Christianity 201

April 15, 2017

The Seven Words

For Holy Saturday, we look the website Catholic Daily Reflections. Readers are reminded that we include writings here from a wide variety of Christian websites, and that not all readers will agree with all interpretations, today particularly with respect to the third cry from the cross in this devotional. I could have edited this, or not included this piece at all, but I thought it was interesting to see a Catholic interpretation of “Woman behold your son.”

As always, click the title below to read at source.

God Suffers Death

Ponder today, this dark day, the final words of Jesus.  Scripture records seven last statements, or the “Seven Last Words.”  Take each phrase and spend time with it.  Seek the deeper spiritual meaning for your life.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus’ forgiveness of others was radical and to a degree never seen before.  While hanging on the Cross and enduring the cruelty of others, Jesus spoke words of forgiveness.  He forgave them in the midst of His persecution.

What’s more is that He even acknowledged that those crucifying Him were not fully responsible.  They clearly did not know what they were doing.  This humble acknowledgment of Jesus shows the depth of His tender mercy.  It reveals He died not in anger or resentment, but in willing sacrifice.

Can you say these words?  Can you call to mind the person who has hurt you and pray that the Father forgives them?  Leave judgment to God and offer mercy and forgiveness.

“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What a consolation it must have been for the good thief to hear these words.  He must have been experiencing a certain despair in life at that moment as he, along side of Jesus, was dying on a cross.  What a gift it was to be there next to the Savior of the World, sharing in the sufferings of Christ in such a real way.  And this man was privileged to be among the first to receive this gift of salvation won by Jesus on the Cross.

Jesus offers us the same assurance.  He offers salvation to us beginning today.  And He offers it to us in the midst of our own suffering and sin.  Can you hear Him offer you this gift of mercy?  Can you hear Him invite you to share His gift of everlasting life?  Let Him speak this invitation to you and let the eternal life of paradise begin to take hold more deeply today in your soul.

“Woman, behold your son.”

What a gift!  Here, dying on the Cross, Jesus entrusted His own mother to John.  And in so doing, He entrusted her to each one of us.  Our unity with Jesus makes us a member of His family and, thus, sons and daughters of His own mother.  Our Blessed Mother accepts this responsibility with great joy.  She embraces us and holds us close.

Do you accept Jesus’ mother as your own spiritual mother?  Have you fully consecrated yourself to her?  Doing so will place you under her mantle of protection and love.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus was not abandoned but He allowed Himself to feel and experience this complete loss of the Father in His human nature.  He felt the deep experience of despair.  He allowed Himself to know and experience the effects of sin.  Therefore, He knows what we go through when we despair.  He knows what it feels like.  And He is there with us in those temptations enabling us to press on through any despair toward total faith and trust in the Father.

“I thirst.”

What a meaningful statement.  He thirsted physically at that moment for water to quench His dehydration.  But more than that, He thirsted spiritually for the salvation of all of our souls.  Jesus’ spirit still longs for this gift of salvation.  He longs to call us His children.  He thirsts for our love.

Ponder Jesus saying these words to you.  “I thirst for you!” He says.  It is a deep and burning thirst for your love.  You satiate Jesus’ thirst by returning that love.  Satiate His thirst this Good Friday by giving Him your love.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

These are the words we need to pray more than any.  These are the words of complete surrender to God.  Prayer is ultimately about one thing.  It’s about surrender.  It’s about trust.  Say these words over and over today and let this perfect surrender of Jesus also be your surrender.

Surrender means God is in control.  It means that we let go of our own will and choose only God’s.  And it means that God pledges to accept our surrender and guide us into the perfect plan He has in mind for us.

“It is finished.”

It’s significant that He said “It is finished” as His last words.  What does this mean?  What is finished?

This spiritual statement from Jesus is one that affirms that His mission of the redemption of the whole world is accomplished.  “It” refers to His perfect sacrifice of love offered for all of us.  His death, which we commemorate today, is the perfect sacrifice which takes away the sins of all.  What a gift!  And what a sacrifice Jesus endured for us!

We are used to seeing this sacrifice on the Cross.  We ponder this sacrifice every time we look at the crucifix.  But it is important to note that our over-familiarity with the Cross can tempt us to lose sight of the sacrifice.  It’s easy for us to miss what Jesus actually did for us.  He accomplished the act that saves us and He is now offering it to us.  Let this completed act of Divine Mercy penetrate your soul.  He desires to say that His sacrifice has “finished” its work in your soul.

So today, on this Good Friday, it would be good if we spent the day pondering the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Try to understand what it was like for God Himself to suffer and die.  Contemplate what it was like for God Himself, the Creator of all things, to be put to death by those whom He created, to suffer at the hands of those whom He loved with a perfect love.

Understanding Jesus’ sacrificial love will enable us to love as He did.  It will enable us to love those who have hurt us and those who persecute us.  His love is total.  It is generous beyond description.

Lord, I know You thirst for my soul.  You finished what You started by dying on the Cross for my salvation and the salvation of the world.  Help me to understand Your love and to accept it into my life.  Help me to forgive. Help me to invite you into my own darkness and sin. Help me to abandon all to You. I thank You, dear suffering Lord, for the gift of Your Precious Blood, poured out for the salvation of the world.  Jesus, I trust in You.

May 13, 2013

The Horror of the Cross

Periodically we have different writers who come at this in various ways, and we hear some of this preached at Easter; however I don’t think we can ever contemplate the cost of the atonement too often. It’s interesting that some cloistered monks attend mass every morning but Evangelicals get nervous if you repeat a devotional on the crucifixion two days in a row.

After scheduling this, I noticed that this isn’t the first time we’ve featured the writing of Jeremy Myers here, but it’s almost exactly a year to the date we ran his piece on Following Jesus. You’re encouraged to read this post at source, where it ran at the blog Till He Comes under the title Jesus Became Sin For Us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 may be the most horrifying verse in Scripture, for it reveals the fact that Jesus, who was holy, righteous, and perfectly sinless, became sin for us. God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us.

The Horror of the Cross

Can you imagine the horror, the shame, and the guilt that poured upon Jesus while He hung upon the cross?

We, who are born in sin and who are accustomed to sin’s constant presence within us, still feel shame and guilt when we sin. Imagine then how it would feel for God in the flesh, who is perfectly holy and righteous, and for whom sin is the exact antithesis and opposite of everything about His being, to not just take on a few sins, but to actually become sin for the entire world? It is shocking and horrifying to think about.

The Love of the Cross

But it is also incredibly loving, for God, who alone knows the full ramifications and consequences of sin, knew that only in this way could He have the relationship and fellowship with us that He so desires. Only by taking sin upon Himself could He finally, ultimately, and completely defeat sin, death, and the devil. So He did it.

Jesus became sin for us and gave us His righteousness.

Jesus accepted our sin into Himself.

He breathed it in, soaked it up, and allowed it to consume Him from within.

Why? Because He loves us, and He knows that if He does not become sin for us, if He does not let sin consume Him, it will destroy and consume us.

Jesus Became Sin

The truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is for every single person who has ever lived and who will ever live. It is for every single person who has drawn breath. It is for every single sin that has ever been committed and ever will be. Jesus draws them all into Himself and becomes sin for us!

On the cross, Jesus is both the most beautiful thing the world has ever seen, and the most loathsome. Jesus is the most righteous and the most sinful. The cross of Jesus is full of love and horror.

Love, because of what Jesus did, but horror, because of what Jesus became: He became sin. This is the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21. Jesus became sin for us. God made Him to be sin. Jesus was despised, rejected, and loathed (Isa 53:2-6). People looked upon Him with revulsion. Even God rejected Him (Matt 27:46).

God Became Sin

All of this helps us understand exactly what was going on in the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament. If it is on the cross that Jesus most fully reveals God, and it is on the cross that Jesus became sin for the world, then this means that God also was becoming sin for the world.

Just as Jesus became repulsive on the cross by taking on the sin of the world, the proper response to reading about the violence of God in the Old Testament is to be repulsed. We are repulsed by the violence of God in the Old Testament because we are supposed to be repulsed. The violence of God in the Old Testament is God taking on the sin of Israel.

This is a challenge thought, I know, so let us approach it from another perspective, from the perspective of God Himself. To do this, we must remember everything we have seen in this series so far (see the list of posts below).

We must remember that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. It records exactly what God wanted recorded. We must remember that when we read about God in the Old Testament, we read Jesus back into those passages, rather than read those depictions of God forward onto Jesus. We must remember that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work, and that the primary way Jesus did all this is by taking all the devil’s work into Himself upon the cross by becoming the sin of the world.

God inspired the Old Testament authors to write about Him in a violent way so that He could do the same thing for Israel that Jesus did on the cross: Just as Jesus became sin for us, God became sin for Israel.

March 28, 2013

Playing With Time

As some of you read this, it’s already Good Friday. This particular blog is set up to post articles between 5:00 and 6:00 PM EST (New York time) but with readers all over the world, I realize that many readers are already “in” a particular day when this gets seen.

But in many respects, we’re all guilty of a greater measure of playing with time when it comes to Good Friday. The reason is simple. We already know how the story ends. It’s entirely impossible for us to approach Good Friday not knowing that Resurrection Sunday is just around the corner. We don’t have to read ahead because we’ve previously read the whole story.

But it wasn’t like that on that overcast day at the foot of the cross. In play-script form, The Voice Bible reads:

John 19:29-30 The Voice

29 A jar of sour wine had been left there, so they took a hyssop branch with a sponge soaked in the vinegar and put it to His mouth. 30 When Jesus drank, He spoke:

Jesus: It is finished!

In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit.

It’s so easy to miss what those standing around the cross at that moment must have felt.

The second way we play with time — going backwards instead —  is in the way we’re able to trace back all the prophecies Jesus gave concerning himself. The disciples are dejected and grieving His death, and we read this in the 21st century and we want to scream at the pages, “Look, go back to page ___ and read what he says about how The Messiah must suffer and die! It’s all there!”

You get a sense of this in Luke 24; and again, we’re going to defer to The Voice translation:

Luke 24 – The Voice

13 Picture this:

That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 14 As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. 15 While they’re talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up to them and begins walking with them, 16 but for some reason they don’t recognize Him.

Jesus: 17 You two seem deeply engrossed in conversation. What are you talking about as you walk along this road?

They stop walking and just stand there, looking sad. 18 One of them—Cleopas is his name—speaks up.

Cleopas: You must be the only visitor in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about what’s been going on over the last few days.

Jesus: 19 What are you talking about?

Two Disciples: It’s all about the man named Jesus of Nazareth. He was a mighty prophet who did amazing miracles and preached powerful messages in the sight of God and everyone around. 20 Our chief priests and authorities handed Him over to be executed—crucified, in fact.

21 We had been hoping that He was the One—you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God’s promises. Anyway, on top of all this, just this morning—the third day after the execution— 22 some women in our group really shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning, 23 but they didn’t see His body anywhere. Then they came back and told us they did see something—a vision of heavenly messengers—and these messengers said that Jesus was alive. 24 Some people in our group went to the tomb to check it out, and just as the women had said, it was empty. But they didn’t see Jesus.

Jesus: 25 Come on, men! Why are you being so foolish? Why are your hearts so sluggish when it comes to believing what the prophets have been saying all along? 26 Didn’t it have to be this way? Didn’t the Anointed One have to experience these sufferings in order to come into His glory?

Clearly, Jesus’ later teachings about his impending sufferings weren’t registering. Or perhaps it was a case of serious denial. Verse 21 is translated more commonly in a form like “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (NIV)  The verse captures most accurately the sadness felt by those two followers.

If you continue reading The Voice, you find at this point an embedded commentary suggesting the writer Luke is doing his own version of playing with time; using this story a set up for something he knows is coming just a little bit past the point where this chapter resolves itself and this book ends: The Book of Acts. Acts is this gospel’s sequel. The commentators seem to feel that Luke is preparing his audience for something which, while it does not in any way diminish the resurrection — which is after all, the centerpiece of the entire Bible — is going to astound them, namely the birth of The Church.

However, it’s Good Friday, and as we place ourselves back in that particular part of the story through this Holy Day and its various church gatherings, we can’t help but know what happens next.  So with a glimpse into Easter Sunday, let’s see how The Voice ends Luke 24:

27 Then He begins with Moses and continues, prophet by prophet, explaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, showing how they were talking about the very things that had happened to Jesus.

28 About this time, they are nearing their destination. Jesus keeps walking ahead as if He has no plans to stop there, 29 but they convince Him to join them.

Two Disciples: Please, be our guest. It’s getting late, and soon it will be too dark to walk.

So He accompanies them to their home. 30 When they sit down at the table for dinner, He takes the bread in His hands, He gives thanks for it, and then He breaks it and hands it to them. 31 At that instant, two things happen simultaneously: their eyes are suddenly opened so they recognize Him, and He instantly vanishes—just disappears before their eyes.

Two Disciples (to each other): 32 Amazing! Weren’t our hearts on fire within us while He was talking to us on the road? Didn’t you feel it all coming clear as He explained the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures?

33 So they get up immediately and rush back to Jerusalem—all seven miles—where they find the eleven gathered together—the eleven plus a number of others.

March 11, 2013

Romans 5 in The Voice

BibleGateway.com has added The Voice to its list of available translations. This is a truly different approach to Bible translation. Some of you will immediately resonate with what the translators had in mind and will gravitate toward this fresh approach. For others who prefer the traditional approach to scripture, this is not the version for you.  At the Bible Gateway blog, they highlight the unique aspects of the translation:

  • The Voice BibleThe Voice uses a screenplay format for dialogue and conversations. One advantage to this style is that it removes the need for lots of repetitive conjunctions and verbs (“he said,” “she replied,” etc.) that slow down reading. It also lets the translators use some clever and useful ways to convey key details: for example, in Matthew 8, note the use of stage directions to add detail and clearly identify the audience.
  • Words and phrases in italics represent words that aren’t found in the original text, but which are important for bringing out the original intended meaning of the passage. In the words of The Voice translators, this brings out “the nuance of the original, assist[s] in completing ideas, and often provide[s] readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide.” Here’s an example from Romans 6.
  • Another feature you’ll quickly encounter upon reading The Voice is its collection of explanatory material embedded in with the Bible text. These short paragraphs contain devotional material, study notes, background information, and other clarifying detail of the sort that you might typically find in a study Bible or commentary. These notes are placed near the passages they’re expounding on, and are clearly delineated from the text of Scripture as seen … in Romans 7.

Learn much more about the translation here. Also, I recently reviewed a book which tells the story of this version.

Our reading for today is from The Voice; I had chosen ahead of time to also use a chapter of Romans, but I selected Romans 5.

Note: While The Voice uses boxed and indented sections, that was not possible here. Scripture text in green is a convention we use here at C201, but the green and blue is not part of the original formatting of this Bible edition.

Romans 5

The Voice (VOICE)

In God’s plan to restore a fallen and disfigured world, Abraham became the father of all of us, the agent of blessing to everyone. Jesus completes what God started centuries before when He established Abraham’s covenant family. Those who put faith in Jesus and call Him “Lord” become part of Abraham’s faith family. Because God is gracious, loving, and merciful, men and women from every corner of the earth are not only declared right, but ultimately are made right as well. It happens through God’s actions—not our efforts—in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who was crucified for our misdeeds and raised to repair what has been wrong all along. So the promises of God made long years ago are being realized in men and women who hear the call of faith and answer “yes” to it.

  Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King. Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory. And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.

When the time was right, the Anointed One died for all of us who were far from God, powerless, and weak. Now it is rare to find someone willing to die for an upright person, although it’s possible that someone may give up his life for one who is truly good. But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us. As a result, the blood of Jesus has made us right with God now, and certainly we will be rescued by Him from God’s wrath in the future. 10 If we were in the heat of combat with God when His Son reconciled us by laying down His life, then how much more will we be saved by Jesus’ resurrection life? 11 In fact, we stand now reconciled and at peace with God. That’s why we celebrate in God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed.

12 Consider this: sin entered our world through one man, Adam; and through sin, death followed in hot pursuit. Death spread rapidly to infect all people on the earth as they engaged in sin.

God’s gift of grace and salvation is amazing. Paul struggles to find the words to describe it. He looks everywhere around him to find a metaphor, an image, a word to put into language one aspect of this awesome gift. One of those is “reconciliation.” There is hardly anything more beautiful than to see two people who have been enemies or estranged or separated coming back together. When Paul reflects on what God has done through Jesus, he thinks about reconciliation. Before we receive God’s blessing through His Son, we are enemies of God, sinners of the worst sort. But God makes the first move to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

13 Before God gave the law, sin existed, but there was no way to account for it. Outside the law, how could anyone be charged and found guilty of sin? 14 Still, death plagued all humanity from Adam to Moses, even those whose sin was of a different sort than Adam’s. You see, in God’s plan, Adam was a prototype of the One who comes to usher in a new day. 15 But the free gift of grace bears no resemblance to Adam’s crime that brings a death sentence to all of humanity; in fact, it is quite the opposite. For if the one man’s sin brings death to so many, how much more does the gift of God’s radical grace extend to humanity since Jesus the Anointed offered His generous gift. 16 His free gift is nothing like the scourge of the first man’s sin. The judgment that fell because of one false step brought condemnation, but the free gift following countless offenses results in a favorable verdict—not guilty. 17 If one man’s sin brought a reign of death—that’s Adam’s legacy—how much more will those who receive grace in abundance and the free gift of redeeming justice reign in life by means of one other man—Jesus the Anointed.

18 So here is the result: as one man’s sin brought about condemnation and punishment for all people, so one man’s act of faithfulness makes all of us right with God and brings us to new life. 19 Just as through one man’s defiant disobedience every one of us were made sinners, so through the willing obedience of the one man many of us will be made right.

20 When the law came into the picture, sin grew and grew; but wherever sin grew and spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure. No matter how much sin crept in, there was always more grace. 21 In the same way that sin reigned in the sphere of death, now grace reigns through God’s restorative justice, eclipsing death and leading to eternal life through the Anointed One, Jesus our Lord, the Liberating King.

September 10, 2012

The Wonder of the Cross

Today for the first time, a worship song repeat.  But first, a poem:

The Ironies of the Cross

 o

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him
Raucous laughter in a barracks room
Hail the king they sneered while spitting on him
Brutal beatings on this day of doom
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme
Jesus reigning from a bloody cross

o

Awful weakness marks the battered god-man
Far too broken now to heist the beam
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree
God’s own temple’s down he has been destroyed
Death’s remains are laid in rock and sod
But the temple rises in god’s wise ploy
Our great temple is the Son of God

o

Here’s the one who said he cares for others
One who said he came to save the lost
How can we believe he saves others
When he can’t get off that bloody cross
Let him save himself, let him come down now
Savage jeering at the king’s disgrace
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the king of grace

o

Draped in darkness utterly rejected
Crying why have you forsaken me
Jesus bore God’s wroth alone dejected
Wept the bitterest tears instead of me
And the mockers cried he has lost his trust
He is defeated by hypocrisy
But with faith’s resolve Jesus knows he must
Do God’s will and swallow death for me

o

The preceding poem is a transcript made from a recording of an excellent D.A. Carson sermon called the Ironies of the Cross. (from a D.A. Carson sermon archivesourced at a 2007 post at Homeward Bound.

And now the song, from Robin Mark, The Wonder of Your Cross

Learn more about the song from its first appearance here one year ago.

August 26, 2012

All My Sin Had Brought a Price To Pay

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This is one of the songs we posted as part of our YouTube project, collecting “lost songs” that haven’t heretofore been posted at the popular site by anyone else.  The annotation reads,

…This is an amazing song by the otherwise heavy metal Christian band, Scarlet Red.

As they brought him up the roadside
Many people came to see
The one who taught us all to trust in God
They wondered as they saw his misery…

Blood ran down from off his fingers
Where he wiped his bloody eyes
As they threw him down and drove those nails
I heard the painful sounds that Jesus cried

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

I cried as I walked home that evening
Couldn’t see how it could be
If God is fair and just to all mankind
Father God how do you look at me?

As I walked I thought about Him
His words were ringing in my ears
Could it be that this was God Himself
Come to bear the sins of all my years.

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

It wasn’t long before I saw the painful truth before my eyes
All my sin had brought a price to pay
And I knew it was for me that Jesus died.

And I said, ‘I know why my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And then You’ve let Him die
I know why, I know why’
I know why, I know why’

May 19, 2012

Following Jesus Into: The World, Love, Death

Today I spent some time studying the blog of Jeremy Myers.  Jeremy was a pastor in a conservative church until he had an epiphany that caused him to take a second look at the traditional church structure.  While not everyone will agree with all his conclusions, I think we can be challenged by his writing to think a little (or a lot) outside the box.  The following are teasers from three recent blog posts he wrote, you’ll need to click the TITLE of each to read the full article…  (If you’ve only got time for one, choose the middle one!)

Following Jesus into the World

In my book, Skeleton Church, I suggest that church is best defined as “The people of God who follow Jesus into the world.” Jesus wants to take the church out of our buildings and into the streets and parks of our towns to love and serve the people who are there.

What will this look like in your town and your community?

…Nobody really knows what church will look like ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now. Even the path to get wherever we are going is full of questions and uncertainty…

[click the title to continue reading]

Following Jesus into Love

There are several characteristics which define and identify those people and churches who are following Jesus into the world.

First, they will be known for their love.

Christians should be the most loving people on earth, not just by what we say, but by what we do. People should not have to be told that Christians are loving, but should tangibly see our love in what we do for others daily.

One of the best ways to reveal this is not just in loving one another, but also in loving those whom others hate.

In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus tells His disciples that they must be characterized by love for their enemies. They must love them, bless them, and pray for them. In a world that wants the death and destruction of our enemies, those who love, bless, and serve their enemies are viewed as traitors…

[click the title to continue reading]

Following Jesus into Death

Followers of Jesus will be characterized by death and resurrection.

We all want to experience the resurrected life of Jesus, but before we can rise to new life in the future, we must die to ourselves and die to our past. The church that does not die chooses instead to live in a vegetative state on artificial life support.

We cling to the past, to the traditions and to the forms of church handed down to us from the eras of Constantine, the Reformation, and Industrialism. Churches that cling to these past forms are still living, but without any real life. This fight to keep from dying allows us to survive, but only as the living dead.

It is when we embrace death that we rise again to new life…

[click the title to continue reading]

Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

 

October 13, 2011

The Last 14 Hours of Christ’s Earthly Mission

Structured somewhat like an episode of the television series 24, Dawson McAllister’s 2009 book A Walk With Christ to the Cross: The Last Fourteen Hours of His Earthly Mission, is probably one of the more explicit books I’ve seen in terms of Christ’s suffering.

I picked up this book and not-so-randomly jumped to chapter three, which deals with Jesus in Gethsemane.  I’ve read some rather detailed descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion — I think Chuck Swindoll has a book that is exceptionally clear on this — but considering that I was reading a chapter consisting of 90-minute window before Jesus was even arrested, nothing at all prepared me for what I read. 

The chapter is based on a combination — or harmonization — of all the gospel accounts.  I’d hoped to find some text from the book online, but since that wasn’t an option, and since it’s hard to excerpt bits of this chapter without missing the impact of the whole, I’ll just note a few things in bullet points:

  • His friends didn’t understand His pain
  • …and they were soon to abandon Him.
  • The severity of what He was about to face could mean that physically, He was going in to shock.
  • Jesus began to be sorrowful; emotions absolutely shot.
  • Jesus became deeply distressed; He began to shudder; some believe this was to the point of a mild heart attack.
  • He pressed His face to the ground and prayed, basically, “Abba Father! Is there another way?”
  • He asked himself: Could He do it? Was it right to take all our sin on Him at once? Could he bear the utter hell of being forsaken by The Father?  Was humankind worth the suffering?
  • Nonetheless, He had to make a yes or no decision. 
  • He sweat drops of blood: Hematidrosis is the technical name for this condition; blood passing through the veins into the sweat glands.
  • He would want to do The Father’s will, but His whole system would be shouting, “NO!”
  • All these things considered, He might have died right there, but The Father sent an angel to comfort him; in some way the angel ministered to Jesus; the almighty creator of everything being comforted by a created being.

[…I have no words at this point…]

What we learn from Jesus’ time in the garden:

  • Humility.  If we’d walked by that garden and looked over the wall, we wouldn’t have said, “Oh, I get it…God in human form!  That must be God in the flesh.”  …Our first reaction would have been, “Who is this peasant Jew having a nervous breakdown?”
  • Sin is no small thing to Jesus.  What troubled Him deeply even to the point of death?  What was it He saw in the garden?  Answer: He saw sin in all its fury. 
  • Jesus considered us worth the suffering.  Hebrews 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Items in all bullet points are edited quotations from the book.

April 21, 2011

Famous Last Words…

The eleven men who were left were very quiet.  The voice of Christ was very soft and low — tender with farewell.

It was now only a matter of hours until Christ and his disciples would be separated.  He wished to fill those last hours of fellowship with the tenderest and most significant of His teachings.

The most sacred… the most tender… the most heart-felt emotions… are those expressed at the end of the letter…

The tenderest caress comes just before the parting.  The softest word just before the conversation is ended… before the train pulls out… before we turn away.

We seem to catch the quiet intimacy of that fellowship.  Unforgettable words of parting and comfort were spoken by Jesus to His friends.  Jesus has written them out for us:

  • “Little children … a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you … By this will all know that you are my disciples…”
  • “Let not your heart be troubled; … In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you…”
  • “I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you…”
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches…  Abide in me, and I in you…”
  • “these things I have spoken unto you that in me you might have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world…”

Overcome the world?  When the one who spoke was so soon to fall under the power of Caesar?  Yes, for in reality we must remember that Jesus could have escaped the cross.  No one compelled him to go to Jerusalem on that last journey.  Indeed His friends and apostles urged Him not to go.

Watch Him, in the bitter hours that lie immediately ahead, time after time taking the initiative in deciding His own fate.

Christ had begun His ministry by telling His apostles that the Son of many must suffer many things.  Must — there was no other way.  It was for that purpose that He had come into the world.

“For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up .. that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There was Light in the little room that night.  But beyond the light lay a death-ridden world…

  • in the midst of the military might that was Rome where life was cheap
  • in the philosopher’s porticoes of Athens where the mind found no hope
  • in the dangerous living of the great shipping centers of Asia Minor to the disease infested alleys of old Jerusalem —

Men feared death, dodged its hideous grasp, could nowhere find respite from their fear.

But here was something new… Here was one facing death — not afraid but confident … already triumphant … already speaking about seeing His friends again … about never leaving them…

Strange words … about being with them to the uttermost parts of the earth and to the end of time.

How?  Why? Because He alone knew the Father’s eternal purpose for what it was — the determination once and for all to destroy the power of death — once and for all to deliver men from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death.

Within a matter of hours, Christ Himself was to become the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

~ Peter Marshall –The First Easter (McGraw-Hill, 1959) pp. 16-19

April 12, 2011

Eden and Gethsemane: A Tale of Two Gardens

Back in 2009, I did a week-long series at Thinking out Loud called “Setting our Faces Toward Jersualem.”  I’m going to repeat them here, but spread them out over a wider number of days…

…In this 2007 post from the blog, Kingdom People, Trevin Wax contrasts two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane.

golgotha.jpg

“It is finished!”
Jesus, from the cross (John 19:30)

From one garden to another, Eden’s paradise to Gethsemane’s agony, we see God’s redemptive plan unveiled: Satan, sin and death forever defeated, only through the death and resurrection of God’s only Son. The fulfillment of prophecy, the climax of history, the culmination of God’s eternal plan came crushing down upon Jesus of Nazareth as He hung on the cross that Friday afternoon.

Jesus had lived a sinless life, teaching and preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom – the Kingdom He had come to inaugurate. This Kingdom had arrived with miraculous signs: bread for the hungry, healing for the sick, and sight for the blind. Now, in His death, Jesus was taking the weight of the world’s sin and suffering upon Himself. As He bore the punishment for the sins of the world, He was completing His earthly work.

On the sixth day of creation, God had made man in His image. Behold the man: Adam, the first human, the man whose sinful choice cast all of humanity into the powerful grip of sin and death. Now, on the sixth day, Friday, Pilate stands next to Jesus and declares, “Behold the Man!” Jesus, the “second Adam,” the true human being, the one whose sinless life will undo the curse of sin and death. Behold the Man who will pay for our sins! Behold the Man who is our Messiah and Lord! Behold the Man who is our Savior and God!

Piercing through the dark storm clouds and echoing through the valleys surrounding the hill of Golgotha, Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” announcing that His work was complete. On the sixth day, God had completed his work of creation. Now Jesus finished His work, as the spotless Lamb who died as our sacrifice. “It is finished” – the victory cry from the cross. The sacrifice had been accomplished. And God saw that it was good.

written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog

I’ve reproduced this  knowing that many of you don’t get around to clicking the links.  If someone asked you to write a mediation about this season, with what themes or thoughts on Christ’s sacrifice would you begin?

August 4, 2010

The Cross: You Were There

I was truly impressed reading this blog post at Rick Apperson’s blog, Just a Thought.   Knowing the “click-count” isn’t always that high, I’ve taken the liberty of reposting it here, but I ask you to read it slowly and carefully…

So, as most churches do, our church celebrates communion or the Lord’s Supper together. We like to do this over an actual meal.

As I was preparing some notes for the service I was reflecting on this Scripture in Luke:

Luke 22: 14-19, “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.””

This last part really got me. Do this in Remembrance of me. Do what? Break bread and drink wine? (Insert juice if wine offends you!) OK I get that. What are we supposed to remember? His death on the cross!

This started me thinking about Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

You can’t remember something you haven’t experienced. I can read about WW2 but I didn’t experience it so I look at it with a detached view. I hear about my wife’s childhood and I love her so I am interested but I have no connection to the events as I did not experience it myself.

The same is true with Jesus. You have either experienced the work He did on the cross for yourself or you haven’t. If you have, it is a real event and you have something to truly remember. As Gal. 2:20 says in a nutshell….you were there!

If you haven’t accepted His gift….then you can read about it, and remember what you read, but it won’t be real to you. Not until you experience it for yourself.

Is Christ real for you?

-Rick Apperson

June 29, 2010

I Cor. 1 (sort of)

This morning I began the day reading the first half of I Corinthians.   In the first chapter, I paused at verses 22-23:

22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (NIV)

I noticed again the recurring conflict in scripture between grace and knowledge or between word and spirit; only in this case it’s between signs and wisdom.  The Jews expect to see signs and miracles, while the Greek mindset is to look for a philosophy that satisfies the rational mind.

I couldn’t resist a potential contemporary paraphrase:

People with a Charismatic leaning look for signs and wonders, and those with a Calvinist leaning look for great preaching and teaching; but we’re just sticking to the simple story of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Okay, it was stereotypes.   I’ll try to do better tomorrow.   Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates those two verses (plus a couple extra):

22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”