Stay Down! Ok, Get Up.

Keys of Death and Hades

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
 Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
 Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Christ the Lord is Risen Today
By: Charles Wesley, 1707-1778

Listen as you read.  This is a neat orchestral karaoke version.

On Tuesday we considered how Christ finished the work the Father had given Him to do thus opening paradise.  He did this by defeating death.  Today we are going to think about a couple ways that defeat is described in lines 2 and 3 of this stanza.

What Battle?

Descended into…

The hymn alludes to a battle, so you may wonder what battle is it talking about?  Some have likened this to the idea that Christ descended into hell, which is expressed in some versions of the Apostles Creed with the words “he descended into hell.”  There are a few different Scriptures that can be interpreted to support this, but none of them explicitly state this, so it is a bit of a stretch.

One other way of making sense of the line in the creed is to acknowledge there were different versions, some not including this line.  Some newer versions substitute dead for hell, which is probably a more accurate acknowledgement of the fact that in the ancient world Hades was often equated with the grave, rather than hell.

For all this controversy, there is no debate among Christians as to whether Jesus descended into the grave.  It is clearly described in a number of the gospel accounts, and helps to clear up the possible confusion.  Either way, it is widely accepted that Jesus defeated death based on a number of different verses, not the least of which are Jesus’ own words.

[The Son of Man] laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”  Revelation 1:17b-18 ESV

Arm Wrestling

In these verses, John has a vision of Jesus as the Son of Man.  Jesus declares He died, but is alive forever, and that overcoming death has earned Him the keys of Death and Hades.  

I think of it like arm wrestling.  Jesus fought Death for the right to have final authority over Death.  Jesus won the match or battle, so He gets to keep the keys, saying effectively who comes and goes.  You can not take someone’s keys unless you have authority over them.  

Thank Jesus for winning that battle.

Stay Down!  Ok, Get Up.

Jesus demonstrates His victory over death through His resurrection.  Can you imagine what that must have been like?  For a couple days Death thought it had won.  Then on the third day, there was an earthquake and everything changed.  It is as if Death tried to tell him, “Stay down!”, until it realized it had no dominion over Him, so it conceded with “Ok, get up.”

He did die, but now He lives.  I like how these verses say it with the double doubles of “he died he died” and “he lives he lives.”

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. Romans 6:9-10 ESV

We are invited into a similar transaction, dying to sin and living to God.  As we enter into that activity by faith, we ensure that Death will have no dominion over us either.  Like Christ, we may very well descend into a grave, but also like Him we will leave it behind one day.

Thank Jesus for making that possible.

Alleluia!

Jesus, thank You for fighting the fight and winning the battle with death.  Thank You for demonstrating your victory by rising to life, and giving me the hope I will as well, even if I die.  Until then, may Your resurrection power be at work in me helping me to live for Your glory.  In Jesus name.   Amen.

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Podcast 5.3 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

John 19:28, 30 ESV

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”… When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus went to the cross out of love and obedience to the Father.  He went there to redeem us by offering His life as a perfect sacrifice.  He finished His work. Give Him praise!

 Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Revelation 1:17b-18 ESV

[The Son of Man] laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

John has a vision of Jesus as the Son of Man.  Jesus declares He died, but is alive forever, and that overcoming death has earned Him the keys of Death and Hades.  You can not take someone’s keys unless you have authority over them. Thank Jesus for winning that battle.

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Romans 6:9-10 ESV

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Death no longer has dominion over Him.  His life was not taken from Him, instead He willingly laid it down, then took it up again.  He rose to life and invites us into that life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live your life to God, like Jesus, our Risen Lord.

 Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Luke 23:42-43 ESV

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

One thief on the cross beside Jesus chose to acknowledge Him for who He was by rebuking the other thief, and followed it with a simple request, remember me.  Christ has opened paradise to all who will acknowledge Him for who He is. How can you acknowledge Him today? Not sure? Ask Him to show you.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
 Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
 Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Image Attributions
Keys of Death and Hades – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SMPOf55v3c
Descended into… – https://avondhupress.ie/easter-celebrates-undying-flame-life/empty-tomb-of-jesus-at-night/
Arm Wrestling – http://www.rulesofsport.com/sports/arm-wrestling.html

Tomb Borrower Defeats Grave

Empty Tomb

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
 Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
 Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Christ the Lord is Risen Today
By: Charles Wesley, 1707-1778

Listen as you read.  This is a short but beautiful cello version.

Let’s think about this.  He is alive because He has the authority to take His life up again after He laid it down.  He had to lay it down because our sin had a consequence.  The consequence was death.

Borrowed Tomb

There is a powerful line in a song we sang on Easter Sunday called Resurrecting, from Elevation Worship.

The tomb where soldiers watched in vain,
  was borrowed for three days.
His body there would not remain.
  Our God has robbed the grave.

Where Thy Victory, O Grave?

Who borrows a tomb?  Only someone who knows they will be able to return it, having only needed it for a short time.  Jesus had a grave, but the Father robbed it.

Though when we sing this powerful stanza we are asking the rhetorical question, “Where thy victory, O grave?”, it could just as well be Jesus making the inquiry.   In fact, He had already asked those questions through the prophet Hosea hundreds of years before.

I will set these people free from the power of the grave.
    I will save them from death.
Death, where are your plagues?
    Grave, where is your power to destroy?  Hosea 13:14 NIrV

The grave thought it had defeated Christ, but it was only a fleeting illusion.  He conquered the grave when He left it empty.  Alleluia!  Take a moment and thank Jesus for leaving that tomb empty, and in so doing, giving you hope you will one day do the same.

Dying Once

Some versions of this stanza say “Dying once” instead of “Once He died”.  That is the one I am more familiar with so I like how it rolls off the tongue, possibly more from familiarity, but I have to admit the one here is actually more clear.  He was not dying once, he died once.  And He did so, because He had to.

Consider these two Scriptures.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

We have all sinned.  The wages of sin, what you get for doing it, is death.  Ergo, we all have earned the right to die.  Jesus traded us what He deserved, life eternal, for what we deserved, death.  His death dealt with sin, once for all.

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.    Hebrews 9:28

Sacrificial Lamb

When Jesus died once for all He was satisfying the wrath of God in a way the sacrificial system of the Old Testament could never do.  The Tabernacle/Temple sacrifices had to be repeated  over and over because they could not really deal with sin by perfecting the conscience of the worshipper.  Hebrews 9 explains this beautifully, but these two verses capture it well.

Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Hebrews 9:25-26

Once for All

Only Jesus was able to offer the perfect sacrifice.  Thanks be to God, He did!  Take a moment and thank Jesus for dying once, and in so doing, saving you for the wages of sin and offering you the gift of God, eternal life.

Alleluia!

Jesus, thank You thank You for offering the perfect sacrifice, once for all, to save me from my sin.  Thank You for demonstrating victory of the grave by leaving that tomb empty.  I will ever sing praises to Your matchless name.  Alleluia!   In Jesus name.   Amen.

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Subscribers enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 5.2 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!

1 Peter 1:3 ESV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Jesus Christ is alive again.  Because He lives, we have a living hope into which we have been born again.  Our Father’s great mercy has accomplished this. Bless Him for raising Jesus and in so doing, giving us life and hope and peace.

 Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 ESV

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:  “Death is swallowed up in victory.”“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

What an incredible rhetorical question!  What a remarkable statement of faith! Jesus’ body having perished, put on the imperishable, and in so doing, swallowed up death in victory. Even though we may die, we will live.  Alleluia!

Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!

Hebrews 9:28 ESV

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

He accomplished His Father’s will, and will come a second time, having dealt with sin, to save us.  And who are we? Those who are eagerly waiting for Him. You may be waiting, but are you eager? Ask Him to make you eager.

 Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

You have victory over sin, death and the grave.  You could never have accomplished this, but Jesus already did.  Thank Him.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
 Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
 Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

 

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Alleluias: Innermost and Outermost

Raise your joys and triumphs high!

 

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
 Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
 Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Christ the Lord is Risen Today
By: Charles Wesley, 1707-1778

Listen as you read.  This is a short but beautiful cello version.

He is risen!  It is just as true today as it was on Sunday, and Tuesday for that matter, so we continue our celebration as we think about the last two lines here.  There is an interesting juxtaposition of extremes I had not noticed until a little deeper reflection.

Innermost Alleluia

So here in the context of lifting our Alleluia’s to the risen Christ, we are implored to “Raise (our) joys and triumphs high”.  Though the instruction is to lift these things, consider the fact that they begin as in inner response to external circumstances.  We can not raise from within what we have not perceived.

Consider it from this perspective.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV

Expressing our heart

Through His resurrection, Christ has accomplished the salvation of our souls.  When we believe this, we obtain the outcome of our faith.  This brings us to a point of rejoicing, albeit with an ineffable joy.  Even though we may not be able to fully or completely express this “inexpressible” and glory-filled joy, we can not help but try.  

This may be the epitome of the expression, “the heart sings”.  There is effectively a remarkable inner alleluia that we feel and attempt to utter.  This third line encourages that activity, an outward expression of an inward reality which begins at the very core of our being, intimate and personal, quiet and tender, our heart.

Outermost Alleluia

Glorious pink cross in sunset

On the heels of this very micro expression of praise comes the instruction to a very macro one.   From the heart to the heavens.

Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

This instruction is very scripturally sound.

Isaiah 49:13 ESV

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

Remarkable cross

Why are the heavens and the earth commanded to sing and exult (present tense)?  Because the Lord has comforted his people (past tense) and will have compassion on his afflicted (future tense).  

All the tenses make sense, but it is curious that the heavens and earth are to praise because God has had and will have compassion on his people.  The implication here is that his compassion will overflow and have an impact of not only God’s people but the whole of His creation.

Whether the subtle pink cross above or the overt one here, these images give expression to the fact that creation is indeed doing what Scripture has commanded it to do.  So the macro scale of our Alleluia seems to be on track.

What about the micro?  Are you as faithful to lift your “Alleluia” as the other works of His hands?  If you are like me, you want to be, even without the command to raise your joys and triumphs high.  So let’s cultivate such a mind for just a moment.

Think about your joys and triumphs.  What comes to mind?  Now take a few moments and give Jesus praise for them.  Ask the Holy Spirit to make you keenly aware of them throughout your day.  And then do it all over again every time He does.

Alleluia!

Jesus, thank You for giving me something to sing about, even though it truly is inexpressible.  Just the same, give me words and others ways to express it today, even as I respond to Your work in my life revealed through every joy and triumph.   In Jesus name.   Amen.

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Subscribers enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 5.1 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!

Matthew 28:5-6 ESV

…the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

The empty tomb declared it.  The angels explained it. Those first disciples witnessed it and died still declaring it.  May our lips and our lives echo it, “He is risen indeed!”

 Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Revelation 19:1 ESV

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

Though this is a scene from the end of the story of Scripture, it is made possible through the resurrection.  Do not wait until you are around the throne to join the great “Alleluia”! Praise Him right now!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Because of what Jesus has accomplished through His resurrection, the salvation of our souls, we should rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible.  I love how we are instructed to rejoice, even though our joy is inexpressible. We may not be able to completely or perfectly express it, but we will not let that stop us from trying, with our songs and our lives.

 Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Isaiah 49:13 ESV

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

He could not have showed us more compassion or comforted us better than He has in redeeming our souls through His resurrection.  Sing heaven, and earth reply or echo that exultation, for Jesus has not only redeemed our souls but has begun the process of making all the wrong things right.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
 Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
 Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

The Richest Crown

Notre Dame Burning

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

As I write, the world is still abuzz about the tragic blaze at Notre Dame in Paris.  Amidst the coverage I heard that an important relic had been saved, the Crown of Thorns of our Savior.  I hate to admit, I did not even realize what is believed to be His crown was actually among the treasures at Notre Dame.  It is of note that this encased and gilded crown was a topic of interest among all the great pieces on repository there.

Crown of Thorns: Notre Dame

It makes sense though, since after all, this is the richest crown, that of greatest value, in all of history.  Although the thorns have been removed and can be found at various places around the globe, this is purported to be the crown Christ wore when He offered His life to pay the penalty for our sins.  That endows it with a value that simply can not be measured.

Rich, Beyond Measure

Undoubtedly, there have been countless times over the course of history when sorrow and love were mingled together in an expression of love and self sacrifice.  But none comes close to Calvary.

What a beautiful turn of phrases between the second and third lines of this stanza.  From sorrow and love to love and sorrow.  It is way more than just a clever modified repeating of the same two words.  It is a call for all who seethe beauty of the first, to embrace the extravagance of the last.

The other interesting thing to note is the linguistic device employed in the first two lines as contrasted with the second two lines.  It begins with an emphatic declaration, and concludes with a rhetorical question, the latter making the stronger statement by virtue of having asked a question merely for effect, since no answer is even expected, or necessary.  Just to be crystal clear, no thorns, or frankly any other material, ever composed a crown as rich as this one.

Thorny Crown: An Oxymoron

But How?

The first thing to consider is the apparent oxymoron, or contradiction of incongruous words.  How can any crown made of thorns be valuable since the mere use of thorns in any crown implies a terrible pain for the wearer, which seems to be designed for the antithesis of the honor a crown is normally meant to convey?  That is kind of the whole point though.

His executioners meant to humiliate Jesus since the claim of His kingship had been a crucial accusation about Jesus from the Jews before Pilate.  So much so that Pilate had a sign posted above Christ on the cross which read, “The King of the Jews” to which the chief priests objected asking it to be changed to “This man said, I am the King of the Jews”.  Pilate’s reply?

“What I have written I have written”. (John 19:17-22)

This is a fascinating series of events because Jesus never claimed to be a King, but He also never denied the claim. (John 18:33-40)   The Jews had drummed this up to strengthen their case against Him, and make it a Roman matter punishable by death.  After pressing Jesus on this point, Pilate seems to have posted this more to mock their claim than make the statement itself, having found no fault in Jesus and literally washing his hands of the whole matter.

The True King, Condemned to Die

All the same, he condemned Jesus to die.

King of Kings

What was meant to mock Him, became a symbol of His extraordinary kingship, one marked by self-sacrifice, unlike most.

And what kind of King would allow this happen?  One whose Kingdom was not of this world.  Jesus clearly stated that in John 18, but then when pressed by Pilate regarding his authority to crucify Him Jesus offered possibly the most powerful response in this discourse.

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”  John 19:11

A higher purpose was unfolding, one set in motion by the Highest Authority, God Almighty.  One set in motion for the purpose of both declaring and making available the love of God, by paying the penalty sin required.  In order to redeem us, that expression of love was mingled with great sorrow.

Love and Sorrow

So what for us starts out as sorrow but causes great love, for God starts out as love and causes great sorrow.  We see His sacrifice and share tears with those first disciples, then we are overwhelmed by a rush of love as we realize what He has accomplished.  The Father commanded His sacrifice and the Son obeyed out of love, then both experienced an inexpressible sorrow as they were separated for a time by what Christ accomplished when He became sin for us.

Again to be crystal clear, at no other point in history did, or will, such love and sorrow meet.

Jesus, thank You for the remarkable expression of love and sorrow Your crucifixion was, and is.  Across 2,000 years we still find our breath taken away when we rightly survey and truly see Your sacrifice on that cross.  This Easter, help us to see these things deeply and clearly, and pour out the praise due Your name.   In Jesus name.   Amen.

Sober Thinking!

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Subscribers AND Free Members enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 4.3 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Hebrews 12:2a ESV

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,

When you look at our Savior crucified on the cross, what do you see?  Many look at the cross but fail to truly see the founder and perfecter of our faith.  Jesus, thank You for seeing the joy on the other side of self-denial. Help me to do the same.

 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

John 3:16 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God so loved the world that He gave.  That’s what love is, giving. The fact that He gave His only Son is mind-boggling.  The sorrow both Father and Son must have felt is unfathomable, but so is the love demonstrated.  Thank You Father for allowing your love to mingle with sorrow, for our good.

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Ephesians 5:2 ESV

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

It was the love of Christ that led Him through the sorrow of giving Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.  Jesus joined the Father’s sorrow with His own. Thank You Jesus for modeling other-centered love in the most profound way possible, the Anointed One becoming sin for us.

 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

John 19:5 ESV

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

I love rhetorical questions.  Is there a more powerful linguistic tool? I think not.  To be clear, no thorns ever composed a crown so rich as this one, for it became the one the God Man wore as He willingly laid down His life.  Hallelujah!

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.