Wednesday, April 05, 2023

‘The Son of Man must suffer’

The Cross stands at the heart of the Christian faith. Yes, believers sit at the feet of Jesus the Teacher, captivated by his compelling vision of the righteous life in the Sermon on the Mount. They marvel at the miracles the Bible reports he performed; making the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. But the Gospel accounts never let us forget for a moment that the Man who preached the Sermon on the Mount and made broken human beings whole was heading for the death of the Cross. Jesus knew it, which was why he repeatedly told his followers, 'the Son of Man must suffer... and be killed'.

What lies behind that 'must'? Was Jesus' death by crucifixion the outworking of the unstoppable forces of history? When Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister he acknowledged he was powerless to resist calls in the Conservative Party that he should be removed from Number 10, ‘When the herd moves, it moves', he reflected. In Jesus' case, the Jewish religious establishment wanted him out of the way. They feared unless Jesus was stopped they would lose their power. They manipulated Pontius Pilate by forcing him choose between loyalty to Caesar and condemning Jesus to death. Inevitably, Pilate sent Jesus to the Cross rather than risk upsetting the Emperor. But there is more to Jesus' 'must' than that.

Perhaps the 'must' can be attributed to the blind forces of fate that are said to determine who wins the Lottery and who gets run over by a bus? But Jesus wasn't being fatalistic when he spoke of his impending death, going to the Cross resigned to 'whatever will be will be'. No, the 'must' that compelled Jesus towards Calvary was his sense that it was his God-given mission to suffer and be killed. Why? The Bible's answers that quite simply, 'Christ died for our sins'. In other words, the 'must' of which Jesus spoke was the fulfilment of God's rescue plan for the world, 'God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Now all who believe in Jesus are forgiven and put right with God.

Not only Jesus’ death, but also his resurrection was covered by the divine ‘must’, ‘the Son of Man must suffer... and be killed, and after three days rise again’. It was not possible for death to maintain its iron grip on the Prince of Life.

Easter services at Providence & Ebenezer

Providence Baptist Church
Good Friday 10.30am
Easter Sunday 10.30am & 6.00pm

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Easter Sunday 4.30pm

* For April edition of various parish magazines 

Monday, April 03, 2023

The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care by David Powlison

Crossway, 2021, 76pp
In this little work, David Powlison underlines the uniqueness of pastoral counselling. All pastors are counsellors, but their counselling ministry is distinct from others who offer a ‘talking cure’ to distressed individuals. Pastoral counselling is about soul care, that ‘art of arts’ that aims at helping form people into mature and fruitful followers of Jesus. Pastors are not to maintain a professional distance from those they seek to counsel. Pastoral counselling is part and parcel of the minister’s close relationship with members of the flock he is called to serve.
The pastor’s counselling may take place in snatched conversations at the fringes of church life, where he asks people how they are doing and seeks to encourage them in the Lord. When bereavement, family breakdown or other forms of suffering strike, the counselling will be more intensive. Similarly, when a pastor gives support to a believer who is engaged in a massive struggle with temptation and sin.
In all these things the pastor offers counsel not as an expert with all the answers, but as a fellow-sufferer and fellow-sinner. The work is to be carried out in God-dependent prayer, as the minister endeavours to apply the teaching of Scripture to the troubled soul. Personal counselling is not an alternative to public preaching. It is an extension of the pastor’s calling as a minister of the word of God in the service of the people of God. 

*Reviewed for the Banner of Truth Magazine