Rev. Kenneth Fellenbaum

My photo
Milford, Connecticut, United States

Bible Verse of the Day

Saturday, April 20, 2019

His Cross and ours

This message appeared in the "Faith Matters" column of the New Haven Register - early Sunday, April 21, 2019

On Palm Sunday the Church celebrates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus rode into the City on a donkey accompanied by His disciples and to the greeting of the crowds who shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).

Unfortunately, the joy of Palm Sunday begins to dissipate as we remember the events of Holy Week two thousand years ago that culminated with the night of agony in Gethsemane and the suffering on Calvary’s cross on Good Friday. The Gospel accounts clearly state that Jesus knew in advance these turn of events before He went to Jerusalem.

After Peter’s great confession at Caesarea Philippi, that Christ is the Son of the Living God, “Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the Law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). Observe that the word “must” is repeated in this verse to emphasize the necessity of Christ’s going to Jerusalem to suffer and His being crucified (see Matthew 20:19). The reason that Jesus left Heaven and came to earth was for the purpose of His sacrificial death on the cross. This was the Father’s will for His life that He faced and struggled with in the Garden the night before. 

Jesus realized that there was no getting around the cross and He went to Calvary to finish the mission for which He was sent. When Peter heard Jesus talking about this, he “took Him aside and began to rebuke Him ‘Never Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to You’” (Matthew 16:22). 

Twice Peter used the word “never” when he addressed the Lord. Jesus’ stern response further underscores the necessity of the cross (see v. 23). Jesus heard the voice of His adversary, Satan, in the words of Peter.
Jesus continues saying this to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it. 

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul. Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul!” (Matthew 16:24-26). While Jesus was facing the cross, He stated the necessity of the cross for us as well. For Jesus the cross (a means of execution and not merely a burden) meant His literal death. 

The requirement for Christ’s followers is given as a threefold challenge: 1) Denial of self, 2) Taking up the cross, and 3) Following Jesus. The message of the cross is not an easy one. It runs counter with our human nature; but if we are going to be true disciples of Christ, then there is no avoiding what Jesus stated.

The shallow contemporary gospel that is so prevalent today has commercialized Christmas and made it a gift-giving extravaganza. Easter has also been marketed as celebration of hope and renewal that includes the Easter Bunny and eggs. There would be no joy of the resurrection, however, if there had not been His death on the cross. For this reason the cross is the symbol of Christianity.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

God - A Great Friend & Gracious Host

Have you ever noticed that the last two verses of Psalm 23 are written from a different perspective than the first four? In verses 1-4, David sees himself as a sheep and the Lord God as the Great Shepherd. In this relationship, David finds his needs provided for. In verses 5 and 6, he shifts back to being a man and God is portrayed as a great friend and gracious host.

There are three symbols in these two verses that I want to elaborate on. First of all, David said that God “prepared a table for him.” Our friends do us a real honor when they invite us to their home for a special dinner. Usually, they take great pains at putting out their best china, silverware, crystal and linen and then prepare an outstanding meal. David noted that God not only honored him by “preparing a table for him,” but he did this in the presence of David’s enemies. Have you ever noticed the Psalmist David’s frequent references to “his enemies”? As the king, apparently David had his share of people who disliked him. He drew great comfort from the fact that God chose to honor him in his enemies presence. Knowing God’s approval in life is helpful and encouraging.

Secondly, David said, “you anoint my head with oil.” Anointing in the Scripture is used in three senses: ordinary, sacred and medicinal. Here, no doubt, anointing with oil refers to his being chosen by God to serve as king. Because of this, David said, “my cup overflows.” Cup in the Bible is used literally or figuratively. Here “cup” refers to David’s heart. Realizing that we are special to God should cause our hearts to overflow.

Thirdly, David confidently said, “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” A personal knowledge of God reveals his goodness and love. No doubt the reasons that Psalm 23 is such a favorite of people is that this Psalm, perhaps more than any other, reveals the character of God. The six verses of this Psalm also describe the blessedness of his people. David concludes with these words of assurance: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I trust you know God and these blessings and assurance like David.