Foreigners in Our Native Land

April 9, 2021

Peter tells his readers that they were ransomed from the futile ways passed down from their forefathers (1 Peter 1:18). Later in the letter, he says:

With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery… 1 Peter 4:4, ESV

The word “surprised” is intriguing because it has literary connections in the letter that are not obvious in English. The word translated “surprised” is based on the xeno root which means stranger or foreigner (as in xenophobia, the fear of strangers or foreigners). The standard Greek lexicon defines the word used in this way.

to cause a strong psychological reaction through introduction of someth. new or strange, astonish, surprise*

This connects with a theme within 1 Peter. Peter addresses his readers as “exiles of the dispersion” (1:1). In 1:17, he tells them “to conduct yourself with fear (or reverence) throughout the time of your exile.” In 2:11, he writes:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 ESV

Since we are redeemed from futile ways, we will be different from the world around us. We will seem like foreigners even in our native land, because we are citizens of heaven. This surprise on the part of others should not catch us off guard. It means we are preparing ourselves for another world.

−Russ Holden

*A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p.684.

The Seven Sayings from the Cross

April 3, 2021

Crucifixion was designed to be an excruciating and humiliating death. It was a chaotic scene of Roman soldiers, dying men, and passersby hurling insults. In the midst of this, Jesus speaks.

Prayer — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, ESV). Jesus had been beaten, scourged, mocked, spat upon, and nailed to the cross. Yet there is no bitterness, anger, or rage at his attackers. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

Promise — “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43, ESV). Passersby ridiculed him. The chief priests and religious leaders mocked. Even the criminals on either side joined in the abuse, but one repented. To him Jesus offered a gracious promise.

Provision — “Woman, behold, your son!…Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26, 27, ESV). In the midst of his own agony, Jesus thought of his mother and her care. He provided for her by putting her in the care of the disciple whom he loved.

Petition — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, ESV). Jesus was crucified at about 9 a.m. At noon, darkness fell upon the land. He died about 3 p.m. at about the same time as the evening sacrifices in the temple. It was a lonely job dying for the sins of the world. The cry of dereliction as it is often called were words from Psalm 22:1. Even with the feelings of abandonment, the psalm expressed trust and hope.

Pain — “I thirst” (John 19:28, ESV). Hanging by the arms, the pectoral muscles became paralyzed and the intercostal muscles were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but not exhaled without raising yourself up, which meant fighting against the searing pain of the nail in the feet. Catching each breath was exhausting work. Jesus’ thirst witnessed to the pain of the cross and Jesus’ humanity.

Purpose — “It is finished” (John 19:30). W.T. Hamilton wrote: “All that he had come to do was done. Prophecies fulfilled; atonement made; law fulfilled (Matt. 5:17); sufferings over. This is a statement of victory.” The purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth was fulfilled.

Prayer — “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46, ESV). Again the words of a psalm (Psalm 31:5) were on Jesus’ lips. It was a cry of faith. Death will not conquer.

As you ponder the cross, what do you see? What do you hear? What is your response?

—Russ Holden