Category Archives: Discipleship

“Why does Luke pay so much attention to Jesus’ burial?” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Luke wants you to admire Joseph of Arimathea. He was ‘a good and righteous man’ (Luke 23:50). That meant he was faithful to God’s covenant and experienced its blessings. Like some others in this Gospel, he was ‘looking’– waiting expectantly– for God’s kingdom to come.

He was also a member of the Sanhedrin but had not consented to its condemnation of Jesus (perhaps its leaders had avoided summoning to the crisis meeting anyone whose loyalties they suspected). Matthew and John tell us explicitly what Luke only implies: he was also a rich man (he already owned a tomb in Jerusalem); and he was a secret disciple who, until this point, had lacked the courage to confess it (Matthew 27:57; John 19:38).

The Sanhedrin was a very select group of well-connected men. Word of mouth travelled fast in Jerusalem. Joseph must soon have learned what had happened. Jesus was dead.

It was now or never for Joseph. He stepped out of the shadows, went directly to Pilate and asked for the body. This was not without risk, or cost. If Pilate granted his request, and Joseph personally handled Jesus’ body, he would be rendering himself ritually unclean.

But he knew that otherwise Jesus’ body would probably be thrown into a common grave where the bones of many criminals already lay– perhaps right there at The Skull (was this the derivation of the name?). Some things are far more important than ritual purity.

Pilate was probably relieved. Now he could relax and forget about the problem of Jesus. Little did he know… But for Joseph there must have been three hours of feverish activity. It was already past three o’clock and the Jewish Sabbath began at six o clock– not a lot of time to get to Pilate for permission, get back to The Skull, arrange helpers, and carry Jesus’ body to the family tomb.

Why does Luke pay so much attention to Jesus’ burial? For several reasons. The first is that he removes any doubt about the reality of Jesus’ death. The Roman soldiers had made sure of that. Joseph had himself handled the body, and others had helped him prepare it for burial and carry it to the tomb.

The second is that Luke makes clear that there was no confusion about the location of Jesus’ burial place. Joseph’s tomb was new, and a variety of witnesses knew where it was.

Then, thirdly, Luke adds that the women went to prepare spices and ointments to return after the Sabbath to anoint the body. In other words, nobody– despite what Jesus had taught them– was expecting Jesus’ resurrection.

But before we come to that resurrection, we should take another look at Joseph. Of all the Gospel-writers, Luke was most like a historian in his method. But historians can also be poets and theologians. And there is something poetically theological about the way he frames his whole Gospel.

His story of Jesus life begins with him being cared for by a man named Joseph, who places him in a borrowed resting place, in which no baby had ever been laid. It ends with Jesus being cared for again by a man named Joseph, who lays him in another borrowed resting place, where no man had ever been laid.

The story has come full circle; another Joseph has received Christ into his heart and life. At the turning point of Luke’s Gospel, near the beginning of the journey to Jerusalem, Jesus had said that discipleship meant following one who had ‘nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58). Now Joseph had come out into the open as a disciple, whatever it might cost. So he gave up to Jesus the place where he had planned to lay his own head.

At the cross, Jesus had given up what was His for the sake of Joseph. Now Joseph was giving up what was his for the sake of Jesus. That is what it means to be a disciple.”

—Sinclair B. Ferguson, To Seek and to Save: Daily Reflections on the Road to the Cross (Epsom, England: Good Book Company, 2020), 142-144.

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“This first” by Martin Luther

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.

This first.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 11: First Lectures on the Psalms II: Psalms 76-126 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 11; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 11: 245–246.

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“It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling” by Charles Spurgeon

“I am occupied, in my small way, as Mr. Great-heart was employed in Bunyan’s day. I do not compare myself with that champion, but I am in the same line of business.

I am engaged in personally-conducted tours to Heaven; and I have with me, at the present time, dear Old Father Honest: I am glad he is still alive and active.

And there is Christiana, and there are her children.

It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling.

I am often afraid of losing some of the weaklings. I have the heart-ache for them; but, by God’s grace, and your kind and generous help in looking after one another, I hope we shall all travel safely to the river’s edge.

Oh, how many have I had to part with there! I have stood on the brink, and I have heard them singing in the midst of the stream, and I have almost seen the shining ones lead them up the hill, and through the gates, into the Celestial City.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1854–1860 (vol. 2; Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899), 2: 131.

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“Your own soul is your first and greatest care” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power; much more a healthy soul.

Keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb.

Keep up close communion with God.

Study likeness to Him in all things.

Read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people.

Expound much; it is through the truth that souls are to be sanctified, not through essays upon the truth.

Be easy of access, apt to teach, and the Lord teach you and bless you in all you do and say. You will not find many companions. Be the more with God.

My dear people are anxiously waiting for you. The prayerful are praying for you.

Be of good courage; there remaineth much of the land to be possessed.

Be not dismayed, for Christ shall be with thee to deliver thee.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 216-217.

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“Aim to walk as He walked by a sweet constraining sense of His love in meekness, in benevolence, and in humility” by John Newton

“I hope when this letter comes, it will find you and your’s comfortable, and your heart and mouth full of gratitude to Him who crowneth the year with His goodness.

Well, these returning years each bear away a large portion of our time, and the last year cannot be far off. Oh, that precious name which can enable a sinner to think of his last year and his last hour without dismay!

What do we owe to Him who has disarmed death of its sting and horrors, and shown us the land of light and immortality beyond the grave! May He be with us in the new year.

Yea, He has promised He will be with us, even unto death. Therefore, though we know not what a day may bring forth, we need fear no evil; for He knows all, and will provide accordingly.

Oh, what a relief is it, to be enabled to cast every care and burden upon Him that careth for us!

Though the night should be dark, the storm loud, and the billows high, the infallible Pilot will steer our barks safely through.

Let us help each other with our prayers, that the little uncertain remainder of life may be filled up to the praise of our dear Lord; that we may be united to His will, conformed to His image, and devoted to His service.

Thus we shall show forth His praise: if we aim to walk as He walked, and, by a sweet constraining sense of His love, are formed into a habitual imitation of His spirit and temper, in meekness, integrity, benevolence towards men, and in humility, dependence, resignation, confidence, and gratitude towards Him.

I pity such wise-headed Calvinists as you speak of. I am afraid there are no people who more fully answer the character, and live in the spirit of the Pharisees of old, than some professed loud sticklers for free grace.

They are wise in their own eyes: their notions, which the pride of their hearts tells them are so bright and clear, serve them for a righteousness, and they trust in themselves and despise others.

One modest, inquiring Arminian is worth a thousand such Calvinists in my esteem. You will do well to preach quietly in your own way, not minding what others say, while your own conscience testifies that you preach the truth.

If you are travelling the right road, (to London for instance,) though fifty people should meet you and say you are wrong, you, knowing you are right, need not mind them.

But, alas! The spirit of self, which makes us unwilling to hear of contradiction, is not easily subdued.

I am your’s,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Vol. 6 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 6: 196–197.

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“A rich and gracious Savior” by John Newton

“I may express all my complaints in one short sentence: I am a poor creature.

And all my hopes and comforts may be summed up as briefly by saying: I have a rich and gracious Saviour.

Full as I am in myself of inconsistencies and conflicts, I have in Him a measure of peace.

He found me in a waste howling wilderness. He redeemed me from the house of misery and bondage.

And though I have been ungrateful and perverse, He has not yet forsaken me. I trust He never will.

‘Unsustained by Thee I fall.’ But He is able to hold even me up: to pity, to support, and to supply me to the end of life.

How suitable a Saviour! He is made all things to those who have nothing, and He is engaged to help those who can do nothing.”

–John Newton, The Aged Pilgrim’s Thoughts Over Sin and the Grave, Illustrated in a Series of Letters to Walter Taylor, Never Before Published, by the Rev. John Newton (London: Baker and Fletcher, 2nd Ed., 1825), 6.

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“The storm is guided by the hands which were nailed to the cross” by John Newton

“Public affairs look darker still. Expectation is on tiptoe waiting for hourly news from all parts of the world but foreboding that the news, whenever it comes or from whatever quarter, will be distressing.

I am afraid what we next hear from America will not be pleasing. That unhappy country is still likely to be a scene of desolation and our people there likely to sink under the weight of pretended successes.

In the West Indies, Tobago is gone, and perhaps by this time some other of our islands. And the cry of oppression in the East Indies seems at length to have awakened judgment there.

Yet the spirit of the nation seems like that of the thoughtless mariner, asleep on the top of the mast, regardless of the danger every moment increasing.

Yet still I hope there is mercy. The gospel spreads, grace reigns, the number of praying souls is on the increase, and their prayers I trust will be heard.

We are sure that the Lord reigns; that the storm is guided by the hands which were nailed to the cross, and that as He loves His own, He will take care of them.

But they who have not an ark to hide themselves in will probably weep and wail before the indignation be over-past.

Blessed be God for a land of peace where sin and every sorrow will be excluded.”

–John Newton, as quoted in Josiah Bull, Memorials of the Rev. William Bull, of Newport Pagnel: 1738-1814, (London: James Nisbet and Company, 1864), 88-89. This letter was written in April 1781.

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