Life Theology

Jesus Offers the Olive Branch

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7)

The author of Hebrews explains that in his high priestly role, Jesus  “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death.” The word for “supplications” in Greek is hiketéria and it only appears here in the New Testament. It carries with it the meaning of “extending an olive branch,” which connotes supplicating for peace on one’s behalf.

This simple word, supplication, should uncover an infinite depth of truth and comfort. It was as if Jesus sat before the Father continually offering an olive branch as a symbol of peace on our behalf. It was as if he cried, “Give them peace through me, give them peace, O Holy Father. Though they are enemies, do not cast them off. Give them peace.”

Jesus accomplished peace for us in his death on the cross. All who receive this sacrifice for sin by faith receive this peace. This is not an inner tranquility (though it will include that). It primarily means that we are no longer enemies of God, that is, we are no longer at war with him. God has drawn us to himself and we have been so loved by him that we have laid down our weapons. There is reconciliation. We are no longer enemies; we are welcomed as friends. We are no longer sons of disobedience; we are ushered in as heirs.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).


Jesus, the Lamb of God Who Never Went Astray

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. (Psalm 119:176)

This verse ends the longest chapter in the Bible.  Psalm 119 is all about God’s word and the psalmist’s desire to follow it. Often he makes bold statements, as he does in verse 176, petitioning God to “seek his servant” because he “does not forget God’s commandments.”

If you read the whole chapter, however, you will notice that this is rooted in repeated requests from the psalmist for God to teach, open eyes, give mercy, give understanding, and be gracious. Our “remembrance” of God’s commands is rooted in one thing: God sovereignly and generously granting it. Thankfully, God does grant it to some.

This psalm looks forward to the Messiah, because the ability to remember God’s word and rejoice in it “like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162) was ultimately purchased by Jesus, the great treasure (Matt. 13:44) and the perfect Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He is not just God’s servant like the psalmist; he is the Suffering Servant who took the iniquity of the sheep who have gone astray (Isa. 53:6), and he becomes our Good Shepherd and gives life to God’s flock (John 10:10). He does not simply “not forget” God’s commandments, he is the only one who has perfectly communicated God’s word, being, and character to the world (John 1:1-5; 14:5; 15:15; 17:8, 14; Heb. 1:1-3).

If you want to know, remember, and rejoice in God’s word, you must know Jesus, and all of your failures to do what God demands must be cast upon him. Run, silly sheep, and embrace your Good Shepherd.


Without Change, We Won’t Last

I was listening to “Mona Lisa (When the World Comes Down)” by The All-American Rejects earlier tonight.  There’s a line that caught my attention in the first verse.  Tyson Ritter, the band’s frontman, sings:

Without a change
Our lives will never last
‘Cause we’re going fast

This is such a small line in the context of the song, but it shows the world’s desire for change.  You can see it all over the media.  From diets to cars to fashion to philosophy to education to political candidates.  Everything is always “new” and offers some kind of “transformation.”

What the world needs is the change that Christ offers.  He can provide it because in him we find the changeless One.  “[The earth and heavens] will perish, but you remain…like a garment they will be changed.  But you are the same, and your years will have no end” (Heb. 1:11).

This changeless One, doesn’t leave us changeless though.  We need it, or we are doomed.  He gives the greatest change we could ever have.  “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [that is, the image of God that sin has ruined] from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Without change, we definitely won’t last.  But every change that doesn’t come from the Lord will give way to the next best thing.  In Christ we find the greatest thing this universe has to offer.  The searching stops with him.


Does God Love a Non-Christian’s Justice?

This question came from a blog of a pastor friend of mine.  He asked if we agreed or disagreed with this statement from an unnamed author:

Everyone who struggles for justice, everyone who makes just claims in unjust surroundings, is working for God’s reign, even though not a Christian.

Here was my short response:

Yes and no.

No because anything that is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23) and without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Anything not done for the glory of God is sin and therefore even Christians can do something that is “just” and have it be sinful because it was done with a stained motive or intention

Yes because Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.” So anything that is just is God’s creation. Certainly there are things non-Christians do that the Bible affirms are good and because justice and honesty and integrity are God’s design, it delights God. This is what the doctrine of common grace is all about. (Biblical example: Cyrus who didn’t know God (Isa. 45), but delivered God’s people from captivity.)


Jesus, not Santa, is Watching You

Has the thought sufficiently gripped my mind and begun to dominate my every action, producing the quality of transparency in my life?
– Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone

During this Christmas season, we sing about Santa watching us to find out whether we are naughty or nice.  Let us remember that Jesus is always watching us.  That’s not a cause to be afraid.  It should cause us to humbly bow before him, his omniscience, and marvel at his word, which judges and discerns the intentions of our hearts (Heb. 4:15-16).