Simon, Who Bore the Cross

The New Testament mentions many obscure people. One is Simon, grabbed by Romans soldiers to carry the cross behind Jesus for the final leg of that famous walk to Golgotha. Matthew, Mark and Luke mention him. John generalizes the incident by stating “He went out, bearing His own cross” (Jn.19:17). His exposure in the gospel writings indicates his important, yet unexpected role with the cross. Simon has always been remembered by grateful disciples down through the centuries. Continue reading

Does What You Wear Fit?

The citizens of the Island of Crete didn’t have a very good reputation. Paul quoted one of their writers, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Not very complimentary. Yet there were congregations of the Lord’s church present comprised of people struggling to reflect Jesus in their lives. So Titus was instructed to teach “things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (2:1). He was to help them live sound, moral, sensible lives. Like well-fitting clothes, life needs to fit who we say we are. Continue reading

We Are Free

John looked out over the Agean Sea from the high hills of Patmos, as he no doubt often did, and saw islands tantalizingly close. One wonders how difficult it must have been for the apostle in exile. He speaks of his temporary island in Revelation 1:9. Used to a busy life, it must have been suffocating to be confined to this lonely place surrounded by endless water. He longed to be with his brethren.

In his book he speaks of Jesus Christ “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (1:9). For a prisoner, the word “released” is all-important. John looked forward to the day when he would be released and free again. What made his exile tolerable was the fact he had been released from his sins. No matter his surroundings, he was free.

“Released” in Greek is very close to the word “washed,” which is the way the King James Version translates it. Here we have our cherished phrase, “washed in His blood.” Freedom from sin is the result, so our modern versions translate it “released” or “freed.” His blood washes away our sins and grants us freedom. The tense of the verb “released” indicates a one-time action in the past that still affects us today. John is reminding us that Jesus did all that was needed to free us from sin when he gave His blood on the cross. It reaches down through the centuries and frees us today.

I find it remarkable that John felt free even while confined. Paul expressed similar thoughts in 2 Tim.2:9, “I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” Freedom from sin’s penalty and practice grants us a tremendous new life inside, even if life seems outwardly shackled in some way. We are free indeed!

– Tim Johnson

Jesus the Faithful Witness

The Book of Revelation gives us many names for Jesus Christ, all of them designed to teach us something about Him. In the first chapter He’s called “the faithful witness” (v4), and repeated in 3:14. A witness, in a legal setting, is someone who confirms the truth of something they have seen. In the New Testament, a witness is someone involved in preaching what he has seen and knows. The apostles were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and as Peter explained in Acts 10:41-42, they were ordered to preach and testify this truth. This was often difficult because apostolic preachers regularly faced violence, opposition, and threats of imprisonment and death if they continued to preach as witnesses. Therefore Jesus urged them to be faithful in their important work as witnesses, despite the dangers. Continue reading

A Dark Yet Magnificent Contrast

In one of Peter’s early sermons in Jerusalem, he spoke of the man they released from prison – Barabbas. (Acts 3:13-15). “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life.” Have you ever thought about the contrast between these two men?

Barabbas was a murderer; he had no regard for human life. He is the one the Jewish people liberated and welcomed back into society, but turned their backs on Jesus. Continue reading