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Category Archives: Reflections on the Passion

Stand and Behold…But Don’t Forget To Look and Listen For the New…Too!

Christ On The Cross by Andrea MategnaPain, sorrow, grief, agony – They are part of life! But what do we do with them? It would seem Easter is the perfect time to contemplate these deep emotions! I know I have! I’ve taken the time to consider how much pain, sorrow, grief, and agony Mary, the mother of Jesus endured as she stood by the cross, looking up at her Son as He was cruelly crucified with stakes driven through His hands and feet after being maliciously mocked and brutally beaten. The pain and agony He experienced is incomprehensible while Mary’s emotions must have been off the charts as well!

Understanding how Mary endured this onslaught of grief might just help us endure whatever circumstances we face today! We CAN and should identify with Mary because we’ve all been given the great capacity to love. In fact, the love of God IN us is limitless because His love FOR us has no limits!

We read in John 19:25-27 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

basketball-courtI can relate in a MUCH smaller degree to Mom Mary. Our son was a talented and successful basketball player in high school and college, entertaining to watch though his opponents didn’t enjoy watching him as much as we did. It was common for them to undercut him when he went high in the air, landing him on his back in excruciating pain. I guess the fouls they accrued were worth it to them.

Every time this happened, I instinctively covered my eyes, bowing over in my own anguish, then looked back to see if he got up. I wanted to save him, protect him; tell him to stop playing, stop jumping; please…make it all STOP! I moved quickly from pain to anger, wanting to hurt the boy who hurt my boy JUST because he was alive and on the basketball court. I wonder if that’s how Mary felt. Please…just let it be over; Stop the madness; Stop the rejection, the humiliation, and the beatings. Stop hurting my Son just because He is alive and on the earth.

Its-OverWhen my son’s final basketball season was over, I felt relief. Sure! I would have enjoyed watching him play forever. He was extraordinary. But I was tired of seeing him get hurt; tired of watching him get treatments on his back so he could get back out on the court only to be hurt again; tired of watching him be strong on the outside when inside he was breaking. I was glad when it was finally over.

I imagine when Jesus’ earthly life came to an end Mary felt relief. Sure, she would have enjoyed watching Him continue His ministry forever. He was extraordinary. But she also must have been tired of seeing Him be rejected, hated, mocked, whipped and beaten; tired of watching Him be strong on the outside while His heart broke inwardly; glad when it was finally over.

Many people came to watch the basketball games to be entertained but honestly, none of them were more invested than the parents and loved ones of those men on the court. Think of the many people who stood by, watching this crucifixion! All of them were inconsequential in comparison to those who loved Jesus and stood by His cross as He hung in pain; His mom, her sister, two other “Mary” friends, and His beloved friend, John who stood close by.

Holding handsThank God Mary had significant, special people to get her through this seeming nightmare. I imagine as she stood by the cross she reached out to her friends; holding on to them for dear life; letting their strength seep into her as they held her up!

When my son would get hurt and there wasn’t anything I could do, I grabbed hold of my husband, daughters, in-laws, or friends nearby. I reached out knowing I could rely on them because they shared similar thoughts and feelings as me. Sure…we all experienced it differently but the love binding us together, love for a son, a grandson, a brother, a friend, or a friend’s son helped me as I stood and watched.

Jesus meets MaryFriends, all of us have times in life when there is nothing we can do but stand by and watch. What DO you do when there is nothing you can do? Let me suggest reaching out to touch someone and let them touch you too! The love and strength of a friend’s touch can be a source of strength coming from our source of strength, Father God. A friend’s touch can seep through our bodies and spirits to bring renewed strength to stand. Touch is something we can all do! AND, there’s something else; eye contact!

Platon-Varquez-Son-Behold-Your-Mother-16x20-Oil-1996While Mary stood by watching, Jesus looked down at her from the cross and their eyes met. Mother and Son! I think if Mary wasn’t already hanging on to her friends for dear life, she did, the moment she made eye contact with her Boy. The helplessness she must have felt at that moment is haunting. Perhaps she was tempted to look away from His pain but she couldn’t. Did she cry, scream, shout, or attack the attackers? Did she plead with the guards to take her Boy off the cross? What message did she convey with her eyes as she gazed into His eyes; the Boy she birthed, nursed, raised, loved, and watched grow to manhood? When their eyes met, what depth of love did they communicate to one another?

One time the athletic trainer called us down from the stands because our son was hurt badly. When I walked into the training room and saw him in the throes of severe pain, my heart broke. When his eyes met mine I saw desperation. He didn’t speak but I imagined only two words…HELP ME! And there I stood…helpless! My touch wouldn’t still the pain…my comfort wouldn’t ease the torment…my prayers though welcomed wouldn’t end the torture he was experiencing…my sympathy was useless…and at that moment…my love felt like nothing for him.

How many of you reading this have beloveds in your life who are in pain; physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual? Your touch doesn’t still their agony. Your comfort doesn’t ease the torment. Your prayers, though welcome, don’t stop the torture. Your sympathy is useless and your love, though deep and passionate does nothing to stop the insanity.

What DO you do when your eyes meet the eyes of loved ones in these situations? What depth of love is communicated as your eyes meet? What DO you do when you can’t help them? When you can’t take away pain from a child, parent, or friend? When there are no words to still the hurt?

6a00d8341fd10e53ef0167636db06c970bI want to do what Mary did…she stood! She watched! She looked into her Son’s eyes. And then…she listened to Him. In the throes of pain and agony Jesus did the unthinkable; He declared a new love relationship! He glanced at John and then at His mom. “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!'” Jesus He gave His mother a son, and his beloved friend a mother.

Mary and John had a decision to make. They had to take their eyes OFF Jesus and behold one another! Look away from what “was” and look at what now WAS. They looked into each other’s eyes as mother and son! Wow! If I were Mary I might have screamed, “NO, I don’t want John. I want YOU Jesus!” But Mary, in the midst of sorrow, looked into the eyes of her Son; she heard His heart, she heard His words, and then she looked away to behold the new!

Take time today to consider how Jesus gave up His mom to do His Father’s will. He was always thinking of others so He made sure His mom had a son to carry on with. And Mary? She is quite amazing too! She gave up her Son to do her Father’s will. She was also thinking of others so she went home with John to be his mom…AND she let him be her son. Pretty special…Pretty healing!

Whatever you’re facing today…whatever loved ones in your life are facing today… give them up to your heavenly Father to do His will. Know God has a plan and He gives us friends and loved ones to stand with, to touch, to look into each other’s eyes, to behold, and to embrace the new, whatever that might be!

 

 

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Jesus is STILL RISEN!

Jesus is STILL Risen!  It is nearly a week after we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and I am as encouraged as ever because He is alive TODAY!  There is something about spending time “remembering” His death and resurrection which carries the potential to bring joy, eagerness, and anticipation of the day we will see Jesus.  Every day is a day closer to seeing Him face to face.  The thought of that moment is SO much better than Easter breakfast, a fanfare of worship, guests and family, new outfits, or lilies.  I hope and pray you agree!

The account of the death and timing of Jesus in the grave often causes Christians to argue and debate, trying to prove what day is actually the Sabbath, what day Jesus actually died, and which days of the week did it “actually” occur.  We know He rose on the first day of the week right after the Sabbath.  It is estimated He was dead approximately 36 to 40 hours as He died late in the day on the 1st day (the sixth day of the week), laid in the grave on the Sabbath, and rose at dawn on the third day (the first day of the week). This is what Scripture reveals so we should just accept it rather than trying to figure out more.  It is not so important how many hours He was dead but that it was three days He was dead. Do you know the Pharisees got all caught up in debate about the Sabbath as well?  There is this great story in the Word about Jesus healing a blind man on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were so upset Jesus healed on their Sabbath, they could not rejoice with the man who received his sight after spending his entire life in darkness.  Ah, I see the same thing in the Church today.  We get so caught up in our “arguments” we cannot rejoice with others when God moves. We miss incredible things if we waste our life arguing.    

Let us look at the resurrection as recorded in Scripture and celebrate the truth Jesus is STILL risen!  I often think about what it would have been like to be one of the Mary’s who went to His tomb that day.  And then I think, “I can be like one of the Mary’s who went to His tomb that day!” So here we go!  

Matthew 28:1-10 “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

These Mary’s were at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:55-56), they were at the tomb when Joseph prepared Jesus’ body and placed Him in the tomb (Matthew 27:59-61) and now they were at the tomb on the first day of the week.  What were they thinking?  Did they come to grieve much like we go to the cemetery today?  Did they remember Jesus’ words that He would rise again?  If they did, what did that mean and what would it look like?  When terrible things happen in our lives we hope we wake up one day and discover it was all a bad dream.  Is that what these women were thinking that morning?  They had witnessed the greatest tragedy of their lives only two days earlier and it must have seemed in many ways like a dream. 

As they were waiting at the tomb an earthquake occurred and an angel descended from heaven.  What an extraordinary, magnificent sight to behold.  The angel first rolls back the stone from the door and then he sits on it.  This brings a smile to my face! The Savior of the world has risen, an angel descends from heaven, and then “sits” on the stone!  I can almost picture the angel crossing his arms and legs with a satisfied, triumphal grin on his face as he sat flashy as lightning with clothing as white as snow, the kind which blinds a person because of its brightness.  What victory!  What triumph! 

What a sight!  We know the guards were paralyzed with fear becoming as dead men.  The women must have experienced some fear because the angel says to them “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.  Behold, I have told you.”

Isn’t Scripture amazing?  The answers to my first questions about the women are answered right here in the Word.  The angel “knew” they were seeking Jesus.  These Mary’s came to find Jesus, to “see” what they believed and to bring understanding to the words they remember Him speaking, “I will rise again”.  And they were rewarded in their seeking.  They were privileged to enter the tomb where their Lord spent parts of three days laying dead after His crucifixion.  They were allowed to see the grave cloths lying empty; all of this because they were seeking Jesus.  And then they had the honor to go and tell His grieving disciples “He is Risen”, the very thing the religious leaders were so afraid would happen, and did everything in their power to prevent, was going to happen. Now THIS is most certainly true!

I cannot conceive of the excitement in these women as the angel said to them, “There (in Galilee), you will see Him.”  Again, remember what they had witnessed just three days earlier.  They had seen the worst suffering and agony any person had ever endured, then witnessed a most chilling and brutal death, and now they could go to Galilee and “see” Him! 

The Word tells us they went out “quickly”.  I am sure they did!  I am sure they were in a full out sprint when they heard their Lord was ALIVE! This also gives us a glimpse of the Lord’s great love. The disciples were in great distress and grief at this point and they needed comfort.  These women were to go quickly and bring this great comfort to them, HE IS RISEN!   He wanted them to “know” He was alive so they would grieve no more. 

They went with “fear” and “great joy”.  Notice it does not say “great fear” only “fear”.  And it does not say “joy” but “great joy”.  There was a mixture of these emotions but more joy than fear.  Of course there would be fear upon entering the tomb where just days earlier you witnessed the placement of the body of your dead Lord, and now find it empty.  And of course there would be great joy when an angel appeared and confirmed Jesus was alive.  This combination of strong emotion would have catapulted them into bringing good news to His disciples.  The fear of God brings reverence and a desire to promptly obey. The joy of the Lord causes us to be strong and determined in our obedience. 

Next we witness one of the most amazing things of all in this account, giving us a “peek” at our Lord’s desire to surprise us. These women were on their way to tell the disciples to set out for Galilee (80-100 miles away) because it was there they would see Jesus.  They were running with fear and great joy to bring this good news when all of a sudden, Jesus met them!  Oh, God loves to surprise His children.  The angel had directed them to tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee, so that is where they thought Jesus was already headed.  The women believed the words of the angel, promptly obeyed his directives, and in their prompt obedience, Jesus met them.  You see, they could have simply begun the journey to Galilee to be the first ones to see Jesus. But instead they were obedient to do what they were told; go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee!  What a great lesson for us to learn today!  Do what He tells us to do, and on the way, He just might show up and surprise us! What a gift Jesus gave those two women!

I love the imagery of this unexpected meeting with Jesus!  They are running to tell and Jesus steps in their path, comes near to them, and says “Rejoice!”  Aha! Yes!  Rejoice!  Experience more joy my beloved children!  Have joy again and again!  The women’s only response is beautiful!  They went to Him, held Him by His feet and worshiped Him.  No words!  Just pure and undefiled love and adoration! 

They went out with fear and great joy and Jesus tells them to experience more joy, and then says to them “Do not be afraid.”  Again we see fear extinguished and joy escalated.  Jesus says one more thing to demonstrate His heart of love; as though living, dying, rising, and showing up to bless these women was not enough.  He tells them to go and tell His “brethren” to go to Galilee to see Him.  He no longer refers to them as His disciples but as His brethren.  This term “brethren” demonstrates the relationship He now has with those who believe.  It is endearing and filled with love as the Son of God now addresses the children of His heavenly Father as brethren.  Wow!  What a mighty God we serve!  What a mighty God we love! 

And so Yes!  He is still Risen!  We still experience fear and great joy!  We do not need another Easter service with all the fanfare to rejoice in the Lord (though it certainly is FUN isn’t it?) We have the privilege, as these women did, to run with fear and great joy, and tell others where they can meet with Jesus!  Let us be filled with this same excitement every day, to “go and tell”! On our way, let us be on the lookout for Jesus!  We never know when He is going to show up and surprise us! And when He does, we WILL find ourselves speechless as we go to Him, hold Him, and worship Him!

Father, let us not get entangled in arguments which prevent us from seeking You!  Let us be expectant as these Mary’s were!  Let us be filled with this same fear and great joy every day of our lives.  Let us live in the reality that Jesus is alive!  Let us not grieve as those who have no hope!  You are our Hope! You are our reason to live!  You are our Joy!  You are our Strength! We pray in Jesus’ Name.  Amen! 

 

Deception is Deceiving! One More Reflection on the Death Of Christ!

One of the most God-fearing statements in the Word of God is “Do Not Be Deceived!”  The fact God tells us not to be deceived reveals we “can” be deceived.  What causes me to fear and love God in this whole matter is thinking I may be deceived if I think I can never be deceived.  (You might want or need to read that a few times) 

One definition of deceive means to convince yourself of something that is not true which is what the chief priests and Pharisees did in one of the most deceptive and bizarre scenes after the death, preparation, and burial of Jesus when a request was made to Pilate.  Matthew 27:62-66 “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’  So the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.”

The Pharisees were deceived as evidenced when they met with Pilate about securing Jesus’ grave instead of attending their own devotions and asking for pardon from their sins for the past week.  The irony is they had previously called Jesus out for healing on the Sabbath day yet now they were working on a day which, in their religious practice, should have been devoted to the Lord.  Another clear sign of their deception is the respect given to Pilate in calling him “Sir” but overt disrespect to Jesus in calling him “that deceiver”.  I suppose we could say they were ignorant, however, we know they had every opportunity to “believe” in Jesus because He did many signs and wonders.  They were just too controlled by their own religious belief system to “hear” and “see”. 

A dead body should get little attention, yet the chief priests and Pharisees were still concerned about Jesus so asked for a watch over His dead body.  This is mind boggling because if they were so sure of themselves and what they believed about Jesus, they should have been breathing a sigh of relief He was finally dead.  But instead they were afraid He would get more attention by deceiving their people even from His grave.  The insanity in both securing and setting a guard on the tomb of a dead man is striking.  They thought His disciples would come at night and steal Him away.  Think about that for a moment!  What good would it do for Jesus’ believers to steal His dead body? So they could go around saying “He is risen from the dead” but not be able to present Him as proof to the people?  What would that gain?  Nothing!  But the leaders were living in such deception they did not realize how silly their suspicions were.  If Christ could not be presented “alive” to the people, it would only prove the chief priests and Pharisees were correct in their assessment of Jesus as deceiver.  In other words, it would help them not hurt them. The deception would not be worse than the first if His body was stolen but would have strengthened their case.  We must marvel at the ramifications of deception!

It is amazing how people will simply not “give up” even when they know they should.  These leaders were intelligent and should have figured out and accepted something was special about Jesus, yet they continued to refer to Him as the “deceiver”.  The chief priests and Pharisees should have “noticed” the events occurring around the death of Jesus proved He was Who He said He was.  Yet they remained steadfast in their own beliefs about Jesus.  They feared the people were deceived, yet they themselves were the ones steeped  in deception.

  • There was complete darkness over the land for three hours in the middle of the day.  Notice it was over the land, not just in one place. 
  • Jesus cried out and yielded His own spirit, determining for Himself when He would die rather than having His life taken from Him.
  •  Immediately when He breathed His last breath the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  This was no coincidence and fear would have enveloped the leaders. 
  • When He died the earth quaked and rocks were split.  Would this just have been another interesting coincidence?  Probably Not!
  • Things got more outrageous as graves were opened and the bodies of the dead saints were raised.  Now if that isn’t a brilliant scene, far better than any movie made today, I don’t know what is! 

The leaders would be in for an even bigger surprise after Jesus resurrected because these saints would enter the holy city appearing to people.  How awesome this sight must have been!

If we think perhaps the chief priests and Pharisees might have been unaware of all of these things happening, we have only to back up and read Matthew 27:54 “So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’”  In all likelihood, considering how fast word traveled, everyone, including Pilate, the Pharisees, and chief priests would have heard what the guards had experienced, feared, and the words they spoke.  Not to mention the earthquake would have been experienced by all.  However, they were deceived therefore continued to convince themselves they were right and everything about Jesus was wrong. 

Deception is a fearful thing as demonstrated through the lives of these chief priests and Pharisees.  We will never know if they entertained at any point the possibility they could be wrong about Jesus.  But we can learn from observing the absurdity of their behavior to humble ourselves under the Hand of Almighty God and not be deceived.  It will take broken and contrite hearts, and a willingness to admit we might be wrong when our ideas do not line up with the Word of God.  In the case of these leaders, all the evidence they needed was before their eyes and ears.  Yet they were deceived.  In our lives, all the evidence we need is before our eyes and ears.  Will we be deceived?  Or will we receive Truth?  Will we receive Jesus as our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Friend?  Will we allow Him to lead, guide, and direct our lives through surrendering our wills to His will?  Or will we be like the leaders who needed to be right, and could not see past their own beliefs in order to see the Righteous One?  We have a choice to live in fear as these leaders did or live in complete faith in Jesus Christ. 

In the end, all their extra effort to protect their own belief system and people only proved how magnificent Jesus really was and is.  When He resurrected there was another earthquake and an angel descended and rolled away the stone.  The guards were eyewitnesses of both and then they became paralyzed like dead men when they beheld the most magnificent sight ever!  They saw Jesus ALIVE, His countenance like lightning and His clothing as white as snow.

Deception OVER?  No!  As I said earlier, deception is deceptive.  When the guards reported to the chief priests they had seen Jesus ALIVE, the leaders paid them off to keep it quiet.  They also told the guards to lie about what they witnessed by telling the people Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body.  The chief priests were going to stick to their story no matter how much evidence was stacked against them.  Even though the chief priests were presented with truth their pride and deception was so great they could not admit defeat.  Sad, but true!  Deception will only lead to one place – away from God and true faith in Jesus Christ!  May we as His children not be deceived.   

Father God, thank You for showing us the depth of deception through the religious leaders.  We desire to know You more, to love and fear You, and we do not want to be deceived.  Holy Spirit teach us to humble ourselves before You daily.  We do not want to be deceived in a world riddled with deception.  Thank You for a guard on our hearts and minds.  Thank You for Your Word which protects us from deception.  We choose to promptly obey You, and thank You that You are the Way, and the Truth, and the Life! 

 

How Do You Pass By? A Close Look at the Effects of Hearsay!

Have you ever formed an opinion about someone without meeting them?  Or a friend tells you someone hurt them, and you find yourself unable to make eye contact with that person who hurt your friend?  I am not talking about Godly discernment concerning good and evil, or information shared to protect another.  But I am speaking of hurts, disappointments, or perceptions we experience “at the hands” of another, and we share it in an effort to gain sympathy for ourselves, but ultimately turn people against one another. 

Our willingness to befriend or grow in relationship with people can be clouded by simple observations or experiences of others.  How sad it is when we do not take God’s Word seriously about bearing false witness and slander.  When we share negative reports about other people we hurt God, ourselves, the person we speak about, and hamper all potential relationships that person might have enjoyed.  Rumors play a vital role in spoiling reputations and relationships.  In the case of Jesus on the cross, rumors caused people to hate and revile Him, even if they had never met Him. 

In Matthew 27:39-40,44 we see a vivid picture of the damage “hearsay” can have, causing people to harbor hatred towards others whom they do not even know.  “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ …Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.”  Also Mark 15:29 “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!’”

First of all, let us make sure we understand the circumstances.  Jesus is hanging on a cross between two robbers.  Jesus had committed no crime so justly should not even been hanging.  The fact He is between them demonstrates further humiliation and dishonor because the center cross was for the chief sinner or lawbreaker.  Not to mention as these two men were dying, Jesus would have been in the position of hearing both of their cries, shrieks of pain, and even worse, their reviling of Him.  Everything was contrived to make Jesus, who was guilty of nothing, as miserable as possible. 

Next we see people “passed by” and blasphemed “Him”.  They were common people, probably travelers along the road leading from Jerusalem to Gibeon who chose to temporarily detour in order to blaspheme Him.  Notice they did not revile the two robbers, only Jesus.  Would it not be reasonable for them to be angry with robbers, men who had stolen and hurt their fellow men?  But instead, all of their anger and animosity was towards Jesus.  In all likelihood they had never met Him and definitely had never been hurt by Him. On top of that, He is already hanging on a cross dying.  Is that not enough punishment?  Why must He suffer even more through these false accusations of people passing by “as” He is dying?  Not one of His friends who had cried out “Hosanna” a few days earlier was there to defend Him and put an end to the wrangling of these people passing by. We know it was all done to complete the humiliation Christ would suffer on the cross bearing all our iniquity.  But that should not make it any easier for us comprehend the cruelty and degradation Jesus endured on our behalf. 

Let us not miss how these “passersby” came and felt the need to taunt, goad, and jeer at Jesus.  They had listened to “hearsay”, probably through the priests, elders, and scribes.  Jesus simply went around doing good works, not proclaiming Who He was to people. Most often we see Jesus telling people “NOT” to tell others what He had done or Who He was until His time had come.  In fact, His answer to Pilate’s question “Are You the King of the Jews” was “It is as you say.”  Jesus declared Himself to be the Son of God, but not as a king, even though He was King!  Therefore the opinion of those who passed by blaspheming Jesus could only have come from the accusations of others, chiefly the religious leaders.   We see how difficult it is to have a good opinion about someone if we have only heard negative things, no matter how true or untrue they are.  It is nearly impossible to be open-minded about the goodness in a person if we have heard only unconstructive things about them.

Non-verbal communication adds a great deal to the meaning behind our words.  The fact these people “wagged their heads”, literally shaking them in disgust, in addition to their blasphemy, demonstrates the magnitude of their contempt. Their language was offensive, insulting, and demeaning as they cried out “Aha!”  Aha is an interjection used to express triumphant satisfaction or excitement when something has been discovered.  These people had discovered the person (Jesus) they had heard about, allowing the lies of others to form a distorted opinion of Him, thus producing a hatred they vomited out through blasphemy onto the Savior of the world.

They had “heard” Jesus said He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. (John 2:19-22) Unfortunately for them, they received a regurgitated, misinterpreted explanation from the priests concerning this statement.  The leaders knew Jesus did not mean He was going to literally destroy “their” temple.  But they did not fully comprehend His reference to Himself as the temple, and indeed, He would come back in three days so they let the misunderstanding continue.  Rather than letting it be known to the people Jesus was not going to destroy their temple, the leaders tried to save their own reputation by propagating rumors enabling people to continue to mock and poke fun at Jesus in regards to their temple.  These people “passing by” used this rumor in challenging Jesus to save Himself as He hung dying on the cross. ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!   In other words, if He could rebuild a temple, surely He could remove Himself from a wooden cross. 

The last thing we hear these people saying is If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  Does that remind you of anything Jesus had confronted earlier in His life on earth?  These people who were simply “passing by” let the devil use them as his mouthpiece.  It is eerily similar to what Satan said to Jesus in Matthew 4:3 “Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4:6 “… If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.  For it is written:  ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”

What kind of audacity does it take to challenge someone who is so obviously in a great deal of physical pain on a cross? They were eyewitnesses of nothing, yet had the nerve to challenge Jesus on what they had “heard”.  They were daring Jesus to “prove” Who He was!  Wow!  The irony is He has already proved Who He was in a brief three years of ministry through His miracles including raising of the dead.  But these people were unwilling to wait and see the completed proof through His own resurrection.  Why?  Because they believed the slander, rumors, and hearsay of others.  They did not believe the great things about Jesus – just the negative things.  That is a warning for us in life: We are apt to believe negative things about people but hesitant if not resistant to believing good things about people.  Hmm..

Friends – Let us commit to being different than these people who were passing by Jesus and passing judgment on Jesus!  Let us be very careful to rely on Holy Spirit to reveal truth not base our attitudes and actions on hearsay.  And remember:  It is very difficult to change an attitude once it has taken root especially negative ones.  Be careful how you hear!  If these people would have judged Jesus based on what He had done, not on what they had “heard” He had done, they would have patiently waited for Him to fulfill His Word. 

Father God, set a guard over our ears, eyes, and mouths.  Let us be people who see You for Who You are, not Who we have made You to be!  Let us be people who are careful to share only truth, not opinion or hearsay.  Examine our hearts Oh God!  Jesus, thank You for enduring all the blasphemy, insults, and ridicule as you hung dying on the cross for all our iniquity!  Let us ponder the cruelty behind those words spoken to You as you endured the physical and spiritual pain on the cross, so that we might be sober and alert today to the cruelty of our words spoken in haste against others in the Body, thus in effect speaking against You over and over again.  Forgive us Lord!  Jesus, we choose not to crucify You daily, but commit to crucify our flesh daily!  We love You, Jesus!  And it is in Your Name we pray, Amen! 

 

Don’t Mock Me!!!!!

My children often chide me about teasing because apparently I do not appreciate it as much as they do.  They enjoy “teasing” and mimicking one another and sometimes I even get drawn into their jesting.    One day my grown son repeated, in a playful “mom” voice, something I said to which I replied, “Don’t mock me!”  He immediately repeated “Don’t mock me!” in an exaggerated, mocking voice to which everyone except me found themselves laughing hysterically.   Of course it would have been more appropriate for me to say, “Don’t mimic me like that”.  I have since discovered mocking usually carries a negative connotation and is intended to make someone feel silly which is why I dislike mocking so much.  Ever since that day, whenever my children want to “loosen” mom up, they pull out the “Don’t mock me!” with the expressive “mom” voice and we all have a good laugh.  Then reading through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ betrayal and His appearance before Pilate, the mockery of Jesus as King became vivid, and I truly realized my son was not mocking me, not in the truest sense of the word. 

The mocking Jesus endured gives vivid and dramatic account of the cruelty and viciousness behind mockery and the pain associated with it, for the person enduring it and those exposed to it (Matthew 27:27-31 and Mark 15:27-31).  Unlike the humor our family enjoys in our misuse of the word “mock”, true mocking is not a laughing matter but is in fact very destructive.  It means to ridicule, tease, laugh at, make fun of, scorn, etc.  When a person is mocked they feel silly, humiliated, wounded, and their self-esteem and self-confidence plummet. 

As the entire drama unfolds before Jesus’ crucifixion we are able to see the contagious effects of mockery.  Jesus endured insult upon insult including being passed over as the released prisoner at the feast of Passover.  Even though Pilate tried to convince the people to release Jesus because He was only handed over out of envy, and because his wife gave him a warning to have nothing to do with Jesus (she had been suffering in her dreams because of Him), the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude to choose Barabbas instead.  Pilate found Jesus to be a just person doing nothing deserving of death.  However, his opinion of Jesus was not contagious.  As the multitude continued to cry out “Crucify Him!” the opinion of the haters was very contagious.  This is a good lesson for us. We may be a lone voice when it comes to supporting a just cause or person, but it matters not if people come along side us as long as we know the Truth.  Following the crowd is usually a mistake especially if we do not know the whole truth.  

When Jesus was brought to the Praetorium, the “common hall” or “headquarters” for the Roman camp, we continue to witness extreme cruelty.  It is interesting to note the common hall was located in the governor’s house which should have been a place of shelter for those accused of crime, but in the case of Jesus, it turned out to be a theatre for violence.  Somehow, though Pilate was opposed to the killing of Jesus, he still allowed the barbaric mistreatment of Jesus in his own home on his property.  The entire band of soldiers attended this excessive display of abuse.  It is estimated that between five and thirteen hundred men were either watching or involved in stripping Jesus of His clothes, dressing Him in a scarlet robe, twisting a crown of thorns and placing it on His head, and placing a reed in His right hand to symbolize a scepter in order to make sport of Him.  The lunacy in this treatment is evident, yet those caught in the exhilaration of the moment were energized the longer it continued.

The soldiers completely misunderstood kingship, and Jesus’ purpose in life so they dressed  Him in mock “kingly” clothing, then bowed down, saluted, and cruelly taunted Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They laughed and scorned Jesus in fake subservience in order to humiliate and discredit Him.  They did not know or see who He really was, therefore in their discomfort and hatred, they tried to make Him lower than themselves.

That is the whole point of mocking:  Make an attempt to damage a person’s confidence, make them feel insecure about who they are, bring them down from a lofty place we perceive them to be in. We mock and cruelly tease people because there is something about a person we do not like or understand so we try to make them feel foolish in an attempt to squash any confidence they may have. 

We observe another characteristic about human nature through this ruthless onslaught of abuse through mockery towards Jesus.  The more people we can get to agree with us, the more we are allowed to attack without any hindrances, then the more empowered and righteous we feel in continuing our barrage of ridicule.  If left unchecked, we lose all sense of decency or integrity as we completely give ourselves over to “mob mentality”. 

Any time we are tempted to mock or spitefully belittle or abuse someone, we should allow Holy Spirit to search our hearts to discover what is going on inside which has created such disdain for another person.  We do not want to allow mockery to have its way because it leads to even more destructive attitudes and actions.  If we continue long enough  to feed our appetite for ridicule it escalates. 

In the case of Jesus of course we see the extreme, as mocking led to more hatred and abuse by the soldiers.  I suppose we could all read this account and say “Not me!  I would never do anything like they did!”  If we find ourselves saying this, we need to immediately  humble ourselves under the hand of Almighty God, for we are on the verge of deception, if not already there!  Read the blog “What? Could You Not Watch With Me One Hour?” to see how Peter too thought “Not me!” and he was wrong. 

If we can imagine this scene with Jesus in the Roman camp, grown men all around “toying” with Him, it is appalling to our natural minds, and was certainly repugnant to all those who loved Jesus at that time.  But today we hear stories or see videos of nursing home aides abusing elderly people, groups of teenagers beating people with learning disabilities, riots initiated over someone’s perception of injustice, and the list goes on.  The cruelty and abuse people carry out in the heat of the moment is incomprehensible.  Yet this is exactly what we know Jesus experienced at the hands of these soldiers, whose vicious mocking developed into violent physical abuse.  They spit, scourged, struck, and slapped as they continued to spew hatred upon our Savior.  It all began with mocking then escalated to murder. 

What may seem innocent at any given moment in time can have eternal ramifications!  Most certainly the mocking of these soldiers towards our Savior had eternal ramifications for them and for us!  Oh!  Some good healthy teasing is refreshing and we definitely need to laugh at ourselves more.   But mocking?  Not in the truest sense of the word. 

Thank You Jesus for the great sacrifice You made UPON the cross that day over two thousand years ago.  Thank You for what You endured BEFORE going to the cross.  Thank You for going TO the cross.  Thank You for life today because OF the cross.  We love YOU Jesus! 

 

What? Could You Not Watch With Me One Hour?

I was reading the Gospel accounts of the time leading up to the death of Jesus.  Much has been written concerning this time period but the part which caught my attention was the lack of watchfulness and prayer on the part of the disciples. They went to Gethsemane and Jesus told His disciples to sit while He went and prayed elsewhere with Peter, James, and John because He began to feel sorrowful and deeply distressed to the point of death.  Here is the rest of the account. 

Matthew 26:39-46 “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as You will.’ Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What?  Could you not watch with Me one hour?  Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying ‘Oh My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.  So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.  Then He came to His disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going.  See, My betrayer is at hand.’”

The lack of obedience on the part of the disciples’ stands out because they were well aware of WHO Jesus was.  In Matthew 16:13 Jesus asks His disciples “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  Then in verse 15 He asks “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter replies verse 16 “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  The disciples spent all their time with Jesus, walked with Him, were taught by Him, witnessed the miracles, and had every reason to promptly obey Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  So when I read about the Gethsemane scene my thoughts go to why could they not follow Jesus’ simple command?  They knew who He was.  You would think because they knew He was the Christ, looking into His face, listening to Him share His sorrow and distress, they would carefully follow His instructions.  Not to mention Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection several times earlier in their relationship (Matt.16:21; 17:22; 20:17) as well as they had witnessed His transfiguration (Matt.17). It just seems unbelievable they would be anything other than sold out for Jesus in every way possible. 

There are all sorts of “explanations” for their actions or lack of action. People tend to simply focus on the disciples and make excuses, rather than focus on what we can learn from the disciples.  The question Holy Spirit asks us today is “Who do you say that I am?”  And if our answer is, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” let us live in that Truth. We, like the disciples, have the distinct privilege of spending our time and walking with Jesus, being instructed by Him through His Spirit, witnessing and being part of His miracles, trusting Him,  and obeying Him.  We have both the historical and spiritual account of His death and resurrection.  How can we not believe?  Will we stay awake, watch, and pray with Him?  Or will we be like those disciples whose eyes were heavy with sleep?  Will we receive His Word that His time is coming and not be lulled to sleep even when it does not happen immediately?

In the garden narrative before Jesus instructs His disciples to pray He tells them to “stay and watch” with Him.  Thus He is stunned when He finds them sleeping after only one hour.   To “watch” in this context simple means to be awake, to rouse themselves from sleep.  He is telling them they are responsible to keep themselves awake.  That is His only request.  Stay awake! 

After He returns from prayer to find His disciples unable to follow His first command, He implores them to “watch and pray” then spells out why; because they may fall into temptation.  In the previous blog “Are You Right or Are You Righteous?”  I discuss the account of Peter just prior to this prayer scene.  Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and the stumbling of the disciples, which is why He uses this word “watch” when addressing His disciples to stay awake and pray; He knows they, and we, will fall into temptation. The “watching” in this context is different than simply staying awake.  It specifically means “to be alert in case through laziness and lethargy one is suddenly led to forsake Christ”.  Jesus warns them to be cautious and active in watching.  Sleep and laziness will lead to forsaking. Watching infers forsaking can happen quickly no matter how committed to Jesus we may think we are. Reading Peter’s denial bears this out in a most dramatic scenario. (Read previous blog for full account). 

 Jesus commands them to pray in conjunction with watching to avoid falling into temptation.  It is “directed” prayer to be done with the watching.  The “temptation” Jesus is referring to is the condition or mental state by which we are enticed to sin and lapse from faith and holiness.  The disciples would have understood this temptation.  Jesus gave them the directives to avoid a freefall from faith and forsaking.  He gives the same to us today!  Are we listening? 

What I am amazed at continually in the Body of Christ today is how we “excuse” our lack of watching and praying.  In ministry, as people sleep or simply “disconnect” during praise, worship, sermons, or bible studies we hear all sorts of excuses, usually health related, followed by “Well, Jesus said our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak.”  Jesus did not tell His disciples about their spirits and flesh so they could use it as an excuse to fall asleep again.  He gave a word of knowledge to understand the battle raging inside of them, and then make the choice to obey Him by watching and praying as protection for not falling into this temptation!  Hallelujah! 

Jesus is telling us today to rise up out of laziness and lethargy.  There is a very real threat to our relationship with God and if we are not watchful; we will forsake Him.  Jesus is telling us to pray specifically as we watch so we are not tempted to walk in sin, forsaking the holiness and faith found only in Christ Jesus.  Today, let us hear Jesus’ words for ourselves just as He spoke them to the disciples.  “What!  Could you not wait with Me one hour?” And then let us joyfully and willingly respond, “Oh, yes Lord!  We can wait with You!” 

Father, we pray for an alertness to rise up in the body of Christ.  Begin with me Lord!  I commit to stay with You, to watch with You and to pray!  I understand my flesh is weak but I know my spirit is willing and I surrender my will to Yours today!  Thank You for Your Words of direction and promise!  Thank You Jesus for your willingness to align your will with Father’s will and go to the cross to forgive us our sins and heal us from all infirmity.  You are an incredible Savior and it is in Your Name we pray, Amen!

 

Are You Right or Are You Righteous?

I find it somewhat hard to believe how arrogant we can be as Christians at times.  And I say that with an enormous amount of love in my heart for the Body of Christ. We believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and settle into this “faith” lifestyle, confident and assured we would never deny or betray Him.

When Jesus was celebrating Passover and instituting His Last Supper, we see arrogance in Peter and the disciples.  Again, I say this in love not in judgmentMatthew 26:31-35 “Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:  “I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.’  Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.” (emphasis mine)

Do you see it?  It was not just Peter who decided he knew better than Jesus.  It was ALL the disciples.  Look again!  Jesus told ALL of them they would stumble and Peter said, “Not true!”  Jesus then assured him that indeed he would deny Him three times.  Peter protested again, “Not true!”   And all the disciples said the same thing. 

Friends, we are no different than Peter and the disciples.  Jesus tells us we are scattered sheep but we say “No, Jesus, we must defend our Pentecostal, Lutheran, Charismatic, AOG, Catholic, Baptist, or Independent theology.”  Jesus says again, “You are denying Me when you spend your time defending your position rather than giving the reason for your hope.”  And we, like Peter and the disciples say “Not true!” and continue to walk in denial of what the Lord is speaking to us.

If you know the rest of the story the disciples did stumble, the sheep were scattered, and Peter did deny him, contrary to what Peter “thought” he would or would not do.  Matthew 26:75 “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly.”  Let us not read this as though Peter was so different than we are.  Perhaps we do not think of what we do as “denying Christ” but a close look at our attitudes and actions reveal far more than what we “think”. 

I am in ministry and it never ceases to amaze me the things Christians will argue about or defend to protect their faith.  However, in 99% of the cases we are defending our right to believe in our church’s theology rather than faith in Jesus Christ.  At this point, Peter believed in himself more than he believed in Jesus.  Oftentimes, we believe in our understanding more than we believe in Jesus.  We have had the privilege of pastoring churches “in” a denomination and “outside” of a denomination, as well as minister in several independent ministries.  Unequivocally, people in every place think they have the corner on truth.  I will tell you that people are passionate about defending their belief system while speaking against other Christian theologies to the complete exclusion of Scripture if necessary. 

The danger in what I have just written is that we, as Christians often forget how fragile and precious our relationship with Jesus Christ is.  We must focus our attention on Him and stop defending our right to believe “what” we believe.  Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”  

I hope you see this!  We are to give a defense to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope in us, not give a defense for why we believe a particular theology on baptism, gifts of the spirit, communion, or the like. Though it is true we must defend the essentials of Christian faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible being infallible as our Source of Truth, and belief in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is also true we spend far too much time defending non-essentials of faith.   Being involved with different parts of the body of Christ can be disheartening as we witness much of the time and energy as sheep (laypeople) spent trying to convince the shepherd (leader) their belief on any given theology is correct and all others wrong.  Christians refuse to live in unity, elevating the importance of non-essentials in an effort to be “right” rather than “righteous”.   Peter was busy being right rather than listening to what Jesus said to him. 

Our time and energy should be focused on sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, being ready to defend our hope with meekness and fear.  Beloved believers – we are to defend our hope in Jesus Christ with gentleness and mildness (meekness) and in reverence and respect for authority and rank (fear).  We are not to argue why we are right and others are wrong.  We are to follow our under-shepherds not try to rally people to our way of thinking.  We are to defend our great Hope, who brings hope to the hopeless. 

The truth is we are denying Jesus when we waste our time being “right”. We are denying Him the honor and praise which He is due!  We are denying Him the right to lead His chosen shepherds to gather the sheep of His pasture.  We are denying Him the right to speak into our lives and teach us new things.  We are denying Him the right to be our Lord, to be the Master of our lives! 

Friends, let us not walk in the same deception, the same denial, the same arrogance as Peter and the disciples.  Instead, let us learn from what they experienced, humble ourselves before the Lord God Almighty, and receive His words as truth.  We praise God that Peter and the disciples came back to the place of humbleness and revelation.  We praise God for Peter’s example to us of weeping bitterly for thinking he was right and Jesus was wrong.  Perhaps we have never thought of it in those terms, however, when Peter remembered the words of Jesus I cannot help but think he thought of his own arrogance in believing himself to be right rather than Jesus!  Let us not be so quick to defend our theologies, but be very quick to defend the reason for our hope – Jesus Christ! 

Father God, we ask you to reveal all arrogance, denial, and betrayal in our lives, especially in relation to our faith in You.  We pray for an outpouring of revelation, humbleness, and fear to bring us to that place of righteousness instead of needing to be right. We pray for conviction which would cause us to weep bitterly when we remember your words to us.  And we thank You for your grace and forgiveness that causes us to rise from our weeping and rejoice in Your Hope!  We love You Lord!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen! 

 
 
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