Monday, 29 September 2014 15:10:00
My “following Jesus’ footsteps” series is nearly over and will include only two more posts—this week and next. Then I will begin a new series.
Jesus’ mode of death was predicted (Psalm 22) over a thousand years before crucifixion was invented by the Romans. It was a barbaric means of execution; excruciating and often taking days for the victim to die by suffocation. Its cruelty was meant to frighten the populace into submission and was most commonly used to punish rebels. But even before Jesus was nailed to the cross, He endured thirty-nine lashes by a Roman scourge or flagrum. The flagrum was usually made of three thongs containing pieces of metal or bone, and literally ripped out pieces of flesh with every strike. Often this type and number of lashes were enough to kill a man.
But scripture tells us that even more punishment was inflicted on Jesus as a crown of thorns was jammed into His head and sadistic guards beat Him about the face and pulled out his beard. Before that long walk down the Via Dolorosa Jesus was already horribly disfigured and bloody. How He carried the heavy wooden cross-beam across His shoulders is hard to imagine. With every bump or rut in the pavement, Jesus’ body was jarred, causing the wood to rub against His open wounds; all the while, His strength and energy draining from Him with every drop of blood lost.
Finally, Jesus reaches Golgotha, the “place of a skull”. Here He is totally stripped, His manhood exposed before being thrown to the ground and His arms stretched out. Then spikes—seven to nine inches long—were driven through small plaques of wood into His forearms. The plaques were meant to keep the nails from tearing through the flesh and the body pulling away from the cross. Even so, the weight of Jesus’ body will eventually cause the nails to rip through His forearms all the way to the wrists. Next, Jesus’ legs were bent and pulled to the side then spikes driven through other small wooden plaques and into the heels. This position makes it difficult to breathe and each breath is only obtained by the very painful upward push of the body. As Jesus gasps for breath, flies and salty sweat sting and irritate his wounds. And having lost a great deal of bodily fluids, Jesus is parched, causing His tongue to cleave to the roof of His mouth and making it difficult to swallow.
And then the real agony begins, as God the Father attributes to Jesus every sin you and I have ever or will ever commit. One by one our sins are place on Jesus as He takes on their shame and guilt and punishment. We are the rebels. But instead of paying the penalty for rebelling against God, Jesus, executed as a rebel by Rome, pays it for us. And when finally the last sin is paid, Jesus shouts, “It is finished.” That word “finished” is “teleho” in Greek and means “complete, execute, conclude, pay, discharge a debt.” It means every sin has been fully paid for.
When you realize the great price Jesus paid to save us from ourselves it is impossible to see any other way to God. If there was, if there was any other route man could take to be acceptable to God, why in the world would Jesus have ever gone through all of the above?
But we do have one part to play in all this. Universal Salvation is a myth. Yes, Jesus died for every sin committed by every person, but forgives comes only IF we accept what He did. It’s like a poor man having a large savings account. It’s doesn’t do him any good unless he actually makes a withdrawal.
In the end, can we ignore this great love Jesus showed us?
Until next time,
Monday, 24 March 2014 15:10:00
Jesus knows the end is near. His entire ministry was soon to culminate in one last momentous act of love that would change the world. The Devine purpose was soon to be achieved. In John 13:1-38 we see Jesus in an upper room celebrating the feast of Passover. That was no accident since the original Passover was the shadow of things to come, the foreshadowing of when Messiah would become the true Passover Lamb. What were His thoughts? What emotions filled Him? He was God, and as God this was His hearts desire, to finally reconcile the world back to Him. But he was also a man with flesh that could feel pain and a heart that could be broken.
In verse two John tells us that Satan had already put the idea of betraying Jesus into Judas Iscariot’s heart. Here was a man who had been with Jesus from the beginning, was hand picked by Jesus and loved by Him, shared meals with Him, traveled along the same dusty roads, seen the miracles He performed, received His personal attention and instructions. Yet Judas never “got it.” Got who Jesus was or why He was here. How it must have broken Jesus’ heart to know that the one on whom such love and care had been lavished was now going to hand Him over to the executioners.
Jesus understood betrayal, understood the pain of someone He loved going out of his way to harm Him. And so He understands when this happens to us. I don’t think we can live many years without being betrayed or disappointed by someone we love, someone we trusted. It happens. People disappoint. They don’t always “get” our love, or value the time and effort we have poured into them. And even worse, we sometimes disappoint others.
Scripture paints a very dire picture of Judas’ eternal future, but I believe that if he had asked Jesus for forgiveness, Jesus would have granted it. After all, Peter betrayed Jesus, too, though in a different way, and Jesus not only forgave him but restored him as His apostle. And there in is the secret. Forgiveness. Yes people we love will disappoint us. Some may even do us great harm, and while these things are painful and sometimes even devastating, forgiveness is the only road to wholeness. When we consider all that Jesus went through for us, the undeserved ill-will, the phony trials, the abandonment by all except a few, the beatings, the excruciatingly painful crucifixion, and then hear that his last words before He committed His Spirit to God, were “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” can we do less? And if we are the ones who have betrayed or disappointed, wouldn’t we want to be forgiven, too? I know I would.
Until next time,
Monday, 27 January 2014 18:44:00
When the disciples ask Jesus in Luke 11:1 to teach them to pray, Jesus tells them, “When you pray, say . . .” and then He goes on to pray the most widely known prayer of all times, the one called the “Lord’s Prayer.” But what exactly was Jesus saying? Did He mean for us to memorize this prayer and then, in mindless repetition, mumble it over and over again? Certainly not! In reality Jesus was laying out a pattern for all our prayers as well as conveying deep spiritual truths.
First, Jesus opens the prayer with “Our Father.” That right there is a stunner! Jesus had often told His disciples and the crowd that God was His father, but now He was saying that God, the very Creator of the Universe, was our Father, too! And that comes with all that’s implied in a father: loving parent, caring, strong, kind, protective, interested in us, etc. Now that’s jaw dropping! Then Jesus goes on to add to the picture of “Father.” In addition to being the Father described above He’s also the Father who is in heaven, and who is holy (hollowed be thy name). In the Old Testament a name often described that person’s character and nature. Here we see that the very nature of our God, our Father, is holiness. Thus, while we approach our loving Father with a tender intimacy we also need to approach Him with reverence and respect and humility, not as though He’s our pool room buddy, “Yo, Lord, I got this problem that needs fixing!” which is so fashionable in the movies nowadays. And because God is holy, He wants us to be holy, too.
The next thing Jesus says is “thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” A kingdom implies that God is king, and a king is an absolute ruler. And if God’s will is to be done on earth that means it must be done in our life as well. It literally means that as King, God is absolute ruler over our life, and we are praying for His absolute will to be manifested in us. Whew! That’s a tough one!
Jesus goes on to say, “give us this day our daily bread,” implying that God is our source. And we need to rely on Him. Of course we need to do our part such as hold a job and do our best at it, etc., but we need to know that God is our provider. It is He that opens the doors of opportunity for us, the One interested in every aspect of our lives. That’s easy to forget when things are going well.
Then follows: “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” It’s really clear here. We cannot expect God to forgive us if we don’t forgive those who have hurt us, or insulted us, or misused us. It just ain’t going to happen. I know some Christians who actually say they don’t have to forgive someone who has really hurt and abused them because God understands what a terrible thing that other person has done. But scripture doesn’t support this. In fact it says just the opposite. One good example is Mark 11:26 where Jesus says, “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” So, we cannot expect God to forgive us if we don’t forgive others. It’s that simple. We need to walk in an attitude of instant forgiveness and ask God to help us not be easily offended. I don’t think that’s possible without the Holy Spirit. But with Him all things are possible. Praise God for that!
Jesus finally ends His prayer with these words: “And lead us not into temptation but deliver (rescue) us from evil.” The implication here is that there is evil in the world. We know him as the devil and his minions. And yes, he’s real. Just ask anyone who has come out of the occult! And in order to overcome evil and all the temptations this world has to offer, we need God’s help. Again, this points us to the Holy Spirit. We simply cannot live the Christian life on our own. God know this. That’s why He sent His Spirit. And with His Spirit we can be overcomers, we can live the life God desires for us, a life rich in love, and joy and peace.
What a wonderful prayer! What a wonderful God!
Until next time,
Monday, 18 November 2013 16:27:00
I’m sure the Apostle Peter thought he was being really generous when in Matthew 18:21-22 (Amplified) he asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? As many as seven times?” Jesus responded with, “I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven!” I bet Jesus’ answer made Peter grit his teeth. He never figured on that number. Let’s see, 70 x 7 = 490. That’s a lot of forgiveness!
I’m sure it makes many of us grit our teeth, too, because it sounds so overwhelming. But at least there’s an end to it and when we keep our spread sheet and tally all the times someone offended us and they finally reach number 491 we can cross them off our list, right? And say, “That’s it Bub, no more forgiveness for you.” No. It’s worse than that. Remember numbers in the Bible have meaning, and the number seven, which appears nearly 500 times in scripture, is symbolic of completion or wholeness as well as a complete cycle. So what Jesus was saying wasn’t that once your adversary hits the 491st mark, you no longer have to forgive, rather it is the completion of one cycle and the beginning of another. In other words, forgiveness is endless. We can never stop forgiving others.
God takes forgiveness seriously. In the Lord ’s Prayer, Jesus said “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Note the word “as” which carries a condition. If we don’t forgive others God won’t forgive us. Indeed, Jesus confirms this in Matthew 6:14-15, “if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus, in Matthew 18:21-35, again illustrates this message in the parable of the “wicked servant,” who wouldn’t forgive his fellow servants so his master wouldn’t forgive him. Luke 6:37b also confirms it, “forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
It’s clear that forgiveness must be part of our walk with the Lord, a big part. Without it we can close ourselves off to God and His forgiveness. It’s not worth holding on to a grudge or offense. In reality, the only one we hurt is ourselves. Usually the offending person has no clue how we feel and goes along his/her merry way, while we are left stewing in bitterness and anger, which by the way does a whole lot to mess us up physically.
On the other hand, if someone is mentally, physically or sexually abusive, God does not mean for us to continue letting that person get away with it. If necessary we need to remove ourselves from that dangerous environment but when we do, we leave forgiving the offender. It’s not impossible when we realize forgiveness doesn’t imply that what that person did was OK. It simply means we let go of our right to revenge, anger, bitterness, etc, and place that person in God’s hands, for His judgment. But in addition to forgiveness we need to pray for that person. Forgiveness combined with prayer often produces the most amazing results because it leaves God free to be God and to accomplish His purpose not only in our life but in the life of the offender.
Until next time,
Monday, 29 July 2013 14:43:00
Ok, I admit this story bugs me. John 8:1-11 relays how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the middle of the temple court as they exposed her sin, but their secret motive was to trick Jesus in some way. It’s so wrong on many levels. First, where was the man? Why didn’t they bring him, too? No one can commit adultery alone. So, not only did these so called “holy” men seem to be protecting the offending member of their own sex, they were using the holy law of Moses to further their own agenda of destroying Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses commands that such shall be stoned to death. But what do you say?”
They didn’t fool Jesus one bit. Instead of engaging them in useless dialogue, He bends down and begins writing “on the ground with His finger” and after awhile says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And what do you know? One by one they left. The Amplified says they were “conscience-stricken.” And they left in a strange order: from the oldest to the youngest. I suppose because those who were older had more experience with sin. Finally, the court was empty and the plot to trick Jesus, foiled.
But how did Jesus handled the woman? Adultery is a serious offense in the sight of God. Did He stone her? He was the only one without sin in that entire place, the only one who had the right to do it. But no. Instead He said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” and “she answered, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.”
Oh what a wonderful Savior we have! How kind and tender He is to us. We are all sinners. And while the world, that is full of its own sins, seeks to throw stones—to humiliate, to accuse—Jesus’ heart desires to restore us, to love us, to bring us into His fullness. And at no one does the hypocritical world love to throw stones more than believers. “How can you call yourself a Christian after you did (fill in the blank)? Yes, we must deal with our sins, confess them and endeavor to “sin no more.” And then God is faithful and just to forgive us (1John 1:9). What’s more, He’ll never throw our sins back in our face, or rehash them over and over again. Rather, our sins, after they are confessed and forgiven, will never be remembered again.
I like to think that that woman went on to live a full life in the Lord, transformed by His love, perhaps the only real love she had ever experienced. And the wonderful thing is so can we all.
Until next time,
Monday, 04 April 2011 11:25:00
I love this one. In John 4:5-42 Jesus is resting at Jacob’s well when a woman of Samaria comes to draw water. He immediately begins a conversation by asking her for a drink; rather shocking with you consider that she was a Samaritan, a member of a mongrel race considered unclean by Jews, and that she was a woman, a second class citizen in a male dominated society. Jewish men did not normally strike up conversations with women.
She acknowledges this prejudice by asking why He’s even talking to her. His response is amazing on so many levels. In essence He says, if you knew who you were talking to, you’d “ask of him and he would have given you living water.” He goes on to explain this living water was “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” He was declaring that He was the source of everlasting life, and here’s the kicker, He was declaring it to a fallen Samaritan women.
A few verses down we realize just how fallen. She’s had five husbands and the man she’s currently living with wasn’t even her husband. That’s probably why she came to the well around the 6th hour or noon, in the heat of the day, when no one else would be there, because she was probably even an outcast among her own people. But Jesus knew all this, and revealed His knowledge to her. And she was amazed. And so am I because even with this prior knowledge He doesn’t say, “boy, you really blew it. You’ve really made a mess of your life.” Rather He said, “if you’d asked, I’d have given.”
And that’s just what he says to us. No matter how much we’ve messed up our life, no matter how low on society’s totem poll we are, no matter how insignificant we feel, no matter how “unclean” our lives have become, God loves us, and says, “if you ask I will give you eternal life.” Wow!
Sometimes I don’t understand why God bothers with us. We are so flawed, so weak, so much like the “dog who returns to his own vomit” yet He’s there, saying to each of us, “ask me, and I’ll give you because I love you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.”
The end of the story is also wonderful. Jesus uses this woman, this fallen unclean Samaritan, to go and tell her community about Him and lead others to Him, thus showing there is a place for even the lowliest in God’s kingdom and in His plan.
Oh what a God we serve! What a loving, tender, good God! And it’s His very goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4b).
Until next week,