Friday, November 12, 2010

Not so scary now, are you?

Jesus amazing miracles, and even more amazing words had created a lot of awe and wonder in Palestine.

Some believed.

Some did not.

32 Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene,[g] and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 34 The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.

The soldiers did not believe:

35 After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[h] 36 Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. 37 A sign was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Two revolutionaries[i] were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

Many people did not believe:

39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The religious leaders did not believe:

41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

One of the two thieves crucified with him did not believe:

44 Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

It is the same today:

Some believe.

Some choose not to.

God has designed this whole thing so we have free will.

Some believe.

Some do not.

Oversight of the military

The job of the military is to impose the rule of those in power on the subjects.

The military is sanctioned to kill people and has all the tools and power to do that.

The life of a soldier rotates between boredom and violence. In battle the soldier is often fighting for his life. In peacetime the soldier is often bored.

This shows why the military has to have strict oversight. The combination of power over life and death, the tools of killing, and boredom can make for a pretty dangerous combination

Here is a group of soldiers, in a time of peace, who are cleared bored.

One day they are given a prisoner to kill. This one is unusually interesting. He reportedly has the power to do miracles. And it is said that he claimed to be the king of the Jews.

This assignment, gruesome as it was, was going to have some entertainment value!

Mark reports Mark 15:16 "The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified."

Of course, they had no notion it was the King of Glory they were taunting. That each one of them would appear before Him after they died. That He - the righteous judge of heaven and earth - had the ultimate power.

They didn't know any of that.

They were just bored.

And had an unusually interesting prisoner...

Navigating the legal, political, religious and military maze

The Jewish religious leaders needed to get rid a big problem that was getting bigger. They couldn't impose the death penalty, but the government could.

The political leaders wanted to avert an insurrection in their domain. Appeasement of the masses. They didn't want to make the restless, resentful subjects even more angry than they already were.

The military was taught to blindly carry out the orders given to them. They would intimidate, brutalize or kill anyone or any group that stepped out of line of the rule of the empire.

Jesus himself knew that he must die, a sinless sacrifice, to pay for the sins of the world.

Mark 15:1 "Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council[a]—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

2 Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
3 Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, 4 and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” 5 But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

6 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. 7 One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. 8 The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.

9 “Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. 10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

14 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

15 So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified."

Jesus - sinless - was condemned to die!

The accountant jumps out the window

We in tough times right now.

This is the worst it has been financially since the last great depression - in the 1920's.

The most notorious images from that time is people jumping out the window to their death below. It must have been a desperate situation to feel like things have turned out so bad that your only alternative is to jump to your death.

Today we are in the last days of Jesus.

His accountant commits suicide...

What series of events made HIM feel so desperate that he literally jumped to his death?

Here is the story.

Matthew 27:1 "Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. 2 Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”
5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.
6 The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.”[a] 7 After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. 9 This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,
“They took[b] the thirty pieces of silver—

the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,

10 and purchased the potter’s field,

as the Lord directed.[c]”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

As a culture we have learned to feel for animals.

Not so much for plants.

Today Jesus is describing a process we all know well.

It is called pruning. A competent arborist, or even a back yard gardener, knows that you have to prune fruit trees or they get all leafy and overgrown, and don't produce fruit.

But today Jesus applies that rather violent example to us!


John 15:1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tough Times

They say tough times build character.

That may be true, but it seems to me that tough times reveal character more than build character.

In today's reading we are with Jesus during the toughest time of his life.

He was still with all 12 of his disciples, but he knew one would betray him, one would deny him, and all would abandon him.

How did he act around these fickle friends?

John 13:18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’[d] 19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah.[e] 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”
21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled,[f] and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table.[g] 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night."

Tough times reveal character.

Mine is fully exposed.

How is yours?