughout his rule experienced the Lord’s faithfulness in the face of international threat (Psalm 2:4–6; cp. 1 Sam. 17:44–54). By the time the Lord makes his covenant with David and his household (2 Sam. 7), David could surely utter the words or Psalm 2:7–12 with experienced confidence in the Lord’s favor toward his anointed king.
The Calculated Coup of the Nations (vv. 1–3)
The first thing we need to realize when it comes to the international rebellion against God and his king is that it is not accidental. It is carefully calculated. We are sometimes far too “nice” when it comes to those who are are obstinate and hateful opposition to the Lord and his rule, even when we know that their behavior is not at all accidental but purposefully calculated and measured. Notice the text. The word “rage” in verse 1 of the ESV Bible refers to an eager, noisy, raging, roaring assembly. They are passionate in their gathering against the Lord. Further, the second half of verse 1 demonstrates that the people are calculating. They plot; they set traps and snares; they devise violence—all against the Lord. Peter Craig argues that the “peoples” is better understood as “warriors” because of the context in which the word is used. So, verse 1 shows us that the international attitude toward the Lord and his rule causes them to assemble their eager warriors to game-plan a strategy of opposition and rebellion. In verse two, the leaders of all the nations are united in their opposition to the Lord and his rule. All of these nations having innumerable conflicts of their own find unity in one thing—their opposition to God and his rule. The kings stand firm in their resistance to the Lord’s rule, and they take counsel with one another across international lines. They corporately scheme against the one they view as a common foe. Notice that their devices are not merely aimed against the Lord, but also against those who affirm and represent his authority and rule. We may ask, “What is the result for which the nations hope?” What exactly do they hope to gain by rebelling against the Lord? Verse three answers this question, which was first posed in verse 1—they want their freedom from God. They want to be rid of him. Charles Spurgeon in The Treasury of David interprets their words,
Let us be free to commit all manner of abominations. Let us be our own gods. Let us rid ourselves of all restraint.
He goes on,
However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his [fall in Adam], and he continues in it to this very day. The glorious reign of Jesus in the latter day will not be consummated until a terrible struggle has convulsed the nations. To a graceless neck, the yoke of Christ is intolerable, but to the saved sinner it is easy and light. We may judge ourselves by this: Do we love that yoke, or do we wish to cast it from us?
Among the nations and at the core of their raging against the Lord Jesus is a sore rebellion bent on being free from his yoke. Consider for yourself today, are you seeking to free yourself from God and his rule in your life? Or are you finding life and peace under his lordship and rule? Are you willing to be the Lord’s slave and servant? Or do you long to be free of the Lord and want to “cast away his ropes”? Have you cast your lot with the Lord and his King or with the raging, scheming assembly of the nations?
As mentioned earlier in Acts 4, we see this international raging fulfilled in the united execution of the Lord Jesus. Herod, Pilate, the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Sadducees—all united, putting “lesser” conflicts aside in order to free themselves from God’s rule and God’s King.
The Confident Candor of the Lord (vv. 4–6)
What is the Lord’s response to the nations’ ranting and raging? Verse 4 is offensively comical toward the nations. First, notice that the Lord doesn’t even get out of his seat. He doesn’t stand; he is described as the one who sits. He sits as if there is no battle strong enough to spur him to action. The nations have assembled and schemed, but the Lord takes no military action. He sits. He also sits in the heavens. The place of his sitting is the first thing that reminds us that the nations may have “gotten in over their head” here. He sits above the earth, which ruler among the nations can claim such a throne? From his throne, the psalmist gives us the first verb of action—the Lord laughs. This is an unconcerned laugh. It’s that moment when opposing sides are matched up, and it is clear that the only appropriate reaction from the stronger opponent is mockery. There is no underdog story that will develop here. The Lord laughs. Now, understand that he is not laughing at the weak, the humble, the broken. He is laughing at the arrogant, at those who are calculating in their rebellion against him. The word picture of verse five is important. The words “wrath” and “fury” refer to the redness of God’s nose. The story of Scripture characterizes God as the “Long-nosed One”; that is, he is a God who is slow to anger. It takes a long time for the tip of his nose to turn red, a long time before his burning anger shoots from his nostrils. However, here in Psalm 2:5, God’s anger has reached the tip of his nose—there is nowhere for the nations to hide from his wrath and fury. He will decree judgment upon them with the words of his mouth, and he will hasten to terrify them with his burning anger. And what exactly will the Lord do? Verse six explains to us, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Despite all of the nations’ ranting and raging, the Lord will establish his rule among his people. Nothing can stop him. Spurgeon comments again here,
. . . despite your malice, despite your tumultuous gatherings, despite the wisdom of your counsels, and despite the craft of your lawgivers . . . He has already done that which the enemy seeks to prevent. While they are proposing, He has disposed the matter. Jehovah’s will is done, and man’s will frets and raves in vain.
Turning again back to Acts 4:24–31, consider how many thought that the crucifixion and death of Jesus would be the end of him. The nations “raged” against God and his Son with their calculating and cunning, but remember that they were really only doing “whatever [God’s] hand and [God’s] plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). God would transform their evil raging into the atonement for the sins of the world, and he would do more—conquering both sin and death through the resurrection so that he could establish his Son as the eternal King, the Son of David forevermore, whose kingdom will never perish (Daniel 7:13–14).
The Comprehensive Clout of the Lord’s Anointed (vv. 7–9)
David is no doubt thinking of God’s faithfulness in his own experience as Israel’s anointed king. Further, if we assume that David is writing the psalm after God made his covenant with him, then David may be thinking about more than just himself. He may also be thinking about the line of kings from his house. Further still, we know that Scripture progressively reveals to us the final Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when we read in verse 7, “You are my Son,” we may see the personal connection to David, the covenant connection to the Davidic house, and the ultimate connection to the Davidic Messiah. Peter Craigie writes,
At the heart of the covenant is the concept of sonship; the human partner in the covenant is son of the covenant God, who is father. This covenant principle of sonship is a part of the Sinai covenant between God and Israel. The covenant God cares for Israel as a father cares for his son (Deut. 1:31) and God disciplines Israel as a father disciplines a son (Deut. 8:5). The focus of the Sinai covenant is the relationship between God and nation; in the covenant with the house of David, the focus is narrowed to a relationship between God and the king, but the concept of sonship is still integral to this covenant. Thus God, through the words spoken by Nathan, declared of David: “I will be his father and he shall be my son” (2 Sam. 7:14); David, in return, could say to God: “You are my father” (Ps. 89:26).
The word “begotten” at the end of verse 7 carries the idea of “being brought forth,” not merely “birthed,” and not the idea of “created out of nothing.” The idea is that the Davidic king is established and coronated by a divine initiative to bring him forth. Craigie also comments how each coronation served as a renewal of God’s promise, where he would remind the descendent of David that he was God’s son. Therefore, the Davidic king has comprehensive clout because of the one who brought him forth and gave him kingship. He also has clout because of the access given him by God. In verse 8, the Lord says to the king—“Ask of me, and I will make. . . .” The son has the ear of the father. Notice what is to be granted to the king, “the nations” and “the ends of the earth.” If you consider the history of the Israelite kings, there are always two ways in which they go about expanding their rule and influence—(1) they throw their lot in with the nations, or (2) they remain loyal and trusting toward God. Remember the Lord Jesus was tempted in a similar way, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me’” (Matt. 4:8–9). The Lord Jesus had the opportunity to inherit the kingdoms of the earth apart from the road of suffering; all he had to do was throw in his lot with the enemy of God. Instead he replies, “Be gone Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matt. 4:10). The very ones that rage against the Lord and his anointed will be turned over to God’s King by a simple prayer request. We know that this will ultimately be fulfilled at the second coming of King Jesus, but even David in his day experienced answers to this request as he loyally followed the Lord. In order to possess the ends of the earth, the Davidic king is given authority and power to overcome the nations. God’s king will be provided strength to pulverize the raging nations and bring them under subjection to God’s rule.
Considering the way the early believers in Acts thought of their place in God’s story, notice their prayer, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” These believers understood God would “give them the earth” as they continued to proclaim the gospel and do the works of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. The warfare has shifted as God moves his rule to the unseen, spiritual realm, transforming people in to new creations from the inside out through the gospel and by the Spirit. One day at his coming, his rule will be comprehensive—over heaven and earth, over the seen and the unseen. He will have one not only a geographical kingdom, but a spiritually loyal people as well.
The Calculated Consequences toward the Nations (vv. 10–12)
Finally, the Psalmist returns to the nations in order to warn them. The confident candor of the Lord and the comprehensive clout of his anointed should stir wisdom and caution in the hearts of the rulers of the earth. They should change their ways by turning from their ranging and turning toward the Lord in service and reverence; they should rejoice at the thought of the Lord’s rule; they should be humble toward the Lord’s rule; they should do homage and kiss the Son—the Lord’s anointed one. This is the “or else” of the psalm. If the nations remain rebellious toward the Lord’s king and rule, then they will face the wrath of the Lord’s anointed. Instead, they should be wise, be warned, serve, rejoice with humility, and worship the Son. All who make this turn from among the nations will not be disappointed—“Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12). Spurgeon comments,
The more thou troublest thyself, or art troubled by others for Christ, the more peace thou hast in Christ . . . To make peace with the Father, kiss the Son.
Notice how God responded to the early Christians in Acts as they prayed, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” They were serving; they were rejoicing with humility; they had “kissed” the Son. God became their refuge. He demonstrated his matchless power to them. He equipped them to take the nations with the gospel by filling them with his Spirit and by providing them boldness to speak the gospel message. We live in days when the nations, and even our own nation, is raging against God. It is not an accidental rebellion, rather it is strategic and calculated. Remember the confidence of God in such a scenario. Remember the clout of his Son. Preach the gospel to the nations because we have been shown mercy and grace, and weep over the potential consequences that will fall upon a people should they not turn and “kiss the Son.”

Questions We’ve Mastered Instead of Mastered In the Questions

If we’re honest, we all have questions that we’d like to ask God. Mark 12 is such a scene. Jesus is asked many questions by a variety of groups. The chapter starts off with a daunting parable from the Lord—warning all about their present posture toward the “beloved son of the vineyard owner” (Mark 12:1–9). It is a terrifying thing that those in charge of “building” the religious life of the temple in Jerusalem seemed to have rejected the “cornerstone” whom God has sent (12:10–11).

The parable is followed by three groups from among the religious elite—first the Pharisees and Herodians, then the Sadducees, and finally the scribes—who attempt to challenge the teaching authority of Jesus (12:13–17, 18–27, and 28–34). In response to their questions, Jesus emphasizes the ownership of God over all things—ownership over the image of God (i.e., human beings), which is bigger than taxes; ownership over the eternal experience of humans, which is bigger than the earthly institution of marriage; and finally God’s ownership over the law, which belongs to him and reveals him. Next, Jesus takes up the role of examiner in verses 35–37—asking a question that silences his opponents and makes the crowd glad. At the close of the chapter, he warns hearers and readers about the honor-hungry scribes, and he happily witnesses the action of a poor widow woman.

In verses 13–34, it seems to me that these groups approach Jesus with their “best shots” at causing him to stumble in his responses. They bring to him the questions for which they have mastered the answers, or so they thought. They think that they are ready for him; to trap him. Of course, the narrative reveals that Jesus is able to hold his own with authority, as has been the case throughout Mark’s Gospel. Once he’s exhausted their efforts, he delivers a question, which they had yet to master and to which they have no answer to offer because to answer verses 35–37 would be to submit to Jesus’ authority. It would mean to be mastered in the questions, which they were not willing to do.

Then along comes this woman. A poor woman. She has nothing, nothing but two lepta, which totaled approximately 1/64 of a day’s wage for a laborer. This woman lives a life of questions. She gives all she has, Jesus says.  Where will she get more money? How will she get food? Who will take care of her? What if . . . ? So many questions. You see, the religious elite came to Jesus with all the questions that they had mastered. This woman came to God with many questions, but willing to be mastered by him in the midst of her questions. She came not to receive honor, for her offering was hardly measurable; she came not to demonstrate her wisdom and knowledge, for she had run out of those, which is exhibited by her lowly estate. No rather, she came to meet with God and to be mastered by God. This is why she gives, and this is why Jesus speaks so highly of the lowly widow.

Holy Week from

Holy Week


Click Here for the 2015 Holy Week Poster to find out more about Holy Week activities at West Lisbon Church

What Is Holy Week?

By:  Auburn Layman


Did you know Easter is part of a series of Christian holidays called Holy Week?

The week before Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, is known by Catholic and Protestant Christians worldwide as Holy Week. This is a time to remember Jesus’ crucifixion and the events immediately leading up to it.

Biblical accounts of the final week of Jesus’ life are found in all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books offer a relatively full record of the final words and deeds of Jesus’ life.


The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. It marks Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem—what is sometimes called “the triumphal entry.” This day earned its name because the crowds that welcomed Jesus into the city covered his path with palm branches.2

Jesus’ supporters viewed him as a promising messianic candidate, one who could restore military and political power to Israel. The people’s use of palm branches—an ancient symbol—reflected their hope that Jesus would restore Israel to prominence, reminiscent of Israel’s greatest king, David. 3


Jesus was one of thousands who entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover.5 As such, the temple was buzzing with activity, including price gouging for the purchase of sacrificial animals and currency exchange.

Jesus was deeply offended by the greed of these opportunists, who were placing personal gain over the value of a godly ritual. In anger, Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and those who sold sacrificial animals.

Jesus had entered the temple not as a religious pilgrim looking to make a sacrifice—he himself would, in only four days, be the ultimate sacrifice—but as one who had divine authority to purify the house of God. The Jewish leaders interpreted Jesus’ actions as an affront to their religious authority—rightly so.

Tuesday and Wednesday6

Though the chronology between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the Last Supper on Thursday is somewhat blurred, the Gospels report that Jesus spent much of this time within the temple. There he taught and preached to the crowds that gathered.

Feeling threatened by his influence and teachings, the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees confronted Jesus and “laid plans to trap him in his words.”7 They asked him a series of difficult, tricky questions in the hopes that Jesus would blaspheme, contradict himself, or simply have no answer.

It was at this time that Jesus spoke many of his famous parables, discussed the signs of the end of the age, and revealed the greatest commandment.8


Within the Christian calendar, this day is known as Maundy Thursday.10

On Thursday evening, Jesus ate a final meal—often called the Last Supper or the Lord’s Supper—with his disciples. The meal took on great significance as Jesus communicated to his disciples a divine awareness of his imminent death and knowledge that one of his own disciples, Judas, would be his betrayer.

It is in the Lord’s Supper that Christians find the tradition now known as Holy Communion11: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”12

In this exchange, Jesus worked to explain the significance of his death to his disciples. Just as food is integral as physical nourishment, a relationship with Jesus is essential to spiritual sustenance and growth.

John records that during the meal Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples, an act reserved for the lowest of servants.13 A teacher serving his disciples in such a way was highly unusual and an act of deep humility. Jesus explained, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”14

Following supper, Jesus took three of his disciples with him to a garden to pray. Moving away from them to a more secluded area, Jesus prayed to his Father. The Gospel of John reports that Jesus prayed for himself, for his disciples, and for all believers.15 Matthew, Mark, and Luke show us that though Jesus may have wished there was another way to save humanity, he ultimately yielded to the will of God, committing himself to God’s plan.16

After he prayed, an armed crowd and Judas, the betrayer, appeared.17 Charged with blasphemy and being a revolutionary bent on usurping both Jewish and Roman authority, Jesus was arrested.


After undergoing a series of tribunals and enduring extensive torture and mockery, Jesus was nailed to a cross—crucified—at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

Crucifixion was a deliberately slow and excruciating form of execution in which a condemned person was nailed to a cross and left there until they died. After hanging on the cross for a few hours, the offender would become unable to lift themselves up to breathe. They would eventually perish from slow suffocation.

After six hours of intense suffering, Jesus died at around three in the afternoon.19 His body was taken off the cross and he was buried in the borrowed tomb of a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimathea.

It is difficult to overstate the significance of the crucifixion within Christian tradition. Christians believe that when Jesus—who had lived a sinless life—died, he took on all of humanity’s sin and the full force of God’s wrath toward it.

Within Christian understanding, Jesus’ death allows each of us to pursue a personal relationship with God. We can ask for forgiveness of our sins, receive it, and be spared the punishment for our iniquities. The apostle Paul explains, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”20

Seven hundred years earlier, the prophet Isaiah foretold the event:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.21

It is no wonder that Christians are deeply moved when they remember Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice—a sacrifice made for each of us.


The following Sunday—known as Easter Sunday—commemorates the event that truly separates Jesus from other martyrs: his resurrection from the dead. The Gospels record that through divine power, Jesus was raised to life and left the tomb, though it was guarded by soldiers and sealed with a large stone.

As with the crucifixion, the resurrection of Jesus is of utmost importance to Christians. Christians believe that by rising from death, Jesus overcame sin and death for all of us. In this act, Jesus demonstrated that sin and death do not have ultimate power and offered eternal life to his followers.

Jesus later appeared to his disciples and other believers over a period of time, demonstrating his divinity to them. Finally, he instructed his disciples in what Christians call the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”23 The Bible tells us that, after all this, Jesus was taken up into heaven.


But the resurrection is not quite the end of the story. According to Christian understanding, Jesus will return to the earth at the end of days. At this time, the earth will be restored and “‘there will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.”24

Until then, modern believers are not left without Jesus’ presence. Christians believe that God is still actively involved in each person’s life. A few of Jesus’ last words during his final hours on earth remain particularly reassuring and empowering to his followers, even thousands of years later: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”25

  1. Many churches commemorate Palm Sunday by incorporating palm branches into the service, whether in decoration or in a processional of waving the branches and declaring, “Hosanna in the highest!”
  2. The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–10, Luke 19:28–44, John 12:12–15.
  3. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), note for John 12:13.
  4. The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Matthew 21:12–13, Mark 11:15–17, Luke 19:45–46.
  5. Ibid., Exodus 12:1–50.
  6. Ibid., Matthew 21:18–26:14, Mark 11:20–13:36, Luke 20:1–21:25, John 12:20–50.
  7. Ibid., Matthew 22:15.
  8. Ibid., Matthew 22:37–40: “Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
  9. Ibid., Matthew 26:20–46, Mark 14:17–42, Luke 22:14–46, John 13:1–17:26.
  10. The word maundy is derived from the Latin mandatum, which means “command.” The use of maundy refers to Jesus’ words to his disciples on the Thursday of Holy Week: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The Holy Bible, John 13:34.
  11. Also known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion is a practice celebrated by Christians worldwide. Though specific denominations may have their own theological particulars regarding Communion, it is considered by all an opportunity to remember Christ’s sacrifice and coming return, as well as the gift of God’s grace.
  12. The Holy Bible, Matthew 26:26–28.
  13. Ibid., John 13:1–17.
  14. Ibid., John 13:15.
  15. Ibid., John 17:1–26.
  16. Ibid., Matthew 26:26–46, Mark 14:32–42, Luke 22:39–46.
  17. Matthew and Luke tell us that Judas agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for payment. Luke explains that Satan had entered Judas when he betrayed Jesus. Matthew states that after realizing what he had done in handing over Jesus to the authorities, Judas killed himself. But all four Gospels identify Judas as Jesus’ betrayer.
  18. Ibid., Matthew 26:57–27:66, Mark 14:53–15:39, Luke 22:55–23:49, John 18:13–19:37.
  19. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that when Jesus died, the curtain of the temple—which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place—was torn in two. Christians believe this signifies the end of God’s separation from humankind. Jesus’ death made it possible for all believers to enter directly into God’s presence.
  20. The Holy Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:21.
  21. Ibid., Isaiah 53:4–6
  22. Ibid., Matthew 28:1–10, Mark 16:4–18, Luke 24:2–43, John 20:2–23.
  23. Ibid., Matthew 28:19–20.
  24. Ibid., Revelation 21:4
  25. Ibid., Matthew 28:20.
  26. Photo Credit: Fenderosa /
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Seeing the Ugly Within

I am convinced that the Gospel of Mark teaches disciples to first see the ugly within before they fix their gaze on Jesus. John the Baptist didn’t come to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:1–8) by causing great geographical shifts — demolition of mountain regions or the filling up of the nearby valleys with earth — no rather, he came to begin a different kind of demolition. His preaching and his baptism sought to demolish the ugly within a person, so that their hearts may see the beloved Son, with whom the Father is pleased (Mark 1:11; 9:7).

Mark employs the majority of Jesus’ Galilee ministry (chapters 1-7) to demonstrate to the reader who is inside and near to Jesus and who is outside and far from Jesus. There are many surprises along the way—like the religious leaders and Jesus’ own family are outside (3:20–35), but the tax collector (2:13–17), the recovering demon-possesed man (5:1–20), and the medically-desperate, unclean woman (5:25–34) are inside.

Chapter seven adds one more surprising round of exclusion and inclusion, just before Jesus takes some intensive time to investigate, instruct, and illuminate the faith of his twelve disciples (chapters 8-9). Controversy once again arises in chapter seven over Jesus’ authority, particularly his authority to establish religious practice and perspective regarding internal, moral cleanliness. In Mark, it is always one’s response to Jesus’ authority that demonstrates whether one is in or out. Here, his authoritative words on what makes a person clean or unclean causes further scandal for the religious leaders (7:1–13). Although the original goal of the traditions of the elders were to prevent law-breaking and therefore the holiness of God’s people, these traditions eventually became a law of their own, at times (like in Jesus’ example) causing the people to actually break God’s law.

Jesus proceeds to speak authoritatively about the origin of uncleanness and evil. We do well to listen carefully. In essence, Jesus instructs that the things outside of us do not make us unclean. Dirty hands do not make me unclean. If I may go further with this, TV doesn’t make me unclean, other men or women do not make me unclean, alcohol doesn’t make me unclean, computers and the existence of filth on the internet doesn’t make me unclean. No. Jesus nails us here. It is what is already in us that makes us unclean. The “want-to” of evil is already within, planted deep within. As he says, “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:23). It’s sin within; it’s the ugly within that we must first see before on the Savior we fix our gaze. James speaks of this,

But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:14–15 NET).

There is a mess in each of us that we must see; and we must be honest about what is there. We must see and confess the ugly within.

Now, verses 24–30 make me smile. Immediately after this confrontation, Mark tells us of a woman who sought Jesus out. I suggest to you that this woman is on the inside. She is on the inside because she sees the ugly within, and reaches for the only cure for it—grace from God. When she asks Jesus to expel a demon from her daughter, Jesus responds in a way that demonstrates his focus on a ministry to Israelites and calls attention to the woman’s uncleanness as a Gentile. And what does she do? She receives the Lord’s verdict about her uncleanness and the aim of his ministry, and then in humility asks for grace,

Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs (Mark 7:28 ESV).

She is an insider because she agrees with Jesus (“Yes, Lord”) about her uncleanness. She doesn’t resist him or fight him. She knows the ugly within. After agreeing with him, she persists in her quest to experience God’s grace and mercy, and she receives it. Oh, she receives it!lightstock_66461_small_rex_howe

Oh that we would see ourselves as dogs. Just dirty dogs. Yes, Lord; we are dog’s, but give us the crumbs of your grace. Do not pass us by Lord. Thank you for the crumbs.

But wait. Did she just receive the crumbs? Verses 29–30 say,

Then he said to her, “Because you said this, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone (Mark 7:29–30 NET).


She sought crumbs, but she received so much more. She received the power of God and the defeat of evil in her home that day. She and her household experienced a major deliverance by the grace of God. But don’t forget that her experience started with seeing the ugly within.