In on the Divine Joke of the Gospel (John 16:16–24)

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”

—John 16:16–17

As the Upper Room Discourse draws to a close, Jesus presents to the disciples something of a riddle. “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Later, this riddle, along with Jesus’ elaborations thereon, are referred to as “figures of speech.” The disciples later say that they understand once Jesus speaks plainly (16:29), but it is clear that even then they don’t yet fully get it.

The gospel is a divine joke that Jesus lets His friends in on. When the joke sets in for the disciples, their sorrow will be turned to joy. They will then see how Jesus’ trouble speaks to their comfort. They will laugh and their joy will be indestructible. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (16:20).

When does the joke set in? They will see when they see. In a little while, they will see. The resurrection is the punch line that brings joy out of the cross. The gospel is not a joke for those with a dark, twisted, macabre sense of humor.

John Piper has said that the gospels are meant to be read backwards. There is a sense in which you have to read them twice in order just to read them once. In particular, he was referring to the cross as illuminating everything that comes before it, but of course he meant the cross in light of the resurrection. You must not only read the life of Jesus in light of His death. You must read His death in light of His life—His resurrection life.

Sinclair Ferguson tells of a clever British economist who when asked one December of the expected economic forecast answered, “the significance of Christmas will not become clear until Easter.” Easter is the explanation to the riddle of Christmas. God wrapped His Son in Human flesh in the incarnation. The meaning of that gift was unwrapped when His flesh was rent on the cross. But it is the Resurrection that then makes sense of why Good Friday is good. If there is no resurrection, there is no gospel. Without the resurrection, the cross is void of good news. But the tomb is empty, and thus, our hearts are full of joy.

Follow the Tendons (Exodus 39)

As you study the anatomy of the Scripture, don’t be so wowed by its muscle that you fail to notice the ligaments and tendons. The connective tissue of the Bible is fascinating. Often it tells you what the muscle is there for—what it does.

Note the way this section (Exodus 39:1–32), which clearly deals with the priest’s garments, begins. There is no introduction. It seems abrupt and clumsy. In urging you to pay attention to the connective tissue of the Bible I am also asking you to pay little regard to chapter divisions. They’re helpful as addresses and pretty much detrimental otherwise. The chapter divisions often dissect the text unnaturally, separating muscle from tendon. Read from 38:21 forward, without the chapter division, and see if there is a flow. When you read about the records for the tabernacle, do you feel as though something is missing? Of all the things contributed for the tabernacle, we’re only told about the precious metals. What about the fabric?

So while Exodus 39:1–32 is different, it clearly has ties back to chapter 38. Here is why this is significant: it means that the priestly garments are part of the tabernacle. The making of them is included as part of “the records of the tabernacle (38:21).” This section ends speaking of the completion of “the work of the tabernacle (39:32).” These garments match the tabernacle curtains and the veil because they are one with it. The priest, clothed in holiness is linked to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies as part of it. Vern Poythress writes, “The high priest himself is in fact a kind of vertical replica of the tabernacle.”

So, this is significant, because all of this is significant. All of this, altogether, inseparably, is a sign pointing to Christ. This is what the connective tissue of the Bible always tells us. Why is the muscle there? Follow the tendons. They always lead to Christ.

Tolle Lege: The World-Tilting Gospel



Readability: 1

Length: 308 pp

Author: Dan Phillips

Want to read a book that powerfully presents the gospel? Here you go, Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel. Want a book that will help you develop a Biblical worldview? Ibid. Don’t think a book can do both? Then you don’t understand the gospel and you don’t understand the world. Now we have gone from a want to a need. If you don’t see the connection then you need to read a book like this. Here you go:

Self-image matters, but not in the way that pop psychology paints it. What one makes of the human condition—what you think you are now, and/or what you think you were when God found you and made you His—has a major ongoing impact on our approach to God, our view of Him, and our day-to-day relationship with God.

Suppose we have the belief that we are good people who simply need a bit of a leg up. We aren’t really bad-hearted. People just don’t understand us. Deep down inside we mean well and want good things. Oh, we may have a few bad habits, we sometimes make a bad call here and there—a mistake, a goof, an “oops” . . . but it’s what’s inside that counts, and what’s inside is good.

Here’s Bud Goodheart, for instance. Bud sees himself as a decent, moral, well-meaning guy. So naturally Bud is attracted to the sort of worldview that presents God as the grand Rubber Stamp in the Sky. This God loves us unconditionally, just as we are, and wants us to realize our deepest dreams and aspirations. “Go for it, child!” Bud’s God cheers. “I’m right behind you!” That’s the line from the pulpit . . . or stool, or “enablement stand,” or whatever. “God wants you to pursue your dreams!”

So Bud simply brings God his biggest and brightest dreams, and God signs off on them. Whump! Whump! Whump! goes the heavenly rubber stamp. Approved! God claps Bud on the back, gives a big thumbs-up—and off Bud trots. Pursuing Bud’s agenda. Because God has Bud’s back.

How will such a man, such a woman, see Christ? Not as a Savior, surely. As Facilitator, as Enabler, as Cheerleader inspiring him to pursue his dreams, his goals, his ambitions. What is the Cross, to Bud? If anything, it is an expression of God’s love and approval. The Cross proves how much Bud means to God, how worthy Bud is, how irresistibly adorable Bud is to God. The Cross tells Bud that he is okay—that God just wants to fulfill Bud and make him happy with himself. It’s about affirmation, not execution.

Bud may view the Christian life as an ongoing negotiation with his partner, Jesus. Nothing radical, certainly. After all, Bud “invited” Jesus in, he gave Christ a “chance,” he “tried Christ” (like the bumper sticker says). Jesus was a plug-in, an add-on, like some enhancement to a web browser—a really good and powerful plugin that promises big things, but a plug-in nonetheless.

And Bud maintains control of the relationship.

But, you see, if Bud is wrong about himself, and he’s wrong about God, and he’s wrong about Christ, and he’s wrong about the Cross—then Bud is wrong about the relationship, too.

It matters!

WTS Books: $13.10               Amazon: $13.28

The Pilgrim: Sweeping the Dusty Parlour of Our Heart

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, Bring hither the water, and sprinkle the room; the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

CHR. Then said Christian, What means this?

INTER. The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest, that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to shew thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue.[Rom. 7:6; 1 Cor. 15:56; Rom. 5:20]

Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show thee, that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit. [John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; Acts 15:9; Rom. 16:25,26; John 15:13] – John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

Liberals and Conservatives

Liberals and conservatives both try to solve “sin” by law. Liberals think the solution is government, conservatives, a recovery of morality. Both are right and both are wrong. Liberals are right in recognizing that a solution needs to be found outside of us; conservatives are right in seeing that the problem is us, but the solution is further up, and the problem deeper within. The problem is the human heart, and the solution is the God of heaven. Only gospel light can eradicate the darkness.

The darkness in the hearts of men
Is not illuminated form within
It takes a sword to break the skin
And let the healing sunlight in
– Justin McRoberts, A Hope Deferred

The Pugilist: The Law Presupposes Grace

The piety of the Old Testament thus began with faith. And though, when the stage of the law was reached, the emphasis might seem to be thrown rather on the obedience of faith, what has been called ‘faith in action,’ yet the giving of the law does not mark a fundamental change in the religion of Israel, but only a new stage in its orderly development. The law-giving was not a setting aside of the religion of promise, but an incident in its history; and the law given was not a code of jurisprudence for the world’s government, but a body of household ordinances for the regulation of God’s family. It is therefore itself grounded upon the promise, and it grounds the whole religious life of Israel and the grace of the covenant God (Ex. xx. 2). It is only because Israel are the children of God, and God has sanctified them unto Himself and chosen them to be a peculiar people into Him (Deut. xiv. 1), that He proceeds to frame them by His law for His especial treasure (Ex. xix. 5, cf. Tit. ii. 14). Faith, therefore, does not appear as one of the precepts of law, nor as a virtue superior to its precepts, nor yet as a substitute for keeping them; it rather lies behind the law as its presupposition. – B.B. Warfield, The Biblical Doctrine of Faith