Christianity 201

April 21, 2022

Time For Change

Thinking Through John 20:11-18

by Clarke Dixon

When will things ever change? Why does everything keep changing?

Which statement resonates with you? Perhaps they both do. We humans desire change, but then we also resist change. Sometimes we push for change, yet sometimes we push back when things are changing.

We cannot talk about Easter without talking about change!

A big change happened at Easter, which inspired a lot of change, which of course also meant a lot of pushback. What was that big change?

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus,…

John 20:11-14 (NLT emphasis added)

Jesus was dead. Now he is alive. That was a big change! And that changed everything!

The fact that Jesus is alive changes everything

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking who Jesus was and is. Those religious leaders who thought he was a fraud would need to reconsider. Those who saw Jesus as great teacher or miracle worker but merely a great teacher or miracle worker, would need to reconsider. Those who wondered if Jesus might be the expected Messiah, though having their hopes dashed by his crucifixion, would need to rethink their expectations of the Messiah. This rethinking of the identity of Jesus led to Jesus being reconsidered as “The Word made flesh and dwelt among us” (see John 1:14) and “King of kings and Lord of lords” (see 1st Timothy 6:15) and “My Lord and my God!” (see John 20:28).

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking how we relate to God; no longer through the old covenant, but through Jesus.

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking the God’s priorities; from making Israel great again, to connecting people with God and God’s kingdom wherever they may live, whatever their nationality may be.

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking who is invited to live and lean into the Kingdom of God; anyone and everyone.

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking how people relate to one another when it comes to class divisions: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28 (NRSV).

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking ethics; no longer living by the letter of the old covenant law, but the teaching and example of Jesus.

Since Jesus is risen, since Jesus is king, that changed everything! It meant changing anything that did not fit the Kingdom.

A Kingdom Pivot

The word pivot has been used a lot recently with reference to adapting to a pandemic. We church leaders needed to change how we led worship and how we gathered people together when worship gatherings were stopped. We all have needed to learn to live with masks and social distancing. The reality of a nasty virus meant the need for a pivot in how we live.

The reality of Jesus risen from the dead means there is need for a “Kingdom pivot.” Since Jesus is the king, what does life look like in His kingdom? What needs to change?

An example of a Kingdom pivot

Here is an example of the Kingdom pivot from our Scripture Focus:

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

John 20:14-18 (NLT)

Jesus is alive and a woman in the first to know! Why didn’t Jesus go straight to the disciples? According to scholars women were not even allowed to be witnesses in those days. It was a man’s world. Jesus showed himself alive first to a woman as a call for a change in attitudes toward women.

Some Bible teachers have pointed out that since an apostle is one “sent out” with a message, Mary is the first apostle! This is a huge sign that in the Kingdom there will be a different attitude toward women. This Kingdom pivot is aligned with the teaching of Jesus when Martha wanted Mary to take her proper place. Mary was doing what women were not supposed to be doing, learning. Yet Jesus affirmed her choice to learn. Change was coming.

Not everyone could handle this change in attitudes toward women, indeed we see evidence of this in the New Testament itself, and in churches around the world right down to our day. Change gets messy. For myself, I’m glad to be part of a convention and church that supports women in leadership at all levels. To me, this is an important Kingdom pivot.

The Kingdom Pivot in our lives

Jesus is alive. Jesus is king. That changes everything. Are we prepared to change anything that does not fit the Kingdom?

What does a kingdom pivot look like in your life right now? It might be a change in habits or attitudes. It might be seeking help for change in a battle with an addiction. It might be a change in the way we treat others, whether family, friends, strangers, or enemies. It might be a change in our attitudes toward a certain people group. It might be a change in our attitude toward ourselves. I came face to face with my tendency for perfectionism when the pandemic hit and worship and preaching went online. My imperfections were suddenly recorded on camera! We perfectionists tend to beat ourselves up when we end up being less than perfect, which we always do. People don’t beat themselves up in God’s Kingdom. There is a Kingdom pivot needed in my life. What Kingdom pivot do you need in yours?

Are we open to these changes or do we resist them?

In Conclusion

Jesus is alive and is king. That changes everything. So be prepared to change anything that does not fit his kingdom.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario Canada. Read more at Thinking Through Scripture.

April 20, 2022

Resurrection and Post-Resurrection

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Last year we chose a new writer, Linda Knight to feature as our Good Friday devotional. Today we’re back with her for a mash-up of two of her most recent articles. Linda writes at Fearless Living which we recommend checking out. The headers below will also take to each article complete.

Resurrection Sunday, A True Eternal Blessing!

…Now we need to come to the realization that without the resurrection His death would have been meaningless,  and we would be still lost in sin!  In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Paul writes,

12 “But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”

Paul made this argument to clarify for the unbelievers and doubters that belief in the resurrection was essential to faith otherwise they would still have all their sins and be under penalty of death.  Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Belief in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and His victorious resurrection were essential to the Corinthian believer’s faith and are for us as well.  Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sins and no victory over death! All of Christ’s suffering here on earth would have been for nothing.

I know that God is sovereign, all powerful and omniscient and nothing is left to chance or done randomly.  Jesus prayed in John 17:3-4 just before His death, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”   

We know God’s plans will be accomplished, His Word, Jesus would not return to Him void. Isaiah 55:11 “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”   Job 42:2 also reminds us of this truth, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Praise God His purpose was not thwarted and was accomplished completely by Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead.  Praise God, our Redeemer Lives!

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, Your faith is real, your sins are forgiven, you will spend eternity with Jesus, you are empowered and indwelt by His Holy Spirit!  Praise God!

On the Road with Jesus, He gives exactly what you need when you need it!

As we celebrated on Easter morning, Jesus did not stay in the tomb but rose from the dead. He has Risen INDEED! After his resurrection, he appeared many times to individuals, small groups and to as many as 500 at once. He was alive in their midst as He talked, ate and shared himself with believers confirming his life and assuring them of his victory over death. As we move along the road towards his ascension and return to heaven 40 days after his resurrection, we will come face to face with Jesus’ divinity and power over death…

One of my favorite post-resurrection appearances is the encounter of the two on the Road to Emmaus.  Overcome with grief because of Jesus’ death and disbelief over what the women said about seeing Him alive, these two followers of Christ were walking along the Emmaus Road discussing all these recent events and reports.  Jesus joined them on their journey without disclosing his identity.  As they walked they were surprised that he did not know about all the events that had just occurred in Jerusalem. They told him of their hope that Jesus had been the long awaited Messiah.

  Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  Luke 24:25-27

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there and listened to Jesus explain all about Himself?  A little later in the story when they were sitting down to eat, Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread and began to give it to them.  Right then, their eyes were opened  and they recognized Jesus.  He then disappeared from their presence. Even though it was late they quickly returned to Jerusalem to tell the disciples about their encounter with the risen Lord Jesus.

Jesus came to these two when they were filled with grief, despair and confusion, and He cleared up their thinking, encouraged and enlivened them. Can you remember a time when Jesus came to you in prayer or through the actions or words of another believer to give you hope and encouragement?  Jesus promises that He will be with us wherever we go.  Just like these two, we need to look and recognize His presence with us and the hope that He brings.

April 17, 2022

The Tomb is Empty!

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.  – John 20:1-10

Our Easter Sunday devotional today highlights the writing of Keith Lyndaker Schlabach appearing here for the first time. This is a portion of a sermon transcript for a message shared at Millersburg Mennonite Church in Ohio. The blog is called iX-Rays which he explains consists of “‘Iota’ for Iesous (Ιησους, Jesus in Greek) and ‘X’ or Chi for Christos (Χριστος, Christ in Greek)” terms that “have been used since the early days of Christianity.”

To enjoy the full message on audio click here, or click the header below to read the transcript in full, which is recommended.

Empty – An Easter Sunday Sermon

…It is easy for me to get overwhelmed sometimes with the problems of the world, the challenges of relational ministry, the anxieties of what may or may not be coming down the pike for the conference and our denomination. I look around and I wonder; What happened to the joy of my salvation?

I get so filled up that there is no room for the empty tomb.

Maybe you like me feel overwhelmed by death. Perhaps it is fitting for Holy Week, but the beginning of this week was pretty hard for me. Some days my body just seems to ache a little more and my mortality weighs heavy on me. For me, it’s not just my mortality and the struggle with how best to spend the remainder of my days, how ever many there may be, but it is the seemingly endless tales of suffering and death on the 24/7 news cycle.

So let’s join Mary of Magdala for a little walk in the garden. We see the stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

Let’s let our obsession with, our avoidance of, our downright fear of, death go. One thing you can say about life – None of us are getting out of it alive. But that’s okay. Death isn’t the end.

The tomb is empty.

Maybe you like me feel so overwhelmed by the responsibilities of life that this abundant living thing feels like a mirage. Some days it is all I can do just to put one foot in front of the other.

Let’s join that other disciple as he runs to the crypt. We look in the tomb and we see the strips of cloth. The tomb is empty. Why look for the living among the dead?

So let’s leave behind the dead weight of life lived in a hurry, a life that robs us of the abundant life Jesus gives us. Let’s strip away the trappings of our frantic pace that keep us from being more deeply connected to God and to each other. Stop filling up your life with more doing. Abundant life awaits.

The tomb is empty.

Maybe you like me feel so overwhelmed by doubt and disbelief that you don’t even know if this resurrection thing is even possible, though as NT Wright says, at a time when women were not considered credible witnesses, why would the Gospel writers have women be the first witnesses to the Resurrection if what they witnessed did not occur?

So let’s join Peter as he runs to catch up to that other disciple. Let’s not hesitate at the gaping wound of the grave but let’s go right on in. Let’s ponder the discarded wrappings of death. Let’s say, Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

The tomb is empty.

Maybe you like me have been holding on to an image of Jesus that you grew up with or have witnessed, a Jesus of intolerance and confusion, a Lord of rules and should and should nots, a Christ who doesn’t really feel alive anymore, Jesus says to us like He did to Mary, “Do not hold on to me.” Wait, soon you will receive a fresh revelation of the Spirit, a new indwelling of the Risen Lord…

…We gain and grow so much when we learn about God together. It is spaces such as these where we may get emptied of preconceived notions and misconceptions and then can get filled up with the Word of God, the love of Christ, and the wisdom that comes from deeply listening to those on the journey with us.

It is one place among many the Spirit provides where we can learn what occupies our hearts. Because our hearts are occupied.

So the question is, what have we allowed to take up residence within us?

Are there things in your life that are crowding God out? Is there room in your heart for Jesus? Has the resurrected Jesus taken up residence there?

If you have not opened your heart to Jesus, then I urge you to do so. Life is hard, but grace abounds, and life is so much better with Jesus by your side and the family of God to love on you.

Do you feel empty inside? There is plenty of stuff in life that we can fill our lives up with, but not all of it satisfies, no matter how much we accumulate. I suspect most of us could be a little more empty. If we’re honest we probably ought to say no to some things.

When I taught at an alternative school in Washington DC, I told the students that I wish I had a speaker box on my shoulder that would automatically be blaring the word “No!”, because invariably as I walked the halls I would be inundated with requests, most of which were frivolous. Hey Mr. Keith Can I…? No! Mr. Keith can we …? No! Yo, Mr Keith I was wondering …? No!

So what things in your life do you need to be saying “no” to in order to be able to say “yes” to God?

The tomb is empty. So why do we try to keep filling it back up with things that do not give life?

The tomb is empty!

Up at the cemetery this morning it was frigid and cold, but inside our hearts were warm, because the tomb is empty!

Up at the cemetery this morning, it felt like winter, but I’m here to tell you that spring is on the way.

The tomb is empty!

And walking through that cemetery this morning you would find all sorts of names on the gravestones, but there is one name you wouldn’t find and that is the name of Jesus because the tomb is empty!

And that matters ….

Because you see if we like Mary Magdalene have been emptied of that which has possessed us, and we have allowed the God of the Universe to fill us with the Love of Christ and the power of the Resurrection, then we have been gloriously released by Jesus out into the world and in our daily lives, to share with everyone we meet the things Jesus has told us, where we can’t help but shout with bright joy like Mary, “I have seen the Lord!”

Let us pray:

The tomb is empty, Lord. Thank you! You are alive! Thank you! Death, suffering, pain, the principalities and powers; all have been defeated because your tomb is empty. Thank you! Empty us of anything that blocks your Spirit’s work in us. Fill us up with your Resurrection Power. For you are the King of Glory, Jesus, the Bright Morning Star. Hallelujah! Amen


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

April 15, 2022

Jesus Did Not Flinch from What Awaited Him in Jerusalem

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
.

~Luke 9:51

Luke points the “road to Jerusalem” early on, in chapter 9. He knew what awaited him there. Because we’ve placed this as a Good Friday reading, it’s easy to miss the first part of the verse, especially if we read quickly past the phrase, “received up” (as some translations have it). This passage is also anticipating the ascension (the event described in Mark 16:19). Luke previews the forthcoming part of the arc of Jesus’ life in this one verse. Up next: Jerusalem. Up later: ascension. Implied: death and resurrection.

Nine chapters later, Luke describes him telling them more clearly. Then Jesus took the Twelve aside and said to them, “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything the prophets have written about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. (18:31) It’s not specific to our ears, unless you read the next two verses, He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

This is to path to which Jesus sets a direct course.

Matthew Henry writes:

1. There was a time fixed for the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus, and he knew well enough when it was, and had a clear and certain foresight of it, and yet was so far from keeping out of the way that then he appeared most publicly of all, and was most busy, knowing that his time was short.

2. When he saw his death and sufferings approaching, he looked through them and beyond them, to the glory that should follow; he looked upon it as the time when he should be received up into glory (1 Tim. 3:16), received up into the highest heavens, to be enthroned there. Moses and Elias spoke of his death as his departure out of this world, which made it not formidable; but he went further, and looked upon it as his translation to a better world, which made it very desirable. All good Christians may frame to themselves the same notion of death, and may call it their being received up, to be with Christ where he is; and, when the time of their being received up is at hand, let them lift up their heads, knowing that their redemption draws nigh.

3. On this prospect of the joy set before him, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem the place where he was to suffer and die. He was fully determined to go, and would not be dissuaded; he went directly to Jerusalem, because there now his business lay, and he did not go about to other towns, or fetch a compass, which if he had done, as commonly he did, he might have avoided going through Samaria. He went cheerfully and courageously there, though he knew the things that should happen to him there. He did not fail nor was discouraged, but set his face as a flint, knowing that he should be not only justified, but glorified (Isa. 50:7), not only not run down, but received up. How should this shame us for, and shame us out of, our backwardness to do and suffer for Christ! We draw back, and turn our faces another way from his service who steadfastly set his face against all opposition, to go through with the work of our salvation.

This reminded me of another passage:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:2

The website The Bible Says notes that this verse lands immediately after the “gallery of faith” in Hebrews 11. We have all of the examples from the pages of Bible history, however,

…the ultimate example is Jesus Christ, on whom we should fix our eyes on because He is both the author and perfecter of faith. He is the author because He fulfilled God’s promise to send a Messiah redeemer, beginning all the way back in Genesis 3:15. The foundation for the redemption of the world is through His ministry, His death and resurrection. He is also the perfecter (related to the word teleiosi, which means to complete, or finish, or fulfill something). Christ fulfilled the task that God called Him to, obeying to the point of death, enduring through many sufferings. As a result, He defeated death, and ascended to the throne. We are in a period awaiting His full coronation.

Again, Matthew Henry writes that it was the big picture ending (literally, the joy set before him) which carried Jesus forward in his mission:

What it was that supported the human soul of Christ under these unparalleled sufferings; and that was the joy that was set before him. He had something in view under all his sufferings, which was pleasant to him…

I’ve taken the rest of the quotation from Matthew Henry and reset it as bullet points.

  • he rejoiced to see that by his sufferings he should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and
  • give security to his honor and government,
  • that he should make peace between God and man,
  • that he should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it,
  • that he should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners,
  • and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him, and himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before him.

Practical application: While there are so many theological depths in this idea of Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem which should not be minimized, I have often found on a very practical level that this concept — and that exact phrase — has provided great comfort when I must face an unpleasant situation.

April 13, 2022

The Days of Holy Week Have Names: This is Spy Wednesday

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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NLT. Matt.24.14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Ten years ago, at the start of Lent, we ran an excerpt from a very detailed article at Wikipedia (again, not always the best go-to source for the budding theologian) on the subject of the particular days of the 40-day observance. The content varies a decade later, but here’s how we presented it then:

  • Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity
  • Clean Monday (or “Ash Monday”) is the first day in Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • The fourth Lenten Sunday, which marks the halfway point between Ash Wednesday and Easter, is sometimes referred to as Laetare Sunday, particularly by Roman Catholics, and Mothering Sunday, which has become synonymous with Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom. However, its origin is a sixteenth century celebration of the Mother Church. On Laetare Sunday, the priest has the option of wearing vestments of rose (pink) instead of violet.
  • The fifth Lenten Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday (however, that term is also applied to Palm Sunday) marks the beginning of Passiontide
  • The sixth Lenten Sunday, commonly called Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter
  • Wednesday of Holy Week is known as Spy Wednesday to commemorate the days on which Judas spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before betraying him
  • Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples
  • Good Friday follows the next day, on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion and burial

At the time, not as many Evangelicals were as conscious of Lent as they are today. In looking at this years later, I also noticed that there is no mention of the day which follows Good Friday, which I had learned was Holy Saturday. However, the article places this differently:

In the Anglican, Lutheran, Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, and many other traditions, the Easter Triduum is a three-day event that begins Maundy Thursday evening, with the entrance hymn of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. After this celebration, the consecrated Hosts are taken solemnly from the altar to a place of reposition, where the faithful are invited to meditate in the presence of the consecrated Hosts.This is the Church’s response to Jesus’ question to the disciples sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” On the next day, the liturgical commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ is celebrated at 3 pm, unless a later time is chosen due to work schedules.

If your observance of Holy Week (and Lent in general) is far less complicated, I have two reactions to that. On the one hand, it asks people to carry a lot of extra information around in their heads as to where they are on the liturgical calendar. (In an Anglican or Catholic service, when the priest or rector speaks of these things, I’m sure some of it goes over the heads of parishioners, or simply bores them as something irrelevant.) On the other hand, there is a beauty to all this organization that I believe everyone who is interested in the capital “C” Church should at least have some conversational familiarity with. We need to follow along with Jesus and the disciples on the road to Jerusalem and the road to the cross.

Which brings us back to the title of today’s devotional. When I posted the original bullet-point list above, I must have been in a hurry, because “Spy Wednesday” did not immediately register.

We don’t know how far in advance Judas had been building a relationship with those who, after the resurrection of Lazarus, wanted Jesus out of the way. He would have needed to earn their trust, and a component of that trust was the “intelligence” information that Jesus frequented Gethsemane.

Judas was a necessary evil in the completion of God’s master plan, and I promise you, you’ll never see a more accurate use of the term “necessary evil.” Luke writes,

NRSV.Acts.1.16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

It’s difficult for us to understand how anyone could have spent up to 3 years with Jesus and not had his heart melted by what he had heard (teaching) and seen (miracles) but somehow self-interest was a big component of his thinking, and when he saw the tide turning after the Jerusalem entry, he made his move.

None of this comes as a surprise to Jesus. He has known what was in the heart of Judas all along, going back to the day he “chose twelve,” even to the point that the group gives Judas control of the petty cash (which I suspect involved sums required to keep thirteen itinerant men on the road.) And in the upper room meal, he lets Judas know that he knows.

CSB.Mark.14.18 While they were reclining and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one by one, “Surely not I?”

20 He said to them, “It is one of the Twelve—the one who is dipping bread in the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man will go just as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if he had not been born.”

Even before events unfold, Jesus has also foreshadowed the things to follow in his garden prayer, which is somehow overheard and recorded in John’s gospel for us to examine. Speaking to the Father he says,

NLT.John.17.12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me, I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

For Judas of course, his self-intentioned course of actions means that no matter how the religious leaders and Roman peacekeepers come after Jesus and the other eleven disciples, he will be on the safe side of history. But the betrayal comes with a cash bonus! At that point, it’s a business transaction, but one which Judas immediately regrets, going so far as to offer a complete refund.

NIV.Matt.27.3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

This leaves Judas without a place to turn. He can’t go back to being part of the disciples. At this juncture, they know the role he played too well. He’s also lost the standing with the chief priests he worked so hard to earn. He’s even ruined his future career as a spy since no one will know for sure whose side he’s on.

As a spy story, it’s a bit of a disaster. And perhaps hardly deserving of its own special mention on the Holy Week calendar.

Years later, compiling what we know as The Gospel of Matthew, we realize that Jesus had very plainly foretold it all. Perhaps they heard the words he spoke that day, but they didn’t really hear it.

NIV.Matt.20.17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Jesus knew, and Jesus submitted and surrendered himself to the process. Judas the traitor was really just a pawn, not in this Holy Week story, but in a master plan that had been carved out in the mind of God long before “In the beginning.”


Further consideration: While we said above that Jesus is clearly letting Judas know that he knows, the idea seems so implausible to the other disciples that — in the moment — they all question their loyalty out loud.

 

 

April 11, 2022

Telling Others: A Prime Week for Ministry

One year ago, we introduced you to Bernie Lyle who writes at Musings from an Idle Mind. Although it was posted yesterday for Palm Sunday, it encourages us to invest ourselves in looking for ministry opportunities that could present themselves naturally to us in this week. Clicking the title below gets you to Bernie’s site to read this directly.

Appointment with Destiny

“Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: “ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:37-38‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Appointment with destiny

In the human life there are many appointments, some of them are of our choosing, others are ordained for us as unavoidable, such as our eventual death. In the case of our Lord Jesus, His appointment with destiny was both of His choosing, and ordained, as it was determined from the foundation of the earth, that He would come and die for our sins.

On a morning long ago, a morning that we have come to know as Palm Sunday, our Lord entered the Jerusalem to great rejoicing. He came in as a King, with much fanfare, as the public cheered His coming.

“And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!””
Matthew 21:8-9 NKJV

As Jesus approached, I can imagine His conflicted emotions, as the all knowing God, He knew that the very same voices that heralded His arrival, would later be crying “crucify Him!” But still Jesus continued on, on mission to reconcile God with man, and defeat the evil one.

Through the entirety of the coming week, each courageous step toward Calvary was planted in the surety of what was to come after the cross. Even so, I am sure He battled the flesh that He had humbled Himself to dwell in, as He felt everything that we feel.

I try and think of some of the moments of destiny in my life. I think of all the humiliations of going through cancer many years, an experience I walked through accompanied by the Lord alone. Through the journey, the Lord was with me, guiding me, reminding me of His presence in the Scriptures I read, and the worship music in which I listened.

The Father was surely with Jesus as He went through His week.

As we come into this Palm Sunday, there is no certainty that there will be another, as our world appears of its own perilous path to its appointment with destiny. Regardless, we have today, and we too have the surety that there is something beyond the uncertainty before us, as we look to the soon coming of the Lord Jesus.

May this day be a beginning point, a marker that we stand on as the starting point of a week of ministry. Holy Week is a great opportunity to go out and tell of Jesus, for many have a consciousness of God and the work of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, pray for opportunities to share the Good News, to tell of Jesus who came to earth, clothed in human flesh, lived as one of us, lived a sinless life, died the sinners death that we deserved. Tell your own story, of how He forgave you, and changed you, of how He changed your destiny from Hell to Heaven.

Tell also of the new life, brought by His resurrection. The world is full of people who need to hear all of this, for there are many whose lives are filled with struggles and consequences.

Many of the people that we will encounter will have their own appointments with destiny, and more than likely, some of them might even have that appointment with eternity, and yours might be the voice that guides them to heaven.

Let us be sure to cry out and rejoice of all that the Lord has done for us, for we would be ashamed if the stones drowned out our praise.

“And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.””
Luke 19:39-40 NKJV


#prayforukraine

April 10, 2022

The Underlying Tensions of Palm Sunday

First, before we begin, as we were discussing possible “call to worship” or as some call it “opening sentence” material for Palm Sunday, I found myself reading the original prophecy in Zachariah 9:9 which is fulfilled on this day in the life of Jesus.

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

That’s the NASB. In The Message, Eugene Peterson renders it as,

“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise your voice, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey.”

Second, the original material that I write here is occasionally prone to be repeated after four years, but the guest writers are never repeated. In looking for some thoughts for yesterday, I also considered, but didn’t use, excerpts from previous C201 devotions, but in the 24 hours that followed I kept thinking I wanted to repeat something we’d used previously — exactly five years ago — from Clarke Dixon. And Clarke is like family. So here, for the first (or possibly second) time is an encore performance from a pastor who practically lives in my backyard. (It’s an expression; he really lives about 20 miles away.) The direct link is in the title below.

Feeling Nervous? Romans 8:31-39

by Clarke Dixon

Feeling nervous? If you are one of the disciples entering into Jerusalem with Jesus then you probably should be. Yes there is the excitement of the crowds waving their palm branches and shouting “Hosanna,” but there is also the danger that exists when revolution is in the air. Jerusalem at the time is the home of powerful people with powerful ideas. Some have the idea that Rome should get lost and the occupying Roman army should take a hike. Others think that every hint of revolution should be squashed. These are dangerous times. Within a few decades there will be a revolution and Jerusalem will be destroyed. But right now, revolution is in the air and there’s a miracle worker entering Jerusalem on a donkey, which means he may as well wave a banner saying “I am the Messiah, I will rescue you.” To most minds this means “I will kick the Romans out.” Revolution is in the air, blood will be spilled. If you are one of the disciples entering Jerusalem with Jesus, you should be nervous.

What does the “triumphal entry” of Jesus and the events we celebrate on Palm Sunday have to do with Romans chapter 8? The connection is found in Paul’s quotation from Psalm 44:

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” Romans 8:36

Psalm 44 is a “Psalm of complaint” where the Psalmist complains that God’s righteous people are suffering and need to be rescued. Implied in the appeal for a rescue is also, of course, that God would deal with the enemy. This is an appeal to the justice of God, that He would do the right thing and rescue His people. In Jesus’ day you could think of the Jews of Jerusalem being the righteous sufferers while the Gentiles from Rome are the evil oppressors. Surely when the Messiah comes he will rescue Jerusalem and destroy the Romans! However, the facts are set straight at the cross.

By the end of the week, blood has been spilled. It is not the blood of Jewish revolutionaries, nor of occupying Roman forces. It is the blood of one man, Jesus. He is the one accounted as a sheep to be slaughtered. He is the one who can appeal to innocence and the injustice of his death as the righteous sufferer of Psalm 44. He is the one who can appeal to God the Father for a rescue, and the destruction of the enemy.

Therein lies the problem. Everyone is included in that enemy; the Roman authorities granting the final word, the Roman army carrying out the deed, the Jewish authorities instigating the whole rotten affair, and the Jewish crowds shouting “crucify him, crucify him.” The saying is spot on: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) Well almost, there is one who is righteous, the one being crucified on trumped up charges, the one experiencing the culmination of hatred, the one experiencing injustice.

This is the moment in which God the Son, as the innocent sufferer, could call upon God the Father to do “the right thing,” to rescue him and destroy the enemy. Problem is, of course, that destroying the enemy would mean destroying everyone. If there is ever one moment that stands out as the moment for God to unleash his righteous anger at the world, this is it; at the cross. If there is ever a moment proving God’s righteousness in sending a flood, this is it. The flood in Noah’s day was due to man’s violence against humanity. Now at the cross humanity’s violence is turned to God Himself. Rebellion against Rome hung in the air, but we sank to our lowest low when, in our rebellion against God, Jesus hung on a cross.

Perhaps we should be nervous? The blood of Jesus is on our hands too. Would we have acted any different than the disciples in abandoning Jesus? Than Peter in denying Jesus? Than the religious leaders in seeking the death of Jesus? Than the crowds in demanding the crucifixion of Jesus? Than Pilate in acquiescing? Than the Roman solider in carrying out orders? We are no different.

So should we be nervous knowing that we are complicit in crimes against God Himself? Let us turn again to Romans 8:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31

But is God for us?

When we ask if God is for us, we may think of the crucifixion as overwhelming evidence of our rebellion against God. However the cross was not just our great act of rebellion, it was also God’s great act of love. Consider:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19-20

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Satan, the accuser, may have a lot of dirt on us. Actually, not just may, he does have a lot of dirt on us. We have given him a long list of things to choose from as to why we do not deserve to be in the presence of God. However:

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Romans 8:31-34

Satan may argue forcefully about all the reasons we do not deserve to be in the presence of God. God says in effect “I already know about all that, in fact I already paid for it.” When we are in Christ, the dirt does not stick.

When we ask if God is for us, some may point to our own suffering as evidence that maybe He is not. Paul brings us back to the facts. We measure God’s love for us, not on our suffering, but on His. We suffer because we are humans living in a broken world. He suffered because of His love for broken people.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

Our suffering is not evidence that God does not love us. The suffering of Jesus is evidence that He does.

Feeling nervous? Because of sin, you should be. Many a person in this world should be quaking in their boots right now. However, in Christ, you needn’t. Which brings us back to where we began in Romans 8:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

All scripture references are taken from the NRSV


Read more at Clarke’s blog: Thinking Through Scripture

April 9, 2022

The Road to Palm Sunday

Matt.21.7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

Today we consider thoughts from different writers. Links to the full text of each devotional are included.

Charles Stanley writes,

…Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem… appeared to be such a wonderful day for [the disciples]—and it was, but for different reasons than they realized. They thought the Messiah had come to reestablish Israel’s power in the world. But God had something else in mind.

The disciples weren’t the only ones who had misconceptions about the Messiah. Many Jews of the day expected Him to be an earthly king. When the crowds heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they cheered, “Hosanna! ” which means, “Save now!” They saw Him as their new King, come to bring salvation from political and societal oppression. He raised the dead—no doubt he could also restore the kingdom of David and free them from Roman rule.

Seated upon a donkey, Jesus resembled a ruler returning to his city in peacetime, loyal subjects lining his path with coats and palm fronds. Even the Pharisees were there watching in indignation, saying, “Look, the world has gone after Him” (John 12:19)…

At the website of the National Bible Society of Ireland, we’re given some details about the story; three things you may have missed before. The devotional reads,

Hoshi-ana – This familiar term (in English we say ‘Hosanna’ coming from the Greek/Latin translations) found in the Psalms is made up of two Hebrew words – ‘Help/save us’ and ‘please/now’. It shares the same root with Jesus’ own name (Yeshua, meaning ‘salvation’). With overtones of deliverance and rescue, they are biblical words which can be uttered across all centuries and dimensions.

This phrase also highlights something – salvation is not just an individual pursuit, there is an inherent collective element in the ‘us’. Israel’s salvation history always involves the well-being of the whole (think of the Lost Sheep/Lost Coin/Lost Son parables). The salvation/rescue of one affects the salvation/rescue of all.

Sacred Time […I’ll let you click the link to read this one…]

Two Resurrection Stories – Geographically in the text we are positioned between two stories of resurrection. The account of the Triumphal Entry as it is presented in John in particular, places Jesus the day before in Bethany with His friend Lazarus. Lazarus and Bethany give both those who are in the text and those who are reading the text hope through resurrection. Between Bethany and Jerusalem we are walking between the restored life of Jesus’s friend Lazarus, and the impending death and resurrection of the Passover Lamb. This is surely a liminal space if ever there was one, a transitional moment which marks the threshold of an encounter between heaven and earth like no other. There are multiple skeins of connection underneath all that is unfolding as the events of Palm Sunday take place…

The website for Hope Stream Radio also fills in a few details for us. James Bryun writes,

…While these shouts of praise rang out, the Pharisees, mingling with the crowd turned to one another with angry frowns. They made a desperate appeal to the Master Himself, whom they so bitterly hated, to rebuke the honest zeal of the people. With a touch of quick and righteous indignation, Jesus pointed to the rocks and stones, telling the leaders of Israel that if the people held their peace, that the very stones would immediately cry out…

…On that bright spring day, the excitable, fickle population streamed before Him through the City-gates, down the narrow streets up to the Temple. The tramp of their feet and their shouts of acclamations brought men, women, and children into the streets and onto the housetops…

…Curious onlookers cried out “Who is He?” and the crowds answered

‘This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee’.

Jesus alone was silent and sad amongst this excited crowd. The marks of the tears He had wept over Jerusalem were still on His cheek. He was the suffering servant who will take away our weaknesses, and bear our diseases, who came to win our hearts with love. It wasn’t an earthly King who entered His city in triumph, but a heavenly King about to depart to His Kingdom. Jesus was preparing to depart by the way of the cross…

At the California Southern Baptist Convention page, Randy Bennett writes,

…That Scripture (John 1:11 “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”) became one of my core verses as I looked at the future of my life. I reasoned that because His own people rejected Him did not mean that I had to reject Him. It doesn’t mean that anyone else must reject Him either. I found it hard to imagine why “His people” rejected Him considering Jesus’ obvious healing and teaching power…

On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus’ first “Kingly” entry into Jerusalem. Would Jesus be received or rejected? At first, it appeared that the city was opening their hearts to Jesus as they threw down palm branches in front of the donkey colt He rode. Whenever I read that passage, I relive the tension of John 1:11. Would it be different this time? Would the religious leaders lay down their intense fear of Rome and open their hearts to their Savior King? How does a city go from the glorious, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” to “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” just a few days later? It is no wonder that Jesus soon becomes the weeping King. He came to give life to His people, but they rejected Him.

Fortunately, the story does not end there. Jesus fulfilled His “Kingly” destiny the following week. He bravely faced the horrors of crucifixion, death and separation from God. He then demonstrated His power, position, and purpose when God Almighty raised Him from the dead. The challenge to receive Him presents itself to us daily. Will I receive Him today? As we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, will I receive Him as my King as he enters my world as God’s humble Savior and Servant. Would you join me in praising God by lifting up your “Hosanna, Hosanna” unto our mighty Savior?


Bonus item:

This is for subscribers, and for a limited time, here on C201. Released earlier today, join David Wesley and cellist Elijah de la Motte along with 120 acapella singers from 29 countries and ASL sign language interpreters in a beautiful arrangement of Revelation Song.

Worth is the lamb that was slain…

February 28, 2022

Anticipating the Cross

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

NIV.John.13.33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

NIV.Mark.8.31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

NIV.Mark.9.31b … He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

NLT.Mark.10.32b …Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. 33 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”

We’re just hours away from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Growing up in an Evangelical environment, I had little consciousness of the liturgical calendar beyond Christmas and Easter. Ten years ago I wrote,

To be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Mainline Protestant however is to be aware of the ever changing liturgical season; it is more than the passing of time, rather, each cycle is complete retelling of the New Testament gospel story. I’ve come to believe that Evangelicals are somewhat shortchanged in this area

But in the intervening decade, Evangelicals have made great inroads in recognizing the liturgical calendar. Wikipedia, while not always a great source for Biblical research, states that,

The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When I wrote ten years ago, I noted that one of the things I don’t see so much in literature is a comparison between the season of Advent and the time of Lent. While Advent anticipates, foreshadows and prefigures the coming of the Messiah, Lent anticipates, foreshadows and prefigures Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.

Wikipedia (yes, I see the eye-rolling) does in fact have a useful article titled Jesus Predicts His Death. It includes a comparison of three parallel quotations in the synoptic gospels. However, the site GotQuestions.org goes one step further and present the same three passages harmonized as single quotations.

The first time,

Jesus had just fed the multitudes, and He said that the “Son of Man must suffer many things” (Mark 8:31); be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; be killed; and be raised again. Peter then rashly began to rebuke Jesus, and Christ responded, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:33; Mark 8:33). Jesus knew that His death must happen. It was necessary in God’s plan to save the world.

The next occurrence was,

shortly after the Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John saw Christ in His heavenly glory. Perhaps this was the reason the disciples were so confused by Jesus telling them He was going to die. At this point, they believed His kingdom was just around the corner. Despite their lack of understanding, they were “afraid to ask” for clarification (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45).

For many of you, yesterday was Transformation Sunday and you heard these very passages read. It seems appropriate that they occur on the cusp of the season of Lent.

The final one was when

He spoke to His disciples as they were heading up toward Jerusalem for Passover, and He told them how He would be mocked, scourged, crucified, and then rise again. On this occasion also, the disciples did not understand Jesus’ saying because the meaning was hidden from them. They would soon learn what Jesus meant in the events of Good Friday and following.

The article then goes on to say,

The Gospel of John gives a few more predictions of Jesus’s death, but they are slightly more subtle.

but for those, you’ll have to click the link!

At Blue Letter Bible, Don Stewart notes:

The resurrection was predicted beforehand by Jesus. The fact that He would rise from the dead was central to Jesus’ ministry and message. The resurrection must not be seen as an isolated event in the life of Christ… Especially during the last six months of His earthly life, Jesus emphasized the importance and necessity of His upcoming crucifixion as well as the triumph of His resurrection… The predictions by Jesus of His resurrection were of such common knowledge that it led the religious rulers to ask Pontius Pilate to secure the tomb…

[If you have a friend who isn’t sure about the death and resurrection of Jesus, click Don’s link above and send them the article.]

In closing, we need to remember that simply searching out instances where Jesus predicts his own death doesn’t give us the full picture of scripture foreshadowing the crucifixion. Psalm 22 is a case in point:

NRSV.Ps.22.1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

NLT.Ps.22.16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice for my clothing.

We join now with Christians around the world in anticipating the road to the cross.

 

 

 

November 11, 2021

The Greatest New Beginning Ever

Thinking Through Acts 1:1-5

What is the biggest new beginning the world has ever seen?

Some might point to the conclusion of WWII, ushering in a post-war era, or the the dropping of atomic bombs, ushering in the nuclear age and a nuclear arms race. Some might point to the Reformation, or the Enlightenment, or of course, the current pandemic. Has anyone in the world been immune to the changes it has brought?

Whatever we might think has been the biggest “new beginning” humanity has experienced, let me suggest that the biggest and greatest new beginning ever can be found summed up in the first few verses of the book of Acts:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven . . .

Acts 1:1-2 (NLT)

The writer, in speaking of a first book, is referring here to the Gospel of Luke in which he wrote about the birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The biggest new beginning the world has ever seen is Jesus!

You don’t need to be a Christian to appreciate how Jesus has had a great impact on world history. Yes, Christians have sometimes had a negative impact, but there can be no doubt Jesus has changed the course of world history. Of course we can also think about the impact Jesus has had in many, many individual lives.

As the book of Acts opens, we learn about how Jesus has been the greatest new beginning ever seen:

During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles . . .

Acts 1:3 (NLT)

Central to this new beginning is the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. There are different ways of looking at how the death and resurrection of Jesus works, of how the events of that first Easter have brought a new beginning. Though there are others, here are three keys ways:

First, Jesus took our place, suffering the consequence of our sin, so that we may have eternal life.

Second, Jesus had victory over evil, sin, and death. Though it looked like the powers of evil had won at the crucifixion, actually it turned out that God had the victory. As Bible scholar N.T. Wright often points out, Jesus is not a failed messiah, but the true king. Good triumphs over evil in the end because God triumphs, and God is good. Love wins in the end because God wins, and God is love.

Third, Jesus is the example of what love looks like. God came to us in Jesus, we killed Jesus, God loves us anyway and offers reconciliation. If everyone responded to offence the way that God responded to the offence of humanity at the cross, what a different world this would be!

When we hold these three perspectives together we see a wonderful new beginning with the expectant hope of eternal life though we have not earned it, the knowledge that Jesus is Lord though we don’t always perceive it, and the example of the better way of love though we don’t always live it. The suffering and resurrection of Jesus has changed everything.

Let us continue in Acts:

. . . and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive.

Acts 1:3 (NLT)

It was obvious to the disciples and everyone else in Jerusalem that Jesus was killed. It likely took a wee bit more convincing that he was alive. However they were convinced, not that they had seen a ghost, nor that Jesus was simply resuscitated to life in the here and now, but that Jesus was raised to new life with a new kind of body. The disciples and many others were convinced enough to change their whole perspective, and convinced enough to suffer and die for what they knew to be true. The resurrection changed the disciples. The resurrection changed everything. It was a wonderful new beginning.

Let us continue,

And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

Acts 1:3 (NLT)

We can take note that during the forty days between resurrection and ascension, the Kingdom of God was a special focus for Jesus as he taught his disciples. Therefore the Kingdom of God really ought to be a focus for Jesus followers today.

We may think the focus of Christianity is “how to get to heaven when I die.” We think, therefore, that the new beginning will be when we die. True, that will be a wonderful new beginning, but there is much more to it than that.

We are reminded of how Jesus taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What are we praying for when we pray that? Are we praying for the end of the world?

Here is one way to imagine “Thy kingdom come.” What do you imagine that future will look like, when we are with God in the age of resurrection?

Will there be poverty then?
No, so let us deal with poverty now.
Will there be racism then?
No, so let us deal with racism now.
Will there be abuse, sexism, discrimination, bullying, war or…?
No, so let us deal with these kinds of things now.

Will people be suffering from mental health and depression then?
No, so let us help people who suffer from these things now.
Will people battle addictions or other kinds of inner battles then?
No, so let us help people who are facing these kinds of battles now.

Will there be a concern for truth then?
Yes, so let us pursue truth now.
Will there be justice then?
Yes, so let us pursue justice now.
Will people feel free to be honest then?
Yes, so let us make space for people to be honest now.
Will there be a love for reconciliation, then?
Yes, so let us pursue reconciliation now.

Will we be a people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and things like these then? (See Galatians 5:22,23)
Yes, so let us open our lives to the Holy Spirit to be nurtured in these qualities now.

Are we waiting to die before things can get better, before we experience a true new beginning? There is no need to wait, Jesus is already king, we are his kingdom people now.

It has often been said that there are two gospels, an evangelical gospel (you get to heaven when you die) and a social gospel (we can make this earth a little more heavenly before we die). In fact there is is just one gospel, the good news that Jesus is king, the Kingdom of God is here and near, and we are invited and enabled to be a Kingdom person forevermore, beginning here and now.

We are not done yet,

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:4-5 (NLT)

This new beginning brought about a new normal which persists even today; the Holy Spirit is now running rampant in the world. This new beginning, this Kingdom, is not happening without God. It is not going to happen without us either.

In Conclusion.

With Jesus came a massive new beginning for the world. In Jesus God’s kingdom is both here and near. It is a massive new beginning that God is doing in the here and now, which will lead to something bigger in the there and then. It is a massive new beginning that we are invited to participate in. It changes the world, it changes our communities, it changes us, it changes everything.

Are you ready for a new beginning?


Regular Thursday contributor and Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon initially posts the devotions here at his own site, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon. To watch the full sermon on which today’s message is based, click this YouTube link.

April 9, 2021

The New Normal, the Status Quo, and Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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NIV.Matt.21.33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

by Clarke Dixon

A year ago at this time we were talking about a new normal. That new normal now feels like the status quo with masks, social distancing, outbreaks, and lockdowns. Even as vaccines are rolled out, it feels like life under a pandemic is now the status quo, that these changes will be with us forever. At least that how it feels. The new normal has become the status quo and we are stuck with it.

This is eerily reminiscent of another great disruption.

We go back to the early chapters of Genesis when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, in perfect relationship with God Who gave them life. The expectation was that they would live forevermore. This is a picture of what humanity could have been.

All that is life-giving was theirs, except for one condition, they were not to eat from one particular tree. I think you know what happened next.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit and plunged us into a new normal. They were kicked out of the garden, barred access to the tree of life, and death was now the expectation. Rebellion against God and God’s ways became the status quo. We can think of Cain killing Abel. The expectation of death became the status quo. We can think of Abel being killed by Cain. The picture of what humanity could have been became a picture of what humanity is; a people who are in rebellion against the Giver of life, a people who could always expect death because of separation from God. The new normal became the status quo.

Yet God gave us signs of hope, signs that this new status quo would not last forever.

We can think of a fresh start with Noah, a new beginning. Yet shortly after hitting the reset button, there was a return to the status quo of rebellion against God Who gives us life, and the expectation of death.

We can think of the promise God made to Abraham, to create from him a nation through whom all nations would be blessed, a promise reiterated to Isaac, and Jacob. We see progress on that promise through the rescue of Jacob’s descendants from Egypt. This will be a different kind of people, a people in relationship with God. Yet in the wilderness we see these rescued people living according to the status quo of rebellion against God Who gives life, and the experience of death.

We can think of the giving of the law as sign of hope, so that God’s people could be a different kind of people who, far from rebelling against God, would walk according to his law. They would operate according to a good sense of justice. For example, it was to be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, instead of an arm and a leg plus an eye for an eye, and a head for a tooth. They would not sacrifice their children. They would take care of the vulnerable. They were to be a light to the other nations as they lived according to God’s law. Yet they did not have a very good track record of keeping the law. They succumbed to the status quo of rebellion against God Who gives life, and the expectation of death.

We can think of the sending of prophets as a sign of hope, so that God’s people could get back on track. Yet the response to the prophets pointed to the status quo of rebellion against the God Who gives life, and the experience of death.

There were many signs of hope. Yet the status quo persisted. The new normal, from the great disruption at the Garden of Eden, remained the status quo. It was like the discovery of a vaccine during a pandemic, and yet nothing seems to change.

But there was one more sign of hope. God sent His Son.

Jesus told a parable of a landowner who sent messengers to the farmers who were working his land. They kept beating up and killing the messengers. In the story of Jesus it was symbolic of God’s people ignoring and sometimes killing the prophets that God sent. In the story the landowner finally sent his own son. They killed him too. That points to Jesus. For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten son, and we killed him! Rebellion against God and the expectation of death had become so normal, that we even killed Immanuel, “God with us.”

On Good Friday we recognize the status quo of rebellion against God and the experience of death made so visible at the cross.

But on Sunday there was a true sign of hope, of change, of the status quo being disrupted and the possibility of something new. The stone was rolled away, there was no body, for Jesus had risen from the dead. That is the greatest disruption to the status quo the world has ever seen. Jesus was obedient. Jesus is alive. This was different!

Our rebellion was no match for God’s love. In a world where rebellion was normally dealt with through power, through armies, and violence, God did not respond to our violence with his. Jesus took the nails.

One would expect that to be the end of it, the expectation of death is the status quo, correct? But Jesus rose from the dead, then told the disciples to go invite anyone and everyone to the Kingdom of God, to be part of His royal family.

Even those who were involved in the crucifixion of Jesus could respond to his invitation. It would be up to the enemies of Jesus whether they would stick with the status quo of rebellion against God and the expectation of death, or step into a new normal, a new normal of intimate relationship with God, walking with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, a new normal of living in Jesus, a Kingdom life that challenges the status quo of a world gone mad, a new normal of the fear of death giving way to the anticipation of everlasting life, a new normal made possible by the grace of God, forgiveness in and though Jesus.

It would be up to the enemies of Jesus, those who crucified him, whether to stick with the status quo of rebellion against God and the expectation of separation from God in death, or to step into a new normal.

And it is up to us.

Will it be status quo? Or will we enter into the new normal Jesus brings?

When Adam and Eve sinned, they ushered in a new normal. That new normal become the status quo. That status quo made the events of Good Friday predictable. There was rebellion against God. There was death. The events of Easter Sunday were not as predictable. The stone was rolled away, Jesus was not in the tomb, he had risen! This is the greatest disruption to the status quo there has ever been in the history of the world. There is a new normal, a new way of life, a new expectation of life.

It is brilliant!

You are invited to step into it.


Watch message in context of the entire online worship expression (26 minutes) from Clarke Dixon’s church in Ontario, Canada or watch just the sermon (15 minutes).

April 4, 2021

Easter and What Follows

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God

-Hebrews 10:11-12


The focus on Easter in many of our churches is on the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the women in the garden, and to the the twelve (now eleven) disciples. But there is much more that took place when he had left Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. This appeared at the website Evidences for Christianity:


The cross not only atones for sin but takes away pain and sickness, guilt, worry, despair. Two days ago the words of an old gospel song came to mind. I listened to a dozen versions of it online, but couldn’t find that “just right” one to share here, so I’ll present the lyrics instead. The song is titled Burdens are Lifted at Calvary by John Moore.

Days are filled with sorrow and care,
Hearts are lonely and drear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.

Cast your care on Jesus today,
Leave your worry and fear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Troubled soul, the Savior can feel
Every heartache and tear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.


What do we do, today, in 2021, moving past the celebrating and back into everyday life; especially at a time when it’s hard to feel the triumph of resurrection when our world still faces so much pandemic uncertainty?

One of the most powerful sermons I heard at this time of year was preached by a man who grew up in Montreal, Canada. He talked about his earliest experiences learning to drive when he got his license at age 16, and how he sometimes found himself driving on the expressways feeling disoriented in terms of his destination.

The Montreal skyline is dominated by Mount Royal, atop which sits a Roman Catholic shrine with a very large cross. It’s not surprising that locals use it as a reference point, probably both subconsciously and deliberately as well. He said that if he felt lost, he would “look to the cross” at it showed him (a) where he had been, (b) where he was, and (c) where he needed to be.

The same is true for us. The cross of Christ shows us what we’ve come from, where we stand in relation to it, and what we need to do moving forward.  It becomes our anchor, our focal point, our point of reference, our standard.

To that end, Doug Van Meter, a Baptist pastor in Zambia writes,

…the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ should cast a very long shadow over our lives. How much does the cross of Jesus Christ affect your life? Is it constantly in the forefront? Does it influence the way you live—how you treat one another, how your spend your time, how you apply yourself in the workplace, how you pursue your career, how you spend your money, and how you treat your fellow church member? The cross of Christ is to dominate every area of our lives. In the words of Paul, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), and, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). The Christian, in other words, is called to live a cross-centered life.


Again, what do we do, today, in 2021, moving past Easter weekend toward what the church calendar calls “regular time?” This was offered as a prayer at one of the churches I watched on the weekend:

We adore you,
Jesus,
Messiah,
and we praise you.

By your cross you have redeemed the world.

King Jesus, we pray…
keep our spirits willing,
and strengthen us
when our flesh is weak.

King Jesus, we pray…
to always confess you alone
as Christ our Lord,
Son of Man,
and Son of God

King Jesus, we pray…
that we will remember
the words you have spoken,
repent of our sins,
and cling to you.

King Jesus, we pray…
rule in our hearts,
as our good and gracious king
and we will declare that we have
no king but you.

King Jesus, we pray…
help us bear our crosses,
for you bore the heaviest cross for us.

King Jesus, we pray…
that even now you will dry our tears,
until that day to come when you will
wipe away every tear from our eyes.

King Jesus, we pray…
enable and empower us
to forgive and pray blessings
on those who have sinned against us,
because you have freely forgiven us.

King Jesus, we praise you…
for by your innocent suffering and death,
you have opened up
the way to the Father for us.

King Jesus, we pray…
raise us up on the last day,
that we may follow you
from death to life.

You live and reign now and forever,

Amen

April 1, 2021

The Sin of Power: The Deadliest of the 7 Deadly Sins

by Clarke Dixon

Of all the 7 deadly sins, the sin of power must be the worst. It has brought greater destruction into our world than the other seven which are listed as pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth. Wait, the sin of power is not one of the 7 deadly sins?! People with power must have came up with the list. That is one of the problems; people in power don’t see the sin in their power.

We often talk about the power of sin, today we are thinking about the sin of power.

In the events of Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, between the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his crucifixion, we see the sin of power.

In the background there is a constant power struggle between Rome and the Judeans. When Jesus comes along, all the powers-that-be gang up against Jesus.

It begins with the religious leaders who want to overpower Jesus. All along they have been speaking against Jesus, trying to keep the people from following him. Jesus teaches with authority, much better than they do. Jesus does really good, helpful things, like heal people. They don’t seem to be as helpful.

Already you can imagine the jealousy. Jesus is a carpenter, what does he know compared to the educated religious elites? According to his teaching, quite a lot!

Worse, Jesus doesn’t obey the religious leaders. They say “no healing on a Sabbath.” Jesus heals on a Sabbath, and not just once.

Worst of all, Jesus goes around claiming to do what only God can do; forgive people. Who does he think he is?

This is what happens to us when we commit the sin of power, we become blinded to God. The religious leaders could not see in Jesus what many people were seeing in Jesus, namely; God is with us, or at least with Jesus, in some remarkable way.

It gets worse. As a power play to get Pilate to do their bidding, the religious leaders claim their greatest allegiance:

They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

John 19:15 (NRSV)

This is the lowest point a leader of God’s people could sink to, shouting “we have no king but Caesar.” What happened to God’s promise of a king? What happened to the Scriptural witness that God was the true king?

That is what happens to us when we commit the sin of power, we forget God.

We may wonder, how can a Christian ever become abusive? The people of God can become abusive because power blinds us to God and makes us forget Him.

If it begins with the religious leaders, the sin of power continues with Pilate:

He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

John 19:9-10 (NLT)

Pilate is claiming to have significant power over Jesus here, the power of life and death. Jesus sets the record straight:

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.

John 19:11 (NLT)

This is what happens when we commit the sin of power, we overstep our God-given authority. When we overstep our God given authority we move from taking responsibility for people, to becoming abusive against them. Authority can be a beautiful, life-giving thing. It can also get ugly.

In the game of chess between the Romans and the Jews, the King becomes a pawn:

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!”

John 19:2-5 (NLT)

We easily get the idea that the Romans are mocking Jesus here with the crown of thorns, the purple robe, and the mock worship. What we can easily miss is how they are also mocking the Jewish people. In mocking Jesus as a most pathetic king, they are really mocking the Jewish people as a most pathetic nation. This continues through to the crucifixion with Pilate posting the charge against Jesus “the king of the Jews.” That was a slam against the Jews and the religious leaders knew it, and hated it.

This is what happens to us when we commit the sin of power, we belittle others. We mock them, we find ways of making them appear pathetic, of making ourselves look superior. We win. Of course we win, for they are losers. The sin of power puts us in that mindset, it clouds our perception of others.

Perhaps the most powerful of all are the soldiers who pull the trigger, or in this case, hammer the nails. They are the ones trained in the art of enforcing power.

They would not have carried through with their grim sin of power if it had not all begun in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders. If the religious leaders wanted to keep their power, they had better deal with their Jesus problem. The religious leaders would not have been able to carry out their sin of power without Pilate. If Pilate wanted to keep his power, he had better deal with this Jesus problem who had now become his problem. Then the soldiers carried out the sin of power when they hammered in the nails and raised the cross. If the soldiers wanted to keep their privileged positions of power, they had better deal with this Jesus problem who had now become their problem.

This is what happens to us when we commit the sin of power, we become complicit in killing.

When we commit the sin of power, we become complicit in the killing of people’s dignity, freedom, innocence, dreams, aspirations, mental health, and faith. Sometimes it really does become deadly.

Jesus, in entering Jerusalem on a donkey the way he did, enters Jerusalem in a way that says “I am the rightful king here. I am the one in charge.” Publicly he has been quiet about his all along. Evil demons who knew his identity better than anyone were told to keep quiet. When Peter expressed that Jesus is the Messiah, the disciples were told to be quiet. Little wonder, when Jesus is public about his identity as the Messiah, as the rightful king, he is killed in less than a week.

Yet here he is, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus is a different kind of king of a different kind of kingdom. And being the rightful king he took his place, not on a throne, but on a cross.

The religious leaders together with the Roman leaders committed the sin of power. Jesus was different, he broke the power of sin. 

Jesus could have overpowered all who opposed him. As a famous song points out, he could have called 10,000 angels, not just to rescue him, but to destroy his enemies.

Instead he took the nails.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Luke 23:34 (KJV)

Instead of destroying his enemies, Jesus loved them, giving them the opportunity to be reconciled. Are we learning to love our enemies the way Jesus loved his? Are we learning to love our enemies the way Jesus loves us?

Are we stuck in our all-too-human ways of committing the sin of power against others, or has the power of sin been undone by the power of God’s love?

Perhaps we might even be committing the deadliest of the deadly sins by trying to rid ourselves of God. That is a sin of power. A desire to rid ourselves of God leads to separation from God, now and especially into eternity. That is the power of sin. But we can be forgiven through Jesus, reconciled to God. We can go from enemy to family. That is the power of God’s love.


The full sermon can be watched on its own or as part of this “online worship expression Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.


Today Christianity 201 begins year twelve! Thank you for joining us each day.

March 30, 2021

Jonah’s First Converts and Easter Atonement

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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In the very popular children’s resource, The Jesus Storybook Bible author Sally Lloyd-Jones illustrates that many of the best-known narratives from the Hebrew Bible are foreshadowing the coming of a Savior. Not surprisingly, the book is subtitled, “Every Story Whispers His Name.”

This is true even more so for the book of Jonah, as Jesus himself make a direct connection between the prophet’s three days in the air chamber of a great fish, and his own three days in the tomb before resurrection.

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
– Matthew 12:40 (all scriptures NIV except as noted)

Who were Jonah’s first converts? We don’t know anything about their spiritual history from the text in Jonah chapter one, but we know that after Jonah is tossed overboard,

At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. (v16)

In other words, Jonah’s first decisive act on the way to Nineveh (or technically, at this stage, on the way to avoid Nineveh) ends in the ship’s crew making an offering and prayers.  (Sidebar: As with much of the Old Testament, we see a collective spiritual response on behalf of the crew as a whole, there isn’t the emphasis on personal response that we have today, though it can certainly be inferred.)

To repeat, the first revival meeting Jonah sets in motion is in the hearts of the crew, a long time before reaching his originally requested destination.

A few other things are worth noting here.

First, the responsibility for the situation is placed on Jonah, just as the weight or burden of our sin is placed on Jesus.

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (v11-12)

The Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:6 reads,

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Peter directly refers to this passage in 1 Peter 2:24,

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed

The men in Jonah’s story resist the prophet’s suggested solution to their dilemma. They don’t want to be responsible for taking a life. In the same way, Peter — yes, the same Peter who we just quoted — seeks an alternative solution.

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22)

and again we read that at the moment of Jesus being arrested,

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (John 18:10)

Jonah’s nautical crew are filled with remorse at the necessary action they take:

Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”

In the Jesus narrative, Pilate sees the innocence of Jesus and wants no part in his death,

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” (Matthew 27:24)

The Roman Centurion acknowledges who Jesus really is,

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54 NLT)

The Jonah narrative continues,

Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.

The idea of throwing Jonah overboard was Jonah’s idea.

Similarly, the idea of Jesus giving his life was the plan all along.

And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.” (Luke 24:46 NLT)

(Bible scholars tell us that the beginning of God’s redemptive plan can be traced all the way back to Genesis 3.)

Jesus offers up his life willingly, just as Jonah offered himself up as a sacrifice so the men on the ship could be saved.

There are probably many other parallels I missed. I didn’t consult commentaries for this one, but simply responded to the text as I was reading. Clearly God is preparing the hearts of the people living under the first covenant for what will occur in the new covenant…

…So who were Jonah’s next converts? You might say the next great spiritual awakening happens in the heart of Jonah himself, but for that, you’ll have to read chapter two.

 

 

 

March 28, 2021

A Week To Encounter and Respond to Christ

John 14 (The Voice)

Philip: 8 Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.

Jesus (to Philip): 9 I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How can you keep asking to see the Father? 10 Don’t you believe Me when I say I abide in the Father and the Father dwells in Me? I’m not making this up as I go along. The Father has given Me these truths that I have been speaking to you, and He empowers all My actions. 11 Accept these truths: I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. If you have trouble believing based on My words, believe because of the things I have done. 12 I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done, but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father. 13 Whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory from the Son.

Jesus is telling his disciples that if they can’t trust his words, they can at least see that his actions back up what he is saying. And then he goes one step further, and tells them that if they believe they will be able to do even greater things. While that’s a treasured promise from the text, it also simultaneously suggests that some of his disciples were still not committed 100%; something that would change after the resurrection…

Everyone we meet, and we ourselves, needs to respond to the story that crosses our path this week: The Passion Week narrative. The song featured below asks the question — and it’s one of the most powerful songs I’ve come across — how do we respond to Christ incarnate? Will we recognize him as the Messiah? Will we make him Lord of our lives?

Jesus asked them this question as well.

As the Pharisees were regrouping, Jesus caught them off balance with his own test question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said, “David’s son.” – Matthew 22:42 MSG

Before moving out of Toronto, we lived near a church which had this question on a neon sign, which read, using the KJV text, “What think ye of Christ?” It is after all the make-or-break question; how we respond to Jesus. I devoted entire blog post that sign’s question here in 2017

As any worship leader will tell you, Easter offers us music which best captures the essence of our faith; best captures the essence of the gospel. All worship should be ‘Christo-centric,’ but at this time of year the intensity of our worship seems so much better focused.

This is not a congregational song, but a performance piece called “How Could You Say ‘No?'” written by Mickey Cates and performed by Julie Miller. When my wife had a soundtrack for this, we were repeatedly asked to do it each year at the church we were attending; later on we did it with live music. There’s something about it that touches people at a heart level.

christoncross

The song asks the question: How can you see what Christ did for us on the cross and then just walk away, knowing it was your sin that put him there; knowing that he did this for you?

Take the next four minutes just to focus on this song and all that it means.

Thorns on His head, spear in His side
Yet it was a heartache that made Him cry
He gave His life so you would understand
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

If Christ Himself were standing here
Face full of glory and eyes full tears
And he held out His arms and His nail-printed hands
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Could you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Jesus is here with His arms open wide
You can see with your heart
If you’ll stop looking with your eyes
He’s left it up to you, He’s done all He can
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Could you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Thorns on His head, your life is in His hands
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

Oh, is there any way you could say no to this Man?

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