Friday, January 30, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-30 [Apostle's Creed] Buried - The end of entropy!

For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Acts13:36-37

Entropy is a word that is used specifically in thermodynamics. Its specific scientific technical definition is hard to understand, but the word is also used in a more general sense (we talk about "entropy in the market place") and there is a more general definition is more understandable:
ENTROPY: lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

If I use this definition, the word "entropy" powerfully describes what happened to a world that God made good (to use Gen 1's phrase) after sin entered into it:
-Adam and Eve hid from God.
-Adam blamed Eve.
-Relationships became power based with the abuse that goes with it. (Gen3:16)
-The earth started bringing forth weeds.
-Cain was jealous of Abel and killed him.
-And so it goes.

So we live in a world of moral, spiritual and physical decay.

Jesus was placed in the tomb and the expectation was that decay would begin. But unlike Adam who grasped at equality with God, Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Where Adam took, Jesus gave. Where Adam had to hide because of his selfish sin, Jesus was put on public display on the cross where He offered His selfless sinlessness in our place. And so when decay came to take Jesus' physical body - God the Father said:
There will be no more death
no more mourning
no more crying
no more pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev21:4)

HALLELUJAH! - Let's join together with God's people on Sunday and celebrate our awesome God!!
There will be a short hiatus in EmmDevs next week.
We are fortunate enough to be going on sabbatical long leave and will be travelling down to Hermanus next week. Once we are settled I'll resume the devs until this series on the creed is complete and then we'll take it from there!
God bless!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Thursday, January 29, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-29 [Apostle's Creed] Buried

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John19:38-39

There's a lovely anecdote around the burial of Jesus that I love:
"Upon hearing that Joseph of Arimathea had made his garden tomb available for Jesus' burial a friend was heard to remark: 'Hey Joseph, that was a lovely tomb you had, you must be sorry to lose it.' To which Joseph replied: 'Oh it's ok, my friend only needed it for the weekend!' "

There are a couple of things that we note about the burial of Jesus.

1. He really had died. He didn't swoon into a coma. He died. There is a great sense of finality that is almost humourously depicted in the 30kg of spices Nicodemus brings for embalming (to picture 30kgs imagine 30x1L bottles of water). He clearly expected Jesus to be in tomb for a long time.

2. Jesus is buried according to Jewish custom - not breaking any ceremonial laws. The gospels tell us that they had to hasten to get it done before the Sabbath. Even in His death Jesus is without sin-guilt.

3. The hardest part of any funeral is when the coffin is lowered in the ground or when the hearse departs for the crematorium. As much as our theology tells us that these are earthly remains and that they will be made new, there is a visceral reaction to separation. Even in this, Jesus' maintains His connection to our human experience. Standing at Lazarus' tomb moved Him to tears and His heart went out to the Widow of Nain who was burying her only son. Now Jesus enters into this same passage so that He can break the power and hold that death has over us. I believe that the burial of Jesus and the detail that the New Testament gives us about it is a convincing pointer to the fact that resurrection is physical and not merely spiritual (as some people unfortunately claim)

Jesus' burial is for me a great comfort - He is the pioneer who leads us all into the new frontier of resurrection.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-28 [Apostle's Creed] Death (2) The end of the bully

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews2:14-15

I'm conducting a funeral* today.

My friend, Rod Botsis, shared with me that funerals feel like spiritual warfare to him. Death bullies and terrifies us. It paralyses us with a sense of finality, futility and fear. But we believe in our Saviour Jesus who really died and really rose again and that He did this to break death's grip on our lives and on our hearts.

Look at these verses:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb2:9)

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has DESTROYED DEATH and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2Tim1:9-10)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be NO MORE DEATH or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev21:4)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:28-39)

Death is a bully - the funeral liturgy I use says this: "Death has seems to be the last indignity and the end to all that is lovely, but through Christ God has made it a gateway into new life."

I love seeing bullies being sorted out!!!

* Ken Hagerman was 72 and leaves behind a legacy of 8 children, 15 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. He was a gentleman, a gentle man and a man of faith and he is in the arms of Jesus.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-27 [Apostle's Creed] Died (1)

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke23:44-46

At the end of three hours of forsaken-ness on the cross, Jesus cried out "It is finished!" (Jn19:30) and the temple curtain separating the holy of holies from the rest of the temple tore from top to bottom.

Jesus, by dying the death of the cursed on the cross as an innocent, had effectively paid the price for our sin. ("Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Gal.3:13)

Sin was the first of the enemies that He had come to destroy.

Now He would tackle our second enemy: Death.

And He tackles death in the same way as He conquered sin - He enters into it. At the end of the crucifixion, having effectively paid the price for our sin (that's why the curtain tore) Jesus breathes His last.

John is even more specific: Jesus bowed His head and gave up His Spirit (John19:30). They didn't take His life - He gave it. Jesus willingly faces the physical consequences of human sin - He takes on death - our most final enemy - because it is His plan to demolish it!

Paul describes this beautifully in 1Cor15:
v20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
v55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

He takes no shortcuts - to conquer death on our behalf He experiences it and defeats it.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Friday, January 23, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-23 [Apostle's Creed] Crucified (3) Thinking about us

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John19:26

As we saw yesterday, the physical suffering of the cross was totally eclipsed by the spiritual suffering and yet the words Jesus spoke while He was on the cross show us that He was in control in spite of the agony and that He was thinking about us.

Think about some of the things He said:
"Father forgive them - they don't know what they're doing"
"Today you will be with me in paradise"
"Dear woman, here is your son"
"My God, my God why have you forsaken me"
"I'm thirsty"
"It is finished"
"Into Your hands I commit my spirit"

Of these seven utterings:
* three are completely geared toward us. ("Forgive them", "today you'll be with me", "Here is your son")
* three are about the process - He is telling us what is happening to Him ("Abandoned", "It is finished", "Into your hands")
* one is about Himself, but only sort of, because He's making sure that the Scripture about being given wine-vinegar to drink is being fulfilled and He's also reminding us that He "hungers and thirsts for righteousness" (one of the beatitudes.)

But, for me, His word to Mary and John epitomises His incredible love for us in that while He is suffering incredibly, He takes the time to sort out domestic arrangements for Mary and meet her and John's emotional needs.

We know John lived right up to 95AD and it probably indicates that he was just a teenager when Jesus was crucified and that's probably the reason that John is the only male disciple at the cross - he was too young to be arrested by the Romans.

Jesus sees a young John's devastation and Mary's heartache and He gives them to each other for comfort and purpose. (A responsibility for John to man up to and youngster for Mary to mother)

In the midst of His suffering, He was thinking about them and He was thinking about us!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Thursday, January 22, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-22 [Apostle's Creed] Crucified (2) not only physically

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark15:33

We often focus on the physical aspects of the crucifixion.
To be sure, these are not trivial. Medical doctors have analysed the physical trauma of the flogging, carrying the cross to Golgotha and the crucifixion itself and it is a picture of horrendous suffering that Jesus endured without narcotic and with His composure intact.

But the physical and emotional suffering pale into insignificance when we consider the spiritual suffering...

Yesterday we made it clear that hanging on the cross was synonymous to being cursed by God.
It meant being under God's wrath.
It meant utter separation.

Mark describes it as three hours of darkness that culminated in Jesus crying out, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me." It's telling that Jesus cries out in Aramaic - this was probably the first language He learned as a child - it has expression of complete and absolute desolation.

Here, squeezed into three hours of darkness is the wrath and separation from God that I deserve and that you deserve heaped onto Jesus. Squeezed into three hours of human time is your eternity-without-God and my eternity-without-God. The suffering of the cross is beyond intense. Here on the cross He is the scapegoat, chased out into the wilderness of God-forsakeness in our place.

And He carries that burden faithfully and successfully because just before He dies (more on that in the next day or two) He says: "It is FINISHED! - The debt is paid in full!"

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-21 [Apostle's Creed] Was Crucified (1)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." Galatians3:13

(Our dev is a little technical today but it's very important for us to understand the principle...)

When we've grown up with Christianity then we take it for granted that the cross was a necessary part of the work Jesus did to save us. But we don't always understand _why_...

Paul, writing to the Galatians, who had no prior background to Christianity or Judaism, explains it by quoting from Deuteronomy 21:23 in the Old Testament. This verse makes it clear that Jesus' execution and the public display of His death (hung on a tree) was not only a public humiliation, but it was considered a sign and expression of God's wrath and curse.

Jesus' mission was to set us free from the brokenness of our sin. In order to do this, He had to be without sin of His own so that He could legitimately carry _our_ sin. But if He was without sin then His death would have been a martyr's death (the death of an innocent one) and would only increase His holiness. So He had to die in a manner that was considered as an expression or embodiment of God's wrath. In effect Paul is saying: "When innocent Jesus was put on the cross, He became guilty by association because the cross was the Roman instrument of punishment and humiliation."

This guilt-by-association was the means by which Jesus (who was without sin of His own) became worthy of God's wrath. How could a just God pour out His wrath on His innocent Son? Because the cross-death clearly associated Him with broken humanity. Isaiah 53 talks about Jesus being "numbered with transgressors". When someone died on a cross you saw them as guilty. When God saw Jesus on the cross, guiltless Jesus became guilty of dying a sinner's death.

The cross was the means by which Jesus died a sinner's death even though He was without sin. Blameless Jesus chose to die in a way that connected Him with blame-laden humanity.
What amazing love this is!!!

Notes for further thought:
Some scholars have argued that Deuteronomy speaks about someone being executed (by stoning or by the sword) first and then their body being hanged or impaled for public humiliation, but the point remains the same - in crucifixion the Romans had found a way to execute and humiliate at the same time in a way that prolonged the agony.
Even the idea of Jesus being a Jewish Martyr crushed by Roman Tyranny is negated by the fact that it was the Jewish High Priests who handed Him over for execution. Being handed over by the Jews (rejected) and crucified by the Romans (dying under a curse) made Him a scandal - both in the eyes of society and God.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-20 [Apostle's Creed] Suffered under Pontius Pilate

"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" Matthew27:23-24

Other than the members of Trinity, there are only two other names mentioned in the Creed: Mary and Pontius Pilate.

Why is Pontius Pilate given this honour when, in my thinking at least, Pilate is a weak character who gave in to the priests and the crowds and handed Jesus over to be crucified?

I think there are three key reasons: The first is the usual answer to the question, the second and third take us a little deeper.

1. The mentioning of Pilate, who is a verifiable historical figure, grounds the gospel account in concrete reality. It helps the Creed to anchor the events of the gospel in time and space. By mentioning his name, the Creed would, in effect, be inviting its early readers to "go and ask Pilate - he'll tell you." It gives the account credibility.

2. Pilate stands out in the gospels, because of his discussions with Jesus and his ongoing assertion that Jesus was innocent. When you read the gospels carefully Pilate emerges as a wily politician who gets the Priests to betray themselves by getting them to say "we have no god but Caesar" and who knows the danger of an out of control crowd. He comes across cynical and utilitarian and one could imagine he has seen innocents die before, but somehow he sees that Jesus is innocent and he makes it crystal clear. Theologically this is an important point. Jesus had committed no crime. He was innocent - without sin - and this makes it possible for Him to die in our place.

3. Pilate is a representative of the oppressive power of Rome. The creed's mention of him highlights that Jesus was a victim of "the system." When we are victims of cruel inhumanity it is a great comfort to know that Jesus died at the hands of a cruel war-machine that used crucifixion to intimidate its victims. Jesus' death at the hands of "the system" also reminds us that systems too must be redeemed and so in the name of Christ we take our stand against human trafficking, slavery, corruption and other broken systems.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Friday, January 16, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-16 [Apostle's Creed] Suffering (3)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1Peter4:12-13

The early church had a unique perspective on suffering. When they went to the lions or the gladiators, when they had to hide in the catacombs, when they were blamed for the burning of Rome and when they were executed for not bowing down to Caesar's statue they considered it a privilege to share in Jesus' suffering.

This is a unique perspective on suffering. Usually when suffering comes our way we say: "Why me Lord?" or "I don't deserve this!" We see suffering as an intruder and we do whatever we can to avoid it.

The early church recognised that Jesus suffered ultimately - both in the sacrifices He made in the incarnation and also in the agony of His death. They believed that their suffering was just a drop in the bucket of the suffering of humankind that He had ALREADY BEEN THROUGH.

They believed that the pain of martyrdom, the strain of persecution, the loneliness of rejection that they were going through had ultimately been embraced by Jesus on the cross.

They counted it a privilege to suffer knowing that Jesus had walked this road ahead of them. They were comforted in knowing that their suffering was a subset of His.

But the early church weren't masochists. They didn't get a kick out of pain. They weren't suffering seekers - they were just comforted by the fact that Jesus had been there. As they viewed it suffering isn't an unwelcome intruder ("something strange") but rather a reality that Jesus had addressed.

Their eyes were on the victory He obtained. Suffering had been defeated and when Jesus returns, the suffering that we shared in small parts with Him will be completely overshadowed by His glory.

There's a lot that we can learn from the early church!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Thursday, January 15, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-15 [Apostle's Creed] Suffered (2)

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah53:1-5

When we share our faith with others, one of the most frequent objections that emerges is "Why would a loving God allow suffering?"

It's a tough question.
Theologians have even categorised these kind of questions into an area we call "Theodicy" (Questions about the justice of God in the face of evil, suffering, pain and injustice.)

Isaiah 53 offers an incredible answer to these questions:
God enters our suffering and defeats suffering by suffering.

Sound incredible? Hard to imagine?
It may seems that Isaiah thinks so too when he asks "Who has believed our message" but his parallel line asks "and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" And then he goes on to describe the Messiah growing up like a tender shoot and then suffering. To paraphrase him, Isaiah is saying: "It may seem hard to believe, but actually it's plain for all to see - just look at that the tender shoot that grew up and then suffered. Look at the cradle and the cross.

Christianity doesn't offer a cheap answer for the question of theodicy. The answer it provides is incredibly expensive:
What did God do about suffering?
- He entered it - became a tender shoot
- He experienced it like one of us (no special treatment, no beauty or majesty.)
- He suffered: He was despised, rejected, sorrowed and made suffering a companion.
- He took up your and my suffering - and we did not recognise it
- And by His wounds He heals us.

Stop and consider this great truth: "God enters our suffering and defeats suffering by suffering." And then bow your head in humble adoration and pray "Lord, I can barely grasp what this cost You - Thank You for this most expensive answer to our pain."

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

EMMDEV 2015-01-14 [Apostle's Creed] Suffered (1)

The schools have started and so it's time for the EmmDevs to resume! Hope you had a blessed Christmas, a good break and precious time with family and friends. Blessings for the new year everyone! May it be year in which we grow closer to Christ!

I'm going to continue the series on the Apostle's Creed (which I've included at the end).
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews2:9

"Suffered." Now there's a word that I wouldn't expect to find in the creed of any faith - especially not with God as the subject. When it comes to Creeds and God, we expect verbs like "Created", "Conquered", "Ruled" and "Reigned" - not a verb like "Suffered".

But this is the unexpected truth at the heart of our faith.
God stepped into humanity's mess as the "Word made Flesh" (which is what Christmas is all about) and then He endured the consequences of that "enfleshing" - He suffered death on the cross (which is Easter.)

The writer to the Hebrews is alluding to Psalm 8 when he talks about Jesus being made "a little lower than the angels" - this is the same status that God affords to humanity in Psalm 8 - and yet, according to the Psalm - God is "mindful of us" - So mindful, in fact that Jesus makes Himself a servant (Philippians 2:7), a "little lower than the angels."

Even His incarnation is suffering. He goes from omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence to the powerlessness, limitedness and helplessness of a baby. Then, instead of being surrounded by the worship of angels He is in the company of bickering and broken humanity. (Can you imagine how tough it was for Him to hear His disciples bicker about who was greatest when He was on His way to the cross?)

And then there's death on a cross - unspeakable suffering, shame, abandonment and torment. For me, and you, and then you, and then you, and then you...

It is one of the mysteries of the faith - that God would choose to suffer - for me it is a great comfort.
You might want to consider printing Heb2:9 out and sticking it to your wall as one of your year-verses. I have. I'm determined to see Him clearly this year because when I see Him like this I _know_ that He is mindful of me.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again:
he ascended into heaven.
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/