Well, another year has come and gone. Living here in Los Angeles, Christmas has a way of sneaking up on you. I blame the weather. Sure, we have had some frigid temperatures here of 40º, but usually that’s at night for a week here or there. As I write this, it is 2:30am and only 52º outside right now. So, not having cold winters gives Christmas a chance to tip-toe up through December without one being entirely aware.
That being said, I am a bit behind in getting my Christmas card art created. With having some recent freelance, then being sick for a week, it was looking like the card might not happen this year. That would have been a personal tragedy because if memory serves, I have prepared a fresh & tasty original Christmas card every year since 1995.
I know what you are thinking. “If you know Christmas comes every year, why don’t you do the art in August?” My answer to that is, “If you think warm LA winters hurt the mood of the holidays, try dreaming of a white Christmas in August!”
That being said, I finished the art on December 18 by the hair of my chinny chin chin. This year inspiration came by way of the great Christmas hymn O Come All Ye Faithful. It was originally written in Latin, but thankfully years later it was translated into English. (I spared you the Latin.) Set to a soul-stirring melody, the verses of this song celebrate the story of Christ’s birth and what it means to those who trust in Christ – the “faithful” to whom the song speaks. Also included is the Bible passage found in Matthew 11:28-30 that seems to compliment the message of the song nicely.
So, presented to you here is my 2010 Christmas card celebrating the birth of Christ whose sole purpose was to die for the sins of man. Can you truly be counted among “the faithful”? It is my prayer that you and yours may experience the joy of Christ this Christmas by trusting in Him.
Welcome to Resurrection Sunday. For those who believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of Messianic prophesy, today is an exciting celebration! While Friday was the day that displayed Jesus’ humanity with the taste of death, today is the day He truly showed His deity by rising from the dead. Let us continue the account from the Bible illustrated with my drawings created for the Generations of Grace Sunday school curriculum.
As the Jews were strict with their traditions, they could not have bodies remaining on crosses on the Sabbath day (John 19:31) which was the day following Christ’s crucifixion. So they requested that Pilate have the legs broken of Jesus and the two other criminals that were crucified with Him to hasten their deaths (suffocation would likely occur). As Jesus had already expired, His legs were not broken which fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 34:20 in the Old Testament.
A wealthy man named Joseph from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60) offered to take Jesus’ body and bury it in the stone tomb he had planned to have himself buried in one day. A great stone was rolled in front of the doorway. The following day, the chief priests and Pharisees remembered Christ’s prophecy that He would rise from the dead on the third day after His death. They asked Pilate for guards be placed by the tomb so that Christ’s followers couldn’t sneak in, steal the body, and claim Jesus had risen. Pilate agreed and established a round-the-clock watch. (Matthew 27:62-66)
According to accounts in Luke 24, on the morning of the third day, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, were among several women who went down early to the tomb hoping to get in to treat Christ’s body with spices. Even the most faithful such as these did not believe Jesus would conquer death. When they arrived, they were shocked to discover that the huge stone that blocked the doorway had been rolled away. When they looked into the tomb, they saw there was no body. Two angels spoke to them saying, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen…” (Luke 24:5-6).
If one looks at all four of the Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), one would see all the details of what occurred at the tomb. An earthquake shook, angels appeared which scared the guards silly (Matthew 28 says they became like “dead men”), and an angel rolled back the stone. The guards took off and were later paid for their silence (Matthew 28:11-15) while the women ran back to tell the disciples that the Lord was RISEN!
Apparently even Jesus’ own disciples never believed He would rise again, for the news from the women was met with disbelief. Two of the men ran back to the tomb with them to see for themselves, after which Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene in the cemetary (John 20:11-18). He started appearing to others as well that day such as to Peter (Luke 24:34), a couple traveling to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), and to the disciples in Galilee (Luke 24:36-49) where He appeared in a room that had all entrances shut.
That one surprised them, but to assure His disciples He wasn’t a vision, Jesus showed them his hand and foot wounds, and even ate some broiled fish and honey (Luke 24:41-43). Christ continued to make appearances to His faithful after that, even to over five hundred people at once (I Corinthians 15:6-7).
After forty days of these visits, Jesus had one last talk with His remaining eleven disciples (Judas had committed suicide under the guilt of his betrayal in Matthew 27:3-10). Acts 1:2-11 talks about Jesus’ parting words encouraging them to continue showing how only He “is the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but..” through Him. (John 14:6) Then He just ascended into heaven promising to one day physically return. That day is what Christians continue to look forward to even now.
In ancient times, God demanded of His people that a blood sacrifice was to be made for the forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9 speaks of this, and specifically in verse 22 it says, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” The Jews followed this practice with animal sacrifice, most often using the most perfect lamb from their flocks to do so. Throughout Scripture, Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb of God” as He was the New Testament replacement for animal sacrifice. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28)
How does one get in on the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice? Acts 16:31 says, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” and Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It’s open to anyone in whatever situation your life has led you to at this point.
This concludes my posts on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that took place this week all those many years ago. As you can see, His sacrifice and the miracle of His return from the grave are together what defines true Christianity, and what makes Easter Sunday so special.
Over the past few days I’ve been writing about the historical biblical order of events that took place during this week a couple thousand years ago in Israel during the traditional observance of Passover, illustrated with my children’s Bible lesson drawings from the Generations of Grace curriculum. Whether you are a believer in Christ as Messiah or not, those events, that only took a few days to occur, have influenced all of humanity ever since.
The Bible is pretty detailed about the treatment of Christ leading up to His execution, specifically in Matthew 27:27-34. First, the Roman soldiers had their fun – they stripped Him, put a red robe on Him, and pushed a ring of thorns onto His head as a mock crown while taunting Him with “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spit on Him and beat Him more. It was the custom of the day with crucifixions to have the guilty party drag their own cross through the streets to the place of execution. The soldiers had so badly beaten Christ that they had to recruit a fella on the sidelines (Simon of Cyrene) to carry Jesus’ cross for Him.
Once they reached the hill of Golgotha, Jesus was nailed to the cross with big spikes. One historian I read described the ancient practice of crucifixion as such:
“A painful and slow means of execution which the Romans adopted from the Phoenicians. The victim usually died after two or three days, of thirst, exhaustion, and exposure. The hands were often nailed to the crossbeam, which was then hoisted up and affixed to the upright, to which the feet were then nailed. A peg, astride which the victim sat, supported the main weight of the body. Death was sometimes hastened by breaking the legs, but not in Christ’s case (John 19:33)”
While I have summarized these events, the Bible is even more specific with these matters in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. They are the utterly fascinating accounts written by two eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) and two who heard about it from the disciples later (Mark and Luke). I encourage you to look them up and read them for yourselves.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, but as many of Christ’s followers like to refer to it – Resurrection Sunday. I’ll conclude my comments on these events with a couple more drawings tomorrow morning.
During the Last Supper that Christ had with his disciples, Peter made the bold statement to Jesus, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” (Matthew 26:33) Up to that point, the disciples probably hadn’t experienced too much persecution for their newfound faith in Christ. Jesus replied to Peter, “Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (Matt. 26:34) Jesus knew what was to come, The prophecy outlined in Isaiah 53:7 said about the Messiah that:
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
After Jesus’ arrest, He was eventually brought before Caiaphas (the high priest) who held a closed religious trial late that night without first charging Christ with a crime and without following the legal proceedings of the day. Many false witnesses were brought forth that could not pin anything on Jesus, and all the while He stood there in silence as the Isaiah prophecy stated. Caiaphas eventually asked Jesus, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matt. 26:63) Jesus responded in verse 64, “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Jesus accepted the claim that He was God come in the flesh as the Messiah would claim. Caiaphas charged Jesus with blasphemy.
While Christ’s illegal trial was taking place, Peter was outside keeping to himself most likely waiting to see what was happening with Jesus. He certainly was fearful of what might happen to a follower of Christ on that night. Matthew 26:69-75 recounts how Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times to random inquiries from strangers. A rooster crowed after the third denial, thus fulfilling Jesus’ suppertime prophesy of Peter’s impending behavior.
Israel was under the control of the Romans at this time. Caiaphas’ trial did not have the authority, being under the Roman government, to measure out capital punishment. In the morning, the Jews took Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate who, after reviewing Christ’s case, said in John 18:38, “I find in him no fault at all.”
It was customary to grant freedom to one prisoner as a part of the Passover celebration. Pilate was all ready to release Jesus, but the people wanted Jesus’ blood. Also in captivity was an infamous prisoner named Barabbas. Pilate said, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:17) The people unanimously chose the evil Barabbas, and demanded that Christ be crucified (Matthew 27:21-23).
“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.’ Then answered all the people, and said, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children.’ Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” – Matthew 27:24-26
While today, Good Friday, is the day that is observed for Christ’s death on the cross, I will post that part of the events tomorrow.
The religious leaders of the day really did not care for Christ. According to Matthew 23, Jesus taught at the temple and openly confronted the scribes and Pharisees calling them out on their hypocrisy. Later in Matthew 26:3-5, the Jewish religious leaders plotted to kill Christ:
“Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, ‘Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.'”
They didn’t wish to garner ill will among the people by taking Jesus down on day of the Passover celebration, but their opportunity would come soon enough.
Enter Judas Iscariot – whether or not you are familiar with the Bible, Judas is probably a familiar figure. Not too many children today are named “Judas” because his name is synonymous with “traitor”. He was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples who had been in constant contact with the Son of God seeing His practice AND His preaching. Judas covertly went to the priests in Matthew 26:15 and said, “What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?” The priests hired him for thirty pieces of silver with the agreement that Judas would betray Christ to them. They had their inside man.
The Last Supper, as it is so commonly called (probably because of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting) was actually Jesus and His disciples celebrating the traditional Jewish Passover feast. Jesus knew He was going to be crucified as that was His purpose. As the Son of God, He was the perfect sacrificial “lamb” that would die for the sins of mankind, and He was okay with that – and He knew that Judas would betray Him. Christ says in Matthew 26:24-25:
“‘The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.’ Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, ‘Master, is it I?’ He said unto him, ‘Thou hast said.'”
After dinner, Christ took Peter, James and John with Him to the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) where He asked them to stay behind and be a watch while He went on a little further to pray. His prayer to God was filled with such agony. He didn’t fear physical pain, nor the actions of man. Jesus was about to experience the full cup of divine wrath for the sins of mankind. And His disciples couldn’t stay awake as He had asked them to.
Not long after this prayer to God, Judas “came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.” (Matthew 26:47) Judas had told the fellas with him that the one he kissed was the one they could arrest (v. 48). As he did so, you can almost hear the snear in his voice when in verse 49 Judas says, “Hail, master,” then kissed Jesus. This moment holds such historic resonance even today as it is the origin of our saying “the kiss of death”.
Come back tomorrow – Good Friday, to see and read more about the significance of this week in the life, death, and life again of Christ.
In light of this being the Easter/Passover week, it seemed like the most appropriate time to break out some of my Bible drawings that deal with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that took place this very week almost 2000 years ago.
A few years ago my church decided to take on the task of creating a professional looking Sunday school curriculum which they called Generations of Grace. Over the course of five years, three years’ worth of Sunday lessons were written by a team of theologians, and in a coloring book style, I drew most of the art used. The curriculum was planned so that all the elementary aged kids in a church will learn the same lesson on the same day at their own grade level. That way if you have several kids, all your children will learn the same thing that day. It has worked out pretty well, and from what I understand, it is being used in churches all over the country, and even in some international locations.
Since last Sunday is widely referred to as “Palm Sunday” by Christians, today I’ll post a drawing of Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey (as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9) for the observance of Passover as accounted in Matthew 21.
The priests and Pharisees, seeing Jesus as a threat to their traditions, already had it out for Him (Matt. 21:15). Christ had become accepted among the people of Israel as word of His miracles (recently raising Lazarus from the dead being one of renown) had spread. The city was crowded as it was the week of Passover. As John 12:13 states, the people “took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, ‘Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.'”
The Israelites wanted Jesus to be their earthly king, but He had come as the Messiah to deliver them from their own wickedness which held no interest for them. Later that week, when they realized He was not delivering them from Rome, their mood turned….