Christianity 201

April 16, 2022

The Day In-Between

At the table, they asked “Is it I?” With the identification kiss in the garden, they probably saw clearly who it was that was betraying Jesus, which prompts Jesus to reply, Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48). The act earns the phrase “a Judas kiss” which in turn earns its own Wikipedia page, describing it “an act appearing to be an act of friendship, which is in fact harmful to the recipient.” (It’s also a song by Petra.)

Because we looked at Judas just three days ago, we’ll move on.

Equally motivated by self-interest, Peter finds it convenient to say he doesn’t know Jesus. Three times. The third time he’s emphatic, “A curse on me if I’m lying — I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:69-75) (NLT)

Really, Peter’s dialogue in the courtyard is a microcosm of where the other ten find themselves. Mark 14:50, one of the saddest verses in scripture tells us, “Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.

You can just hear one of them call out, “All right, guys it’s every man for himself.”

Would we have done any different?

But one writer sees an upside that I hadn’t considered. The article was titled, “Why Christ was Glad that His Disciples Scattered.” That kinda got my attention. The website is BeBlesstified.

…Many times, in the comfort and conveniences of our 21st Century lifestyles, we will read about or hear in a sermon about the disciples scattering and deserting Jesus just before He went to the cross. We may even think to ourselves, “What a shame”.

We may wonder what we would have done had we been in that situation. I can quickly and confidently answer that…we would have done the same thing.

How do I know that?

Because it was God’s will that they scatter.

What could they have done to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion? Nothing…because it was God’s will.

What good would it have done if they had died with Him, because that’s exactly what would have happened had they stood with Him.

Had they stood with Jesus at that time and were crucified with Him, how would we have gotten the Gospels? Who would have told us of what they experienced while they were with Him?

He was preparing them to spread the Gospel, not to die with Him.

But they don’t know that.

They don’t know all that we know and in their minds, the one who they (and just a week prior, everyone else) thought was going to save Israel is being taken down from the cross and placed in a donated tomb.

And don’t think that a death like that doesn’t shake you up. Even after the resurrection, even after the appearance of Christ in his glorified body, even after he’s taken up to heaven; just eight chapters into the Book of Acts we have another death — the martyrdom of Stephen — and another scattering of the disciples.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (8:1)

Again, some see an upside, that without the spreading out geographically, the Good News would not have reach so many communities so swiftly. But let’s also face that some of their scattering was in the interest of self-preservation.

Even so, the word about Jesus is shared albeit to a limited audience:

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. (11:19)

But now we’re getting way ahead of ourselves in the story. We’re not there, yet.

We’re in that in-between day when the eleven disciples and probably around 70 to 90 others who can be considered part of the core group of followers are truly sheep who’ve lost their shepherd. But for the eleven, it also means three years invested in the teaching of a particular rabbi have come to naught.

At this point, I can’t help but think of the large number of people in the last 2-3 years — especially here in North America — who were invested in the teaching of some key church leaders, and had to watch as empires crumbled and brands were forever tarnished. At some point the analogy breaks down, but I think the heartbreak and despair is similar in both cases. Or even the embarrassment of having been a follower of __________, only to watch __________ fall from grace.

Back to our story.

Were those three years of discipleship lost?

Is it time to go back to fishing? Can an ex-tax-collector get his old job back? Is it possible to sign on with another rabbi as a transfer student? Maybe an opening at Wal-Mart (or equivalent)?

We’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens.

 

April 18, 2017

The Crucifixion in Street Language

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NKJV and NLT


From The Street Bible by the late Rob Lacey*

The macabre scene moves slowly up Skull Hill. They get there and the Roman Death Squad shove a cocktail made of wine with myrrh into Jesus’ face. He takes a sip but spits it out, flat refusing to drink the stuff.

They pin Jesus to the rough crossbar leaving him to die. Him and the two hardened criminals — one on either side. Jesus says, “Dad! Don’t hold this against these people — wipe their slates clean. They’ve got no idea what’s going on here!”

The Death Squad rip his clothes off and start playing gambling games to see who “inherits” the clothing mementos.

Time check: Friday 9 AM. One of the soldiers grabs the multi-use Offence Placard, writes up Jesus’ “crime” and then pins it just above his head. It reads, “Jesus: King of the Jews”.

The other two victims with him — the terrorists — one on either side of the central focus point, Jesus… bite back their excruciating pain and add their jibes to the mix… “Aren’t you supposed to be The Liberator? Get liberating, won’t you? You need it and we need it!”

But the other guy calls across, “Don’t you have no respect for God? You’re getting what you had coming to you, but this guy’s done nothing wrong. So shut it!”

The second career criminal turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, don’t forget me when you sit on your throne, okay?”

Jesus answers him, “I’ll tell you today — no lie — you and me, we’ll be in paradise together.”

Time check: 12 midday. It goes dark, totally dark, for three full hours right across Judah. Nothing except the chilling sound track of three men inching toward Death. Later, about three in the afternoon, Jesus freaks those still left there by shouting, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Translation: “My God, my God, why’ve you abandoned me?”

Some of those within earshot hear the “Eli, Eli” bit and get the wrong end of the stick, saying, “Listen, he’s trying to connect with Elijah!”

Knee-jerk reaction for one guy was to offer some soured wine to the sufferer, hoisting a soaked sponge of the stuff up to Jesus on a stick. Others are going, “Whoa! Hang on. Wait to see if Elijah’s going to turn up like a one-man SWAT team and rescue him.”

Jesus shouts on out one more time and finally allows his spirit to be torn out of his broken body.

He cries out, “Dad, I trust you with my spirit!”

His last words.

He dies.


Quotations about The Cross:

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ~ Billy Graham


All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them. –E. M Bounds


The Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin. ~ Watchman Nee


Today Jesus Christ is being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere example. He is that, but he is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God. –Oswald Chambers


The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales. ~ John Stott


*Note to overseas friends: In the USA and Canada, The Street Bible was published as The Word on the Street.

January 19, 2016

The Sufferings of Christ: Witnessed by an Angelic Host

CEB, I Timothy 3:16 Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory.
(emphasis added)

The title I gave today’s devotional is just a small part of all that is contained here, but I wanted to draw attention to an aspect of the story that struck me as I was reading this and may affect you as it did me.

Today’s devotional is from BibleUniverse.com and is part four of a larger series.

The Sufferings of Christ, Pt. #4 – Christ’s Submission

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39

How cruel for the disciples to permit sleep to close their eyes and slumber to chain their senses, while their divine Lord was enduring such inexpressible mental anguish. If they had remained watching, they would not have lost their faith as they beheld the Son of God dying upon the cross. This important night-watch should have been signalized by noble mental struggles and prayers, which would have brought them strength to witness the unspeakable agony of the Son of God. It would have prepared them, as they should behold his sufferings upon the cross, to understand something of the nature of the overpowering anguish which He endured in the garden of Gethsemane. And they would have been better able to recall the words he had spoken to them in reference to his sufferings, death, and resurrection, and amid the doom of that terrible, trying hour, some rays of hope would have lit up the darkness, and sustained their faith.

He had told them before that these things would take place; but they did not understand him. The scene of Christ’s sufferings was to be a fiery ordeal to his disciples, hence the necessity of watchfulness and prayer. Their faith needed to be sustained by an unseen strength, as they should experience the triumph of the powers of darkness. We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God’s dear Son in Gethsemane as he realized the separation from his Father in consequence of bearing man’s sin. He became sin for the fallen race. The sense of the withdrawal of his Father’s love pressed from his anguished soul these words: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Then with entire submission to his Father’s will he adds, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

The divine Son of God was fainting, dying. The Father sent a messenger from his presence to strengthen the divine Sufferer, and brace him to tread his blood-stained path. Could mortals view the amazement and sorrow of the angels as they watched in silent grief the Father separating his beams of light, love and glory, from his Son, they would better understand how offensive is sin in his sight. The sword of Justice was now to awake against this dear Son. He was betrayed by a kiss into the hands of his enemies, and hurried to the judgment hall of an earthly court, there to be derided, and condemned to death, by sinful mortals. There the glorious Son of God was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” He bore insult, mockery, and shameful abuse, until his “visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”

Who can comprehend the love here displayed? The angelic host beheld with wonder and with grief Him who had been the majesty of Heaven, and who had worn the crown of glory, now wearing the crown of thorns, a bleeding victim in the rage of an infuriated mob, fired to insane madness by the wrath of Satan. Behold the patient sufferer! Upon his head is the thorny crown. His life-blood flows from every lacerated vein. All this in consequence of sin! Nothing could have induced Christ to leave his honor and majesty in Heaven, and come to a sinful world, to be neglected, despised, and rejected, by those he came to save, and finally to suffer upon the cross, but eternal, redeeming love, which will ever remain a mystery.

May 12, 2011

The Street Bible Paraphrase

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Synoptic Gospels (from The Liberator)

The macabre scene moves slowly up Skull Hill. They get there and the Roman Death Squad shove a cocktail made of wine with myrrh into Jesus’ face. He takes a sip but spits it out, flat refusing to drink the stuff.

They pin Jesus to the rough crossbar leaving him to die. Him and the two hardened criminals — one on either side. Jesus says, “Dad! Don’t hold this against these people — wipe their slates clean. They’ve got no idea what’s going on here!”

The Death Squad rip his clothes off and start playing gambling games to see who “inherits” the clothing mementos.

Time check: Friday 9 AM. One of the soldiers grabs the multi-use Offence Placard, writes up Jesus’ “crime” and then pins it just above his head. It reads, “Jesus: King of the Jews”.

The other two victims with him — the terrorists — one on either side of the central focus point, Jesus… bite back their excruciating pain and add their jibes to the mix… “Aren’t you supposed to be The Liberator? Get liberating, won’t you? You need it and we need it!”

But the other guy calls across, “Don’t you have no respect for God? You’re getting what you had coming to you, but this guy’s done nothing wrong. So shut it!”

The second career criminal turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, don’t forget me when you sit on your throne, okay?”

Jesus answers him, “I’ll tell you today — no lie — you and me, we’ll be in paradise together.”

Time check: 12 midday. It goes dark, totally dark, for three full hours right across Judah. Nothing except the chilling sound track of three men inching toward Death. Later, about three in the afternoon, Jesus freaks those still left there by shouting, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Translation: “My God, my God, why’ve you abandoned me?”

Some of those within earshot hear the “Eli, Eli” bit and get the wrong end of the stick, saying, “Listen, he’s trying to connect with Elijah!”

Knee-jerk reaction for one guy was to offer some soured wine to the sufferer, hoisting a soaked sponge of the stuff up to Jesus on a stick. Others are going, “Whoa! Hang on. Wait to see if Elijah’s going to turn up like a one-man SWAT team and rescue him.”

Jesus shouts on out one more time and finally allows his spirit to be torn out of his broken body.

He cries out, “Dad, I trust you with my spirit!”

His last words.

He dies.

I Cor 13

What is love anyway? Not the tripe you have been force fed! No, love gives people space and time; it does people good. It’s not jealous, loud-mouthed or big-headed. It’s not vulgar; it doesn’t look after No 1. It’s not got a short fuse — it forgives and forgets. Love doesn’t smile when dark stuff goes on, but throws a party when the truth gets out. It protects more than a blockbuster hero; it trusts more than a toddler.  It’s always positive; it always hangs in there.  Love doesn’t let you down.

Psalm 121:

Note to overseas friends: In the USA and Canada, The Street Bible is published as The Word on the Street.

April 20, 2011

He Took The Nails

I only know her as Missy.  She writes a parenting blog, It’s Almost Naptime, that often draws over 1,000 (mostly women) readers in a single day, and I highly recommend it, especially if, like her, your family grew quickly and the kids are still small.   I dropped in this morning only to discover a wonderful illustration in one of her recent posts, Better Me Than You.

[C201 readers are always encouraged to read the post at the author’s website/blog.]


Because I am barefoot 99% of the time, and because we aren’t the neatest house on the block, the incident of stepping on sharp, pointy objects is an all too common occurrence.

I wish I could blame it on the kids, but I’ve never had the neatest house on the block. My floor has always been a bit of a landmine. The soles of my feet are riddled with the scars of my domestic ineptitude.

Recently for some odd reason I was blessed to be wearing shoes when I stepped up the stairs and directly on top of a wayward nail which pierced straight through the sole of my shoe and into my poor foot. As I screamed dramatically, the thought ran through my mind which, for almost seven years, has been repeated every time I have been assaulted by my own home: Glad I got to that first. Better me than one of the kids.

That pretty much sums up the change in our hearts (and pain tolerance) caused by motherhood, doesn’t it? A tack in the foot no longer yields screaming and curses, but gratitude. The same tack could have harmed the sweet soft skin of my precious child. It hurts, but it would have hurt my baby worse. Better me than him.

Soon after Shepherd’s birth, I realized my love was so strong for this child that, not only would I take a bullet for him, but I’d take a bullet for him gladly. With zero hesitation. Now the chances of me being asked to take a bullet for one of my children are thankfully very small. But thumbtacks? Slivers of glass? Runaway carpet nails? A Lego with a vendetta? It’s a repetitive – sometimes daily – sacrifice.

Today I was cleaning the girls’ room. As I slid my hand under Maggie’s bed, my right thumb made direct contact with a pointy piece of glass. A rather large piece of glass, which could have done substantial damage to a small foot. My blood oozed from my body, while, as usual, I expressed gratitude for the opportunity to get to it first. Better me than her.

I stared at the blood stained glass when suddenly, I stifled a sob, and doubled over.

For the image of my bloody Savior hanging on a cross had appeared in my mind.

And He said, Better Me than you.

The Lord, in His wondrous mercy, beat me to the piercing, and the pain, and the blood. It was a sacrifice. Because He loves me even more than I love my own children.

When they tied his arms to a post with his back exposed, and He braced Himself for what was to come, He said, Better Me than you.

When they raised the whip, it’s tendrils tied with pointy pieces of glass and metal and bone, He said, Better Me than you.

When they brought the whip down on His back, with full force, over and over and over and over and over, He said, Better Me than you.

When the skin had been shredded and the arteries and veins in the muscles in His back began to hemorrhage, He said, Better Me than you.

When they dug the crown of thorns into his head, He said, Better Me than you.

When they grabbed His beard in their hands and pulled as hard as they could to rip the hair from His face, He said, Better Me than you.

When they cursed Him and called Him the foulest names they could think of, He said, Better Me than you.

When they slapped and punched His bleeding cheeks, and mocked Him, and spit on Him, and beat Him with a staff until His bloody tortured body was unrecognizable as human, He said, Better Me than you.

When they forced him to lift the seventy five pound crossbeam, lay it across his scourged and lacerated shoulders, and ordered his failing body to walk, He said, Better Me than you.

When the loss of blood and the pain from the tortures caused him to stumble and drop the cross, He said, Better Me than you.

When they stripped off all His clothes and threw His naked, mutilated body down on the cross, hammered thick, heavy, wrought-iron nails into His wrists, then lifted Him into place, He said, Better Me than you.

When they crossed his ankles and hammered similar nails into the arches of his feet, He said, Better Me than you.

When He struggled to breathe, causing Himself excruciating pain no matter how He moved, He said, Better Me than you.

When He looked into the face of a mother, His mother, watching the murder of her precious child, her baby boy, He said, Better Me than you.

When His Father turned His back on Him, when He felt most forsaken, when He cried out in agony and heartache and despair, He said, Better Me than you.

When His chest filled with fluid and He felt His own heart drown within Him, He said, Better Me than you.

When He cried out before He finally suffocated to death, He said, Better Me than you.

When He took on the wrath of God and paid the penalty for your sins, and my sins, and our beloved children’s sins, He said, Better Me than you.

This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10