From Reviler to Believer: The Enlightenment of the Thief on the Cross

9/19/2020 0 Comments

Penitent Thief Crucified with Jesus

Whenever ordinary readers of the Bible come across Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, and Luke 23:39-40, they sometimes get confused as to how the thieves that were crucified together with the Lord Jesus Christ actually treated Him while they were hanging on the cross. Their confusion stems from what seemed to be a contradiction between the accounts of Matthew and Mark, and the account of Luke.

MATTHEW 27:44 (KJV)

The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

MARK 15:32 (KJV)

Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

In the verses above, Matthew and Mark both said that the two thieves both mocked and reviled Christ while they were on the cross. On the other hand, Luke mentioned that one of the thieves rebuked his fellow thief for deriding the Lord Jesus Christ.

LUKE 23:39-40 (KJV) says,

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

Actually, there is nothing to be confused about; more so, there is no contradiction at all in their respective accounts. All of their accounts are correct and true.

Apparently, confusion arises because some readers fail to consider the time element involved in the entire scenario. They have overlooked the fact that the two thieves and the Lord Jesus Christ were hanging on the cross, not just for a couple of minutes, but for about six to eight hours. And given that span of time, many things had happened which have opened the heart of one of the thieves, which made him change his attitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is true that both of them reviled the Lord Jesus Christ and hurled insulting words at Him, but that happened during the early hours of their crucifixion.

As the hours passed, after witnessing a number of things that had happened, one of them had a change of heart; he became compassionate toward Christ and eventually realized that Christ did not deserve to be in that situation — unlike the both of them who justly deserved a capital punishment for their felony.

One of the instances that could have reversed the thief’s impression of the Lord Jesus Christ was when he saw how caring and loving a son Christ was to Mary. The thief heard how Christ entrusted His mother, Mary, to the care of His beloved apostle, John. Even if Christ was in that very difficult situation, He was still thinking about the welfare of His mother, and He made sure that somebody would look after her when He was gone.

JOHN 19:26-27 (KJV)

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

The Lord Jesus Christ could see the hearts of men, and He saw how kind-hearted John was. That was why Christ entrusted Mary, His mother, unto him. That very day, John brought Mary into his own home where she was treated like a member of his household.

The thief also saw how Christ endured all of the insults and mockery of the people around them. Aside from that, he also witnessed how the Lord Jesus Christ remained meek despite the unkind treatment given to Him by the soldiers when He thirsted — instead of water, He was given vinegar.

JOHN 19:28-30 (KJV)

28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 
29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The thief also heard Christ pray to the Father to forgive those who did Him wrong because they knew not what they do (Luke 23:34) — a prayer which can only be uttered by somebody whose heart overflows with love, mercy, and magnanimity.

The other incident that happened that struck the thief’s attention was when the sun darkened during their final hours.

MARK 15:33 (KJV)

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Darkness enveloped the whole land from the sixth hour, or twelve o’clock noon, up to the ninth hour, or three o’clock in the afternoon.

Bear in mind that these things did not happen in a matter of minutes. They happened with intervals, within the span of six to eight hours. This implies that the change in the attitude of one of the thieves toward the Lord Jesus Christ did not happen at a snap of a finger; the change was prompted by the things that he saw and heard. After witnessing those things, the thief who earlier reviled and mocked the Lord Jesus Christ experienced a conversion — from being a reviler, he became a believer that Christ is truly the Son of God.

LUKE 23:34-43 (KJV) says,

34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 
36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 
37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 
38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews. 
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Inevitably, the thief developed a feeling of remorse and repentance for what he had said and done earlier that day, as faith already sprung in his heart. That was why when his fellow thief was still talking to Christ with sarcasm and disrespect, he reprimanded him. Until it reached the point when he implored the Lord Jesus Christ: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

We can say that that thief was very fortunate because before he died, he was able to acknowledge Christ. And most especially, he had been assured that he will merit the bliss of paradise when the Lord Jesus Christ replied to him, “shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

So, very clearly, there are no contradicting ideas in the accounts given by the writers of the Gospel. The readers just have to realize that there are six or eight hours in the series of events that had transpired. And given those six or eight hours, many wondrous things could have happened. There is no denying that in the beginning, both of them railed the Lord Jesus Christ but, later on, one of them was moved by the things he had witnessed. He was enlightened. And this enlightenment led him to believing in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Developing faith in God and in Christ and entreating the Lord Jesus Christ to remember him when Christ goes to His kingdom were definitely the best things that this thief had done in his lifetime. Because of these, he became an heir of heaven. It is just unfortunate that the other thief did not experience the enlightenment and realization that he experienced.

To end, let me just emphasize that there are no contradictions in the inspired Scriptures. If there are verses that seem to contradict each other, the reader just has to consider the background story and the surrounding circumstances of the given situation. And to avoid confusion and misinterpretation, it is best to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit first when reading the Bible.

May God bless us all!

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The Purpose and Meaning of Life

9/12/2020 14 Comments

Purpose and meaning of life taught by honeybees

All creatures exist for a definite purpose, and it is in the fulfillment of such purpose that their lives become meaningful. 

If you are a keen observer of the different creatures around you, you would come to understand that each of them is aware of the very purpose of their existence, and that they are ready to carry out their purpose, no matter what it takes.  

Take the case of honeybees. A male honeybee, or a drone, knows that his purpose or duty is to mate with and impregnate the queen honeybee. And since he understands what his duty is, he performs it despite his knowledge that, in doing so, he would lose his life because after mating with the queen, he is destined to die. Hence, they call it sexual suicide.  

Below is an excerpt of an article entitled, “Sexual Suicide by Honey Bees: The tragic Plight of the Male Honey Bee.”

Sexual Suicide by Honey Bees: The Tragic Plight of the Male Honey Bee:

“The Male honeybee, called a drone, exists for one reason only—to mate with the queen. He is entirely expendable once he provides this service to the colony..."

The drone takes his mission seriously, however, and will give his life for the cause. Honey bee mating is one of the most dramatic examples of sexual suicide in the insect world. Honey bee sex occurs in mid-air when the queen flies out in search of mates. Drones compete for the chance to mate with their queen, swarming around her as she flies.

Eventually, a brave drone will make his move. As he grasps the queen, the drone everts his penis using a contraction of his abdominal muscles and hemostatic pressure and inserts it tightly into the queen's reproductive tract. He immediately ejaculates with such explosive force that the tip of his penis ruptures, and is left behind inside the queen. The drone falls to the ground, where he dies soon after…”
 

From this, we see how the male honeybee is taking his mission very seriously, even if it would cost him his own life.


It can be said that the life of the drone becomes meaningful because he is able to fulfill the purpose of his existence and becomes an instrument in the proliferation, or birth, of more honeybees. If the male honeybee, or the drone, takes his duty for granted, the bees of their kind would probably have already become endangered, or they could have undergone extinction. But because of their sexual encounters, the queen lays lots of honeybee eggs, which later on will be hatched and become young honeybees. 

It is not only the male honeybee, or the drone, that has a specific duty to perform. Actually, each member of the honeybee colony has a duty to fulfill. The queen, for example, is in charge of protecting the entire honeybee colony; it is her responsibility to defend their colony from intruders. And since she assumes a very huge responsibility, she is not required to go out to look for her food. That duty belongs to the worker bees. 

The worker bees are the ones who go out, hovering from one blossom to another to gather nectar for the queen. The worker bees collect nectar from flowers by sucking, and then, bringing it to the hive so that the queen will be assured of a steady supply of food. As the nectar is passed on through their mouths, it gradually turns into honey, which the worker bees store in honeycomb cells. As the queen honeybee cannot consume all of the honey that has been stored for her, the excess is consumed by humans.  

Honey, the honeycomb especially, does not only taste sweet, but it is also very beneficial to man’s health. In fact, eating honey is recommended by the Bible.  

PROVERBS 24:13 (KJV) says,

My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:

We can always count on every pronouncement of God written in the Bible. Honey, indeed, is good; actually, it is considered as a complete food for it contains all of the essential minerals and vitamins that the human body needs. Its completeness can be likened to milk which is also considered as complete food for babies. 

It must be remembered that when God delivered the Israelites from the land of Egypt, He promised to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey. 

EXODUS 3:8 (KJV)

And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey;...

That means the people of God would not lack nourishment in that land; both the young and the old would have a supply of complete food — milk for babes and honey for grown-ups. However, honey should not be given to infants or to children below one-year of age, as it could be detrimental to their lives. So, instead of honey, they should be given milk. Actually, even grown-ups are also advised to take just the right quantity of honey. 

According to the Bible, man should only eat a sufficient amount of honey, not excessively. 

PROVERBS 25:16 (KJV)

Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

If you ingest more than the sufficient amount of honey, your glycemic level will rise and this might induce vomiting. 

The point that I want to emphasize is this. If honeybees have not been faithful in fulfilling the purpose of their existence, that is, if the male honeybee refuses to risk his life in mating with the queen honeybee, if the worker bees, likewise, do not gather and store nectar for the queen, and if the queen fails to lay and hatch eggs which become young honeybees, surely, not only will their colony perish but, most especially, humans won’t get the chance to benefit from the health and curative properties of honey. Apparently, although honey is originally meant for their queen’s consumption, humans benefit from it, too. In other words, men have become the end beneficiaries of the bees’ diligent performance of their respective duties. 

Actually, even if we speak of other creations such as trees, cattle, fishes, hogs, and chickens, you will realize that the end beneficiaries of their existence are also men. They exist for the purpose of sustaining men of their need for nourishment; and their existence becomes meaningful because they are able to fulfill that purpose. 

Now, if non-human creatures exist for a definite and noble purpose, the same thing must be true with humans. Man also exists for a specific purpose, or duty, which he also ought to fulfill. And that duty is to serve God. Man must not spend his life aimlessly and uselessly; instead, he must spend it in honoring God and in keeping His commandments because that is his whole duty. 

As it is written in ECCLESIASTES 12:13 (KJV), 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Man’s whole duty is to serve God, the Creator of life. We owe Him our lives and our beings.

ACTS 17:28 (KJV) says,

For in him we live, and move, and have our being;...

So, it is but rightful that our lives be spent in serving our Creator — for without Him, we could not have existed here on earth.

Sadly, the people then did not realize it, so they killed Him — the Son of God and Author of life.

ACTS 3:15 (RSV)

and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

Instead of showing love and gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ and instead of serving Him, they even killed Him.

Indeed, it will be very unfortunate if we fail to understand the purpose of our existence, and if we won’t be able to discover the meaning of our lives, lest, we might just end up as loafers and idlers, or hedonists perhaps.

To understand the meaning of life is to know first the purpose of our existence as well as the duties that we have to fulfill. And it is in fulfilling our duties and in serving our purpose that our lives become meaningful.

As humans, our purpose and our whole duty is to serve God. That duty is what gives meaning to our lives — without it, our lives become purposeless and meaningless. So, if we want our lives to be purposeful and meaningful, we have to spend it in serving God. And serving God means honoring Him and keeping His commandments.

May God bless you!

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The Sweetest Voices Ever

9/05/2020 18 Comments


 
Voices from above


One of the fundamental doctrines that the Bible teaches God’s servants is to sing hymns of praises to Him. The practice of singing hymns to God dates back to the time of the Israelites, the early servants of God. And according to biblical accounts, they even used certain musical instruments, like psaltery, harp, and ten-stringed instruments to accompany them in singing. 


PSALM 92:1,3 (KJV)

1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: 3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.

Christians are likewise admonished to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. These songs are also a means of edifying, uplifting, and inspiring the brethren.

COLOSSIANS 3:16 (KJV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

And each time that we sing to God, we have to do it with grace in our hearts. Men, in general, are inherent lovers of music. Proof to this is the huge number of songs that are being written and sung practically for everyone and everything else.

For instance, there are songs meant for one’s country wherein patriotism, love, and loyalty to one’s motherland are expressed. In fact, every nation has its own national anthem which its citizens, young and old, sing before important ceremonies or proceedings begin. There are also songs dedicated to our beloved parents for their unconditional love and sacrifices. Catholics, on the other hand, have lots of songs meant to exalt Mary. There are songs expressive of astonishment and amazement at the beauty of nature and the universe. And there are also millions of songs that people sing for their friends and loved ones.

If we sing songs for all of them, with feelings and enthusiasm, isn’t it all the more fitting that we sing hymns to our Creator to express our faith, gratitude, praises, and appreciation for His lovingkindness? It doesn’t matter if we do not have very pleasing singing voices, or if we sing out of tune; what matters is that we are singing to God with sincerity and grace in our hearts.

We can be sure that even Christ and the apostles also sang hymns to God. The Bible does not give us any confirmation that the apostles had nice singing voices, but I truly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has a sweet and fascinating voice — sweeter and more fascinating than any other voice man has ever heard.

Aside from being sweet-sounding, the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ carries with it a certain irresistible charm and authority that is recognized and obeyed by His flock of sheep.

JOHN 10:3-5 (KJV)

3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

The sheep recognize, listen, and heed the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ — a manifestation that they are acknowledging Him as their Shepherd.

There is a video of a scientific test that proves the familiarity and obedience of literal sheep to the voice of their shepherd, and that they would not obey the voice of a stranger but only the voice of their real shepherd.


Three people attempted to call on the sheep grazing in the meadow. Although the men were at a hearing distance, not one sheep was alarmed by the call; not one of them manifested any sign of recognizing the men’s voices and there was not even the slightest bodily response from any of them. But when their real shepherd called them, they immediately responded to his call; they obeyed him because they knew his voice.

The “voice” of Christ being mentioned in JOHN 10:3-5 does not actually refer to the actual audible voice; the voice symbolizes His teachings and commandments.

The obedience of the literal sheep to the voice of their literal shepherd can be likened to the obedience of the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to His voice or to His teachings. In other words, the real followers of Christ or the real Christians, do not just listen to His voice or to His teachings and commandments — they also follow them. And they would not follow any other teachings except Christ’s.

I came from a family of devout Catholics. My mother used to walk on her knees from the entrance of the Baclaran church all the way to the altar. My father and my grandparents, who hailed from Naguilian, La Union, were also devout Catholics.

All her life as a Catholic, my mother had been accustomed to priests reading a couple of verses during masses without giving any explanation to the verses that were read, and then proceeding with their storytelling. But when my mother heard the voice of Christ, that is, when she heard His teachings which she has never heard from the priests of the Catholic Church, she immediately responded to the voice of Christ. She departed from the Catholic Church and got herself baptized in the Church of God, where she continued fulfilling what Christ’s voice says. It only proves that if one person is among Christ’s flock of sheep, he or she will surely recognize His voice, and without hesitation, that person will follow Him.

I am certain that the voice of Christ is both sweet-sounding and captivating — this was why my mother’s interest was readily captured; she was not able to resist it.

On the other hand, I have no idea if the apostles possessed sweet-sounding voices, too. But what I am sure of is that they sang hymns and songs of praises to God, too.

MATTHEW 26:29-30 (KJV) says,

29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. 
30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

This is one instance when Christ and the apostles sang a hymn, after which, they went to the Mount of Olives. This was the night the Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot.

Although we did not hear Christ’s audible voice personally, I firmly believe that the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most beautiful voice the world could ever hear. And the beauty of Christ’s voice can only be exceeded by the grandeur and magnificence of the Father’s voice. Peter, James, and John were able to hear the voice of the Father; and it was also heard by John the Baptist when he baptized the Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan River, where He said, “...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, KJV)

One truth that nobody can contest is that the voices of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the sweetest, the most sublime, the most endearing, and the most captivating voices one could ever hear. And such qualities are clearly reflected in Their teachings. Amen.

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