Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why We Went

We just got home from our trip to England where we saw our daughter, Lindsay, son-in-law Pete, and our grand-kids, Raewyn and Theo.
It's hard to say all that went on; but suffice it to say, we had a great time.  The kids are age 2+, which means they are energetic, emotional - able to go from happy to sad in a moment's time.
NOW, their parents are phenomenal.  They do a great job of being parents to two highly energetic little kids.
I think our grand-kids are amazing...but then I think all of our grand-kids are amazing!
I just wanted to make a note to say we're back, and it was a great trip!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Is Risen Indeed

To all of you who have journeyed with me during this Lenten season, we've come to the end...which ironically is the beginning for us.

He is Risen...
He is Risen Indeed

Luke 24:1-12 (NIV)
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?
6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
7 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"
8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Evermore Peace

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Day of Rest

Each of the Gospels speak one or two sentences about what happened after Jesus' death on Friday afternoon before early Sunday morning.

The first thing that happened was the body of Jesus was taken by two followers of Jesus - interestingly, neither of which was called a disciple.  These two were probably well enough connected that they could get Pilate's permission to take Jesus' body and prepare it for burial.

John 19:38-42 (NIV)
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away.
39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
40 Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.
42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

While Jesus' followers grieved, and probably felt at a loss as to what to do; the Jewish authorities and Romans made a decision to make sure no one could steal  his body.

Matthew 27:62-66 (NIV)
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.
63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.'
64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."
65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how."
66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Lastly, a final look by Mary Magdalene, Clopas and Mary, Jesus' mother as Jesus was entombed.

Luke 23:55-56 (NIV)
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.
56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

What I love is the contrasts between actions.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were admirers who wanted to honor Jesus in what they did.
The Roman officials and Jewish leaders were driven by both fear and power.
The women were those who loved Jesus.

I love the last line - "they rested..."
Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we rest...It's a day of realizing that all has been done by Jesus, and there is nothing more for us to do.

In Jesus, we rest!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Seven Words, pt 2

It was prophesied of the Messiah that he would be a suffering servant who would be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).  Yet, in all of this, Isaiah prophesies that it was God's purposes that all of this occur.  That same verse in Isaiah makes it clear:  "for he bore the sin of many".
As Jesus hung upon the cross he spoke seven words/phrases...all of which revealed his character and his purposes.  We looked at the first three in yesterday's blog.  The final four were these:

The 4th words were from Matthew 27:45-46 (NIV) 
45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.
46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The saddest part of this whole crucifixion is this - Jesus' abandonment in this whole work by His Father...he was alone.  He had told his disciples that he didn't do anything unless the Father showed him what to do.  His closest relationship was not his disciples, it was His Father.  Yet here the Father "has to" turn his back...the work of the cross, as brutal as it is, must be done.

The 5th words were from John 19:28 (NIV) 
28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
While we recognize the deity of Jesus, and know that only someone perfect before God could be that "lamb that takes away the sins of the world", here we are reminded that Jesus suffered humanly too.

The 6th and 7th words were quickly to follow:  Luke 23:46 (NIV) 
46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
and, John 19:30 (NIV) 
30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Which one of these was first is irrelevant.  It is the end...It is all over...and the Savior's work on the cross is done.

It is Good Friday...which when you think about it, doesn't seem very "good".  It is good for us at a terrible cost.  

Romans 1:16-17 (NIV)
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NIV)
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We worship you Lord!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Seven Words, pt 1

As the soldiers led Jesus away, he carried his own cross - until he could handle it no more.  Then they put it on another, Simon from Cyrene.  They laid the cross down and stretched Jesus' body across with arms stretched out wide.  They nailed the joint between the wrist and the hands - the pain must have been excruciating.  They nailed the joint between the ankles and feet, again with excruciating pain.  The place is called Golgotha,  the place of skulls.  Two others, robbers, are crucified alongside of him, and the witnesses include Soldiers, Jewish authorities, and his disciples.

John 19:17-22 (NIV)
17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews."
22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

It was 9:00 in the morning.
Mark 15:25 (NIV)
It was the third hour when they crucified him.

The crowds that gathered around were still challenging Jesus' role as Messiah...they taunted and dared him to be the Hero they assumed the Messiah would be.
Matthew 27:39-43 (NIV)
39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads
40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"
41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.
42 "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

A few feet off the ground, Jesus' time on the cross would last six hours.  During that time he spoke Seven words, or phrases, all which reflect both his servant role, and his purpose in going to this death.

First:  Luke 23:34 (NIV) 
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Did Jesus say the words because of the soldiers action?  Or was he speaking in general of all that was occurring?  In some sense, maybe both.  But it speaks of his love, his graciousness, his mercy, and his understanding of what sin does to the humanity made in his image.

Second:  Luke 23:43 (NIV) 
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
The other two cross bearers were suffering in their own way; but one wanted Jesus to do what the crowd jeered him for - do something IF you're the Messiah!  The other responded with a rebuke, saying they deserved this, and then turning his eyes to Jesus made a simple request:  "Remember me"...  It's words we all can say - we deserve our punishments for our sins - Lord, please remember me...  Jesus' response reminds me of God's grace, his love, his mercy...all which I need in abundance!

Third:  John 19:26-27 (NIV) 
26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son,"
27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Jesus is still very aware of his surroundings, and in looking down at Mary he speaks to his disciple John to take care of her.  

It was Mary who held Jesus first in her arms.
It was Mary who saw him grow up, learn, amaze her and Joseph, and then after Joseph's death, watch him grow into this Man of God.
It was Mary who was confused as Jesus began his preaching...saying to all, "The Kingdom of God is at hand".
It was Mary who tried to get Jesus to stop - taking Jesus' siblings along with him only to have Jesus rebuke their efforts:  "Who are my mother and my brothers, but those who follow me and do the Father's will."
It was Mary who grew to understand how uniquely different Jesus was - and what his purpose was in being here on the earth.

And so, she watched him on the cross dying for her sins also...


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Power to release, or crucify?

John doesn't record that Jesus was first sent to Herod, and Herod found no basis for Jesus' arrest, much less to crucify him.  The crowd had yelled for Barabbas to be released, and so Pilate presumed that if he just did something publicly to show the Jews that he was not going to tolerate anyone they despised, they would be mollified.
John 19:1-16 (NLT) 
Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip.
The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him.
“Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.
Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.”
Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”
When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 

He brought Jesus out after his soldiers beat him with a whip that was made up of a set of leather strips with sharp objects, usually metal, embedded in the leather.  It was meant to rip the skin open and create intense pain, while not killing the person.  Pilate assumed that the crowd would see the scourged Jesus and have sympathy for him.  The crowd looked upon Jesus, but it made no difference...they still yelled to crucify him.
Pilate's dilemma was not that he couldn't release Jesus, it was how to do it so that he pacified the crowd.

The problem was Jesus!

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
7 The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever.
9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer.
10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
12 Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”
13 When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha).
14 It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”
15 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!” “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
16 Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away.

Pilate was shocked by Jesus...Son of God?...that's a lot different from King of the Jews.  When he takes Jesus back inside he asks him "where are you from?" Jesus' silence is deafening.  He will not make Pilate's job easier.  So Pilate threatens - something people in authority do to try to make people submit to their authority.

“Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” 
Inside of the room are two men:  Pilate and Jesus.  Jesus is bloodied, his skin torn open, blood flowing down his back, and Pilate is saying I can go either way on this...and Jesus won't let him believe that which is not truth.

11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Pilate was imprisoned in his role...he couldn't release Jesus without making the Jews angrier; and he couldn't release Jesus without making his position as governor more at risk...BUT, he also knew there were no real offenses worthy of death that Jesus had committed...He was the imprisoned one!

Jesus was the one who was free...he knew he had the power to be physically free if he wanted to.  There was a time in his own home town where he had walked through an angry crowd that wanted to throw him off of a cliff.
THEN it was not his time.
NOW it is his time, and he is the one who is in charge!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Kingdom on Earth

As the early morning light began to break, Jesus stood before the corrupt, but powerful, high priest, Caiaphas.  John has little to say about it.  According to John it was a short trial, and soon Caiaphas, knowing he could not order Jesus to be executed, sent him to Pilate - the Roman governor.

John 18:28-40 (NLT)
28 Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover.
29 So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”
30 “We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.
31 “Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them. “Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied.
32 (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.)
33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
39 But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?”
40 But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

As a Roman ruler, Pilate was always looking out for insurrectionists.  He had a brutal record of suppressing any and all would-be Jewish zealots who would try to overthrow Rome.  He is not prepared for Jesus' response to his inquiry:  “Are you the king of the Jews?”.

Jesus made it clear he had no interest in overthrowing a political and military Rome.  Instead he makes it clear that the Kingdom he rules over is much different from the Roman one.
“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” 

Pilate was under the authority of Rome.  Jesus' Kingdom doesn't come from any earthly authority.  The Kingdom of God has its authority in the realm of God's authority...over heaven and earth.  But this authority of God's is not is not is not is not power "over", but rather power "under"..the power to lift people from whatever state they are in to a place of freedom, no bondage, sins forgiven, and eternity as a goal, rather than the temporal things of political and military control.

Pilate's intrigue is sarcastic..."so you are a king?"
Jesus' answer is clear... "I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

At every stage of life we are presented with these two options.  The earthly Kingdoms promises of what their power and authority can give to you - which usually results in the promotion of their own wealth, power, and interests; or the Kingdom of God, which promises life, truth, freedom from bondage, and a vision of life that only begins on earth, but will continue on forever and ever into eternity.

Let's live out of the power "under" of the Kingdom of God.


Monday, April 2, 2012

A Rooster Crowed

It's Monday of Holy Week, and throughout the week we'll walk through the events that lead up to Jesus' death on the cross.  To get to the cross people had to look at Jesus and ignore his life.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and the crowds had welcomed Jesus as the "Savior"...their Savior.  The problem was that they were out for their own interest and had no desire to embrace God's purposes - that Jesus' death would be for the whole world.
As the week went along Jesus had various interactions - but on Thursday evening he celebrated Passover with his disciples in the Upper Room.  He left that room with them to walk through the Temple area and head to the hillside outside of Jerusalem to a garden called Gethsemane.  There he is arrested as Judas leads the guards to the place he knows Jesus will be.  They bound Jesus, the others all scattered, and they led him through the same gate and then taken to the Palace of Annas...the real head behind the Jewish leaders.  Here Jesus stands for his first trial - and in the background hovers Peter.

John 18:12-27 (NIV)
12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him
13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.
14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.
15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard,
16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
17 "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, "I am not."
18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20 "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.
21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."
22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded.
23 "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?"
24 Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
25 As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it, saying, "I am not."
26 One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, "Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?"
27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Annas represents the worst in religion.  Cunning, political, without convictions except to gain wealth and power through his religion, he was probably first to see Jesus if for no other reason than to find out who this guy was that so boldly entered the Temple and overturned the money booths that made him lots of money.  He despised Jesus because Jesus dared to stand up to his authority - a false authority based on intimidation and a "gang-like" rule in Jerusalem.  To say that he DENIED that Jesus was the Son of God was an understatement.  He didn't just deny, he despised, but in the end, it was just the beginning...he sent him to his son-in-law, the High Priest, Caiaphas.

Yet John does not let the story of Jesus' arrest just emphasize the religious authorities denial.  He includes Peter's story, if for no other reason than to say that "everyone" denied Jesus in the end.  Peter and possibly John (the other disciple) followed, and once it was possible to enter the courtyard, they entered to see what they could do.  What were they thinking?  It's hard to know...perhaps Peter was looking for a way to get Jesus' free?  Perhaps he thought they would harass Jesus and then let him go.  We don't know.  What we do know is that a rooster crowed.

A rooster crowed... Jesus had told Peter that he expected that Peter would deny him and the rooster crowing would occur:  John 13:38 (NIV) 
Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Peter's denial is what it is.  Matthew says he began to "curse and swear" (Matt. 26:74).  
The Rooster crowed and Peter knew that Jesus' words were true.
The Rooster crowed and Peter understood that Jesus was in charge.
The Rooster crowed and Peter's self-understanding came unraveled.

He was not the person he thought he would be...he was just another person who would "deny" Jesus.

BUT...the Rooster crowed NOT to make him guilty; but to invite Peter along with all of us to the work of the cross.  Peter too needed repentance, faith in Christ's work to redeem him too.

On our good days we are bold like Peter in the Upper Room... "Lord, I will follow you to the ends of the earth."
On many of those other real days we are just like Peter...standing at a fire, warming ourselves at a distant, and when the comments are made, we laugh, or curse, or simply remain quiet and passive, denying the Christ who died for our own sins.

We too must hear the Rooster Crow.