Beginning tomorrow, after a year and a half of sharing daily devotions on the red letter words of Christ in the gospels, I will shift my focus for a bit to the words of Job in the book named for him. My heart in sharing will be developing an understanding of the grieving process and what we can learn from someone who is suffering in deep pain. I hope that you will join me in these devotional bloggings.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Is there a more natural question for a resurrected Messiah than “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” It makes sense if the focus of your life, and the preoccupation of your mind, is a natural and physical freedom. If I lived back then I would have also been fixated on overthrowing Roman rule. Yet the Lord Jesus is a different kind of Messiah with a different sort of message. He responds saying that their concern should be heavenly and not earthly.
What do you think his disciples imagined when they heard that they would receive power? Perhaps they imagined some sort of blessing that would help them get rid of Rome? I imagine that they had no clue concerning the events of the Day of Pentecost. How could they ever understand something that had never happened before? Pentecost changed everything. Cowards became brave. The weak became strong. The Holy Spirit made witnesses out of weaklings.
I need your power Lord. Baptize me anew with the Holy Spirit.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Earlier in this passage Jesus told these same listeners that they were "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken". The problem that his disciples had was not one of knowledge but one of faith. When the word of Christ's resurrection came to them they had already heard Jesus speak of it before he died on the cross. These could not claim ignorance. As they stood before Jesus faith arose in their hearts and he was able to open their minds to the truth.
Even though their minds were being transformed they were still not ready for the road ahead of them. These who witnessed the miraculous works of Christ and saw him first hand after he was raised from the dead still needed something they did not have. They, like each of us, needed the Holy Spirit ... they needed to be clothed with divine power ... they desperately needed to experience the promise of the Father. So it is with us - we need the power of God.
Come Holy Spirit and fill us and baptize us afresh today. We so need to be clothed with your power.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
The two have returned from Emmaus with an amazing story - Cleopas and his friend report that the Lord Jesus himself walked and dined with them. Somehow his tomb is now empty. This small community of his followers is abuzz with wonder. Yet the resurrection of Christ seemed so unbelievable - until Jesus himself appears in their midst speaking to them and having them touch him. Oh my! What would it have been like to have been there that day?
Then, amidst wonder, disbelief and joy, Jesus asks for something to eat. Ever wonder why he wanted to eat before them? Do you think that he was hungry? My thinking is that the Lord wanted them to know that he was real and not a ghostly apparition. Since that day many have wondered what kind of body might emerge from our own deaths. I think that we miss the point of the resurrection if we focus on such things. Yet this story is still so amazing.
I am in awe when I read of your resurrection Lord. Open the eyes of my heart to see you today.
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Emmaus is about seven miles from Jerusalem. Why Jesus chose to walk that road with these two disciples is so interesting. He could have spent it with many but he chose these two. As he walked Cleopas and his companion shared their pain and disappointment with Jesus when they said: "But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel". Perhaps this heartache is what drew the risen Christ to walk that road to Emmaus that day?
I think that it is so interesting that they did not recognize Jesus until "he took the bread and blessed and broke it". I think that there is something that can be so intimate about sharing a meal with each other. I love it that there eyes were opened at the supper table. Perhaps in that moment Christ's hope sprung anew as his communal words witnessed deep in their hearts? I so love their reaction. I can see them running with joy and amazement back to Jerusalem.
In the words of the song Lord - You are alive! I am forgiven! Heaven's gates are open wide!
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Even at this very last moment of his life we are reminded that the Son of God was not a victim of circumstances or of man's evil plans. At any point after his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane he could have chose another path for his life. Yet love compelled him to stay the course and freely offer his life for us. Love compelled him to stay committed to the words he prayed in the garden saying "Not my will but thine be done".
And since that final moment we have all been beating our breasts. Like the centurion, and those who watched at a distance, we have all been wondering how this could have happened to an innocent man. Perhaps it could have happened no other way? Maybe the whole spectacle took place to reveal the darkness of man and the brilliant light of God? At the very last moment Jesus completes his life of love as he offers his spirit to his Father.
May love compel me today to resist temptation and stay the course laid out for me Lord.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Two condemned men are watching Jesus.. these two are also nailed to crosses. Both have joined in with the crowd in their mocking of Christ. Both have heard Jesus pray and offer forgiveness to those who mock.. to those who drove the nails.. to those who gamble for his robe. One hears him forgive and continues to mock him - perhaps he saw forgiveness as a sign of weakness? Yet the other responds differently and rebukes the other thief.
What follows is truly amazing. Nailed to a cross a thief cries out for the forgiveness that Jesus offered. The mocker has been transformed by Christ's words of forgiveness and now defends him to the other thief. And all the while Jesus is listening.. not only to what the man says but to the faith that comes from his heart. Then, in an amazing mix of boldness and desperation, the thief cries out to Jesus. And, oh my, Jesus' response to him is truly divine.
Thank you Lord that it is never too late to cry out to you.
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
The circus has begun and the folly of humanity is on trial. While three men suffer the vilest acts in humanity come forth. People stand by gawking. Men gamble for the clothes of the suffering. Religious leaders sneer and laugh with devilish glee. Soldiers join in and pretend to offer to quench the thirst of the suffering. The image painted here is one of darkness. There does not seem to be any hope for the people watching these men die.
Then, from one of the crosses, a man speaks and light enters the darkness. In a few words Jesus turns the circus into something beautiful. Yes, the darkness is still there but something has changed. The condemned Messiah has taken control of the atmosphere. With one sentence he proclaims that FORGIVENESS REIGNS!! And I can hardly take it in - mockers are forgiven.. gamblers forgiven.. thieves forgiven.. murderers forgiven. Hallelujah!
Help me today Lord to change the atmosphere all around me. Help me to proclaim forgiveness.
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
There is a long and sordid tradition of heretic hunters in religious groups of all ilks. Throughout the ages religious authorities have done some of the most ungodly things to those who have disagreed with them. These who claim to inhabit the moral high ground have often acted in the most immoral ways towards those who challenge their theology. In this passage we see the worst example as God Incarnate is tried in a religious kangaroo court.
Do you find it interesting how these heretic hunters demanded that Jesus confess that he was the Messiah? As if his words meant anything to them. Sadly these religious leaders were only interested in having something that would (in their sick minds anyway) excuse their coming ungodly actions. Even so, Jesus gave them one last chance to believe in him as he spoke of being seated at the right hand of the power of God. Sadly these did not listen to him and believe.
Forgive us Lord when we sit in judgment on others and act like heresy hunters.
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Can you feel the heart of Jesus break when he is kissed by his friend? Can you sense the anger of men with swords? Hell is about to break out and emotions are raw. And in the midst of a riotous crowd Jesus heals an ear that has been cut off. Yet even this miracle does not deter the blood thirst of men who should know better. Darkness has descended. A grave injustice is being done. What men would not do in the light of day is being done under the cover of night.
I sometimes marvel at how God allows evil in the world. When I ponder the darkness that sometimes surrounds me I remember that once the power of darkness ruled in the garden where Jesus prayed "not my will, but yours, be done." The idea that God allows bad things to happen, even to his Son, is a conundrum that has baffled theologians forever. Perhaps events such as these are meant to reveal the true nature of man apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit?
Help me to learn from these events that happened so very long ago Lord.
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
The Son of God was all alone in his final hours but he was not. While men slept angels ministered. In agony beyond comprehension and sweating drops of blood the Son of God found strength on his knees. He was the only one in that garden who had not yielded to temptation. The garden story was being rewritten that day as Jesus said no to temptation and yielded himself fully to God. In that hour the sin of Adam was trumped by the obedience of Christ.
About the prayer. We who pray the Lord's prayer often say "Thy will be done" in a way that is sometimes religiously rote and cavalier. I wonder if we would be so willing to pray "Thy will be done" if we understood that His will involved a cross. Perhaps we, like Jesus, would also be in blood sweating agony if we understood the ways of the will of God? Yet maybe, like Jesus, we would be willing to pray such a prayer if our inner eyes were opened to our future resurrection?
Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Is there a more touching commentary in all of scripture about our inability to live for God apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit? Do you sense how genuine Peter's confession was? Is there any doubt that he believed that he would die for his friend? When the rooster crows do you not weep with Peter? Can you not imagine the despair that this macho fisherman was experiencing when he could not find it in himself to simply say that he knew Jesus?
I am so glad that Peter's story did not end with bitter weeping! On a beach a few weeks after his denial Peter once again encountered the resurrected Christ and thrice confessed his love for the Him. On that day we saw a broken fisherman humbled and restored. Shortly after that Peter would be filled with the Spirit of God and witness boldly for the one he once denied. Is this not our story as well? I am so glad that Jesus prayed for Peter and now intercedes for us.
Where would I be if you did not pray for me Lord? I am so thankful for your advocacy and intercession.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The contrast between spiritual and fleshly kingdoms in this passage is so severe yet the historical inclination of religious people seems to be towards the carnal one. It was true in the times of the Pharisees and it is true today. But sadly, even though religious leaders use words like servant, their actions prove to be more like the Pharisees than servants - I have even heard senior pastors call themselves chief executives of the the church that they "serve".
After describing what it takes to be a true spiritual leader Jesus segues to a time when "those who have stayed with me in my trials" will judge Israel. In my thinking this is an illusion to a new servant leadership rather than judging. These who persevere in faith will one day lead or judge Israel in the way that Moses once led and judged it. In this Jesus speaks once again of leadership in the kingdom of God and how a servant is formed by perseverance.
Yours O Lord is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
The last thing that Jesus did with his disciples was to share a meal. Unlike the communion table that is spread in some churches this table resembled more of an intimate supper than a sacramental rite. Like most Seder meals bread and wine were on the menu. It was a time of reflection and rejoicing that traced its history back to the liberation and exodus of the Israelis from Egyptian bondage. Yet this dinner was so much more as Christ shared in a most intimate way.
As he spoke Christ both acknowledged this historic meal and instituted a new meal that would be shared by Christians in the coming centuries. In it we see illusions to both the Passover lamb that they ate that night and the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. In these words we see three meals: the Passover Seder; Holy Communion; and the heavenly Wedding Supper. When we share in Christ's table with others we embrace our past, present and future.
We remember you Lord Jesus Christ and await that time when we will share a meal with you in heaven.
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. … So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. … Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
This chapter in Luke is filled with apocalyptic imagery that has been interpreted in a variety of ways depending on various eschatological perspectives. Even so, I think we can miss the predominant message of Christ if we focus on end times theology. In my thinking the Lord is not telling them (and us) these things to impress us with his prophetic prowess but to instruct us in the ways that we should live in difficult times. In truth our redemption ever draws near.
His instructions to us in cataclysmic times is so very clear. He tells us to raise our heads and embrace a heavenly perspective. He comforts us saying that his teachings are true and they are eternal. He warns us to stay awake spiritually and to pray for strength. He paints us an image of standing before him in heaven. These words are not meant to scare us but to give us hope in hard times and to help us persevere in faith, hope and love.
Help me to look upon the unseen eternal things Lord and to not be distracted by what I see.
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Since Jesus Christ first uttered these words there have been wars, earthquakes, famines and pestilences. Since then countless numbers of His followers have been persecuted for their faith. And yet the end of the age that many thought he was speaking of has not yet come. Could it be that many of us have misunderstood this notion of the last days? Could it be that the last days for Jesus' listeners were different than our last days? Perhaps it comes in waves?
Regardless of how or when it comes the message is clear that God will not forsake his people in dark days. He will give them wisdom that cannot be withstood by the rationalizations of the godless. He will carry these through death and, like Daniel's friends, he will be with them in the fire. Hardship and trials are opportunities for the people of God to shine brightly and to bear witness to the love of God in our lives. It is a time to gloriously endure and gain our lives.
It is enough that you are with me today Lord Jesus Christ. I celebrate your presence.
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
I think that humanity's preoccupation with religious buildings is such an interesting phenomenon. Since the days when Moses erected the Tabernacle men and women alike have been drawn to ornate and expensive structures. Even today folks that seem to embrace reformative theologies erect brick buildings instead of using existing facilities. There is just something that fascinates us about having a place of our own to "worship" a God who cannot be confined by walls.
Hearing of the temple's destruction the thoughts of these went to a fearful place. To that Jesus tells them to not be terrified when their world starts to implode and things begin to change. It is as if he is teaching his disciples to change their focus from the place of worship to the heart of it. For if your spiritual foundation is found in a building then that foundation will surely crumble along with the stones that eventually fall. Our place of worship is our inner temple.
Help me to remember today Lord that worship is not about a place.
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
I am not sure that I can even begin to understand the level of giving of this widow. In truth, people in America know little of the poverty of third world countries. Most of us are rich in comparison to people who drink contaminated water and die of treatable diseases. Yet we who are, in comparison, rich know very little about what it means to be generous. Even so, there is a lesson in this story that speaks to each of us of the true nature of wealth and poverty.
This poor woman was rich beyond measure in the kingdom of God for she understood the idea that real philanthropy is that which is given out of our poverty and not our excess or wealth. God has never been interested in our left overs and has never been impressed with gifts that cost us nothing. God's kind of love always costs because it is sacrificial in nature and when we give out of our need we begin to understand what it means to live and to give in love.
Lord, I repent of selfish and self-centered attitudes. Help me to be a generous person.
Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question. But he said to them,
“How can they say that the Christ is David's son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
The interactions between the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Jesus in the gospels is so interesting. For sure these religious leaders had many differences amongst themselves but we often miss that because they all seem to be united against Christ. In this setting Jesus gives an authoritative answer to the Sadducees question about the resurrection and the Scribes give kudos to Jesus because he agreed with "their" perspective but not the Sadducees.
Even so, Jesus now turns the tables on the Scribes and tells his disciples that, although they agree with him on the resurrection, these men are no different than the Sadducees. He points out that the Scribes, like the Sadducees, also do not have an accurate understanding of the nature and ministry of the Christ. These also do not understand what it means to be a spiritual leader. These who were charged with the care of the helpless did nothing to alleviate their pain.
Help us Lord to be people who are more concerned with the pain of others than our image.
There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. … Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
This convoluted question so reminds me of my own disjointed thought processes. How often have you applied natural thinking to religious imagery and come up with answers that have been so off base? These Sadducees seem to build a house of cards trying disprove the resurrection from the dead by implying that married people would still be joined in wedlock after they died. Jesus pokes a huge hole in their argument saying that things will be different in heaven.
Jesus' reply to the Sadducees paints such a glorious picture of heaven and the residents of it. My mind and my heart can hardly grasp what it means to be a member of the "sons of the resurrection". What will it be like to not be able to die? Just think of the freedom encased in those words. I cannot even grasp what it means to be equal to the angels. Knowing that one day I will shed my mortal body for one that is eternal and indestructible gives me such hope!
Words escape me Lord Jesus. How can such things be? I praise you that I am eternal and will be with you forever.
So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”
To this day the issue of paying taxes is one of the most polarizing topics in society. Some believe that the government's reach is too far while others think that the wealthy should be taxed more. In thinking about the question asked in this passage it seems that the religious leaders were actually asking Jesus if he recognized the authority of Caesar, the leader of the government. Jesus' reply seemed to validate the existence and authority of the Roman government.
This is a hard message to accept when we see despotic regimes that mistreat their citizens the way that the Romans treated the Jews. Their cruel method of crucifixion speaks to the harsh way that they governed. Yet the message in this passage rings out clear. We are always to remember that we are first citizens of the kingdom of God. Our actions should always reflect that citizenship. When we render to God what is his we render love both to Him and to each other.
Help me always to remember my citizenship Lord Jesus. May my life always reflect that citizenship.
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
In hindsight it is clear that two authorities are present - spiritual authorities. The chief priests and elders certainly had the weight of tradition, position and even possibly scripture on their side. Jesus on the other hand was at odds with them and seemed a bit out of step with the Judaism of that day … he seemed to have a different kind of authority. The authority of Christ seemed to be truly spiritual in nature having it's roots in love and compassion.
Yet even today there seems to be two different kinds of authority in church circles. There is certainly still the type of authority that the religious leaders of Jesus' day exhibited. This type of authority doesn't like to be challenged. It is heavy handed and has it's base in carnal power or position. Then there is the Christlike spiritual authority that is gained by loving someone unconditionally. We would do well to place ourselves under this kind of authority.
Help me today dear Lord to influence the people I meet by simply loving them.
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
I think that those who combine commerce and religious activities need to exercise caution so as not to incur the reaction that these, who sold things in the outer courts of the temple, received from the Lord. I am not saying that churches need to shut down their coffee shops or their book stores but I am saying that there is a danger in the rationalizations that are sometimes required to bring money into religious organizations like churches.
The message was so radical. It is no wonder that "all the people were hanging on his words". The imagination of these must have been so captivated as Jesus spoke of the temple being "a house of prayer". The Israelis had long gotten used to the religious treadmill that the religious elders had them on. Then along came Jesus, driving out the money changers and animal retailers, changing the temple into a place where people could pray and meet God.
Help our churches dear Lord to be prayerful places. May many find you this week because people prayed together.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Is there a more accurate image of God's response to sinful humanity than this one? With tear filled eyes the Lord God incarnate speaks prophetic words over the city and people that he so loves. Seeing the City of David once again reminds Jesus of the darkness that had overwhelmed this city on a hill. Would that the religious leaders repented before him and bowed to his authority. Alas, the darkness is getting thicker and the enemy's hold on the city stronger.
The phrase "you did not know the time of your visitation" sends chills through me. If I were writing the script I think that I would have given the city a few more years. I mean Jesus was only 33 and had many more years to influence a new generation to believe. Truthfully, God's timetable bears no resemblance to our own. After 3 years of rejection, the visitation of the Son of God was coming to a close. Yet no one knew that within a week Jesus would be murdered.
Come Holy Spirit. Please do not let me be ignorant to the time of Your visitation.
And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
The stage has been set and the play is entering the very last scene of the very last act. For some time Jesus has been telling his disciples about this week but his words have fallen on deaf ears. The roar of excitement peaks as he mounts the lowly colt and descends towards Jerusalem. Everyone is rejoicing because the deliverer is coming. I am sure these who shouted envisioned a Moses-like messiah confronting Pontius Pilate demanding Rome to let God's people go.
Yet in the midst of this jubilation the Pharisees seek to censure the praise and demand that Jesus put a stop to it - these did not see a Messiah that day. Jesus' response indicates that, even though the disciples misunderstood what was happening, worship was very much an appropriate response. You see, although a Moses-like messiah was not approaching the city that day, a deliver was on his way to rescue all of humanity. Indeed! Who could not worship?
You are my Deliverer Lord Jesus Christ. With the stones, the angels and the saints of all the ages I worship you.
The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’
I have heard it said that life is a test for the life after this life. This parable certainly alludes to this and even more. What we do when no one is looking matters. How we deal with the little things in life matters much not only to the Master but to ourselves. How we handle the insignificant matters of life are not insignificant because they speak deeply to issues of honor and integrity. If we are unable to handle the small things we will never be ready for larger ones.
Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris, once said: "our only business in this life is to please God" and "We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.". In this parable there was one who forgot that obligation. I think that the true mark of a believer is one who loves and honors God in everything that they do.
Let my life be a living sacrifice of love to you today my dear Lord Jesus Christ.
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ ... When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. ... ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’”
The scene is being set for the last act of the ministry of Jesus Christ. He is approaching Jerusalem and the word on the street is that he is coming in power to overthrow the Romans and establish his kingdom. Knowing his fate Jesus begins to paint a different picture for his listeners in the form of a story. In hindsight we understand that Jesus was telling us about his kingdom - how some would be called servants and receive gifts and how others would reject his kingship.
In the second part of the story Jesus paints an image of a returning king. In this picture each servant is called to account for how they used the gifts that they were given. Each who used their gift was rewarded and the one who buried their gift was censured. In this image we see the connection between God's gifts and the required faithfulness of his servants. Through this story we understand that we each are called to use his gifts for his purposes.
Help to dear Lord to be faithful to use your gifts to help others and to build your kingdom.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This story is in stark contrast to the wealthy man who came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. That wealthy man went away discouraged because Jesus told him to sell his things. In this story a wealthy man needed no instruction regarding his wealth. Does not your heart warm within you when Zacchaeus stands and gives half of what he has to the poor? I wonder what Jesus spoke over their meal that caused him to do something so outrageous?
The story reminds me that with God all things are possible. Everyone had written Zacchaeus of as a "sinner" beyond salvation. When Jesus came to his house they all grumbled. No one ever believed that this despicable man would ever change his ways. No one in the religious community ever took the time to come to his house and inquire of his soul? It makes you wonder. Perhaps every despicable and hated "sinner" is but one divine visit away from salvation?
Open my eyes up today to those who look good on the outside but are inwardly in pain.
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Do you not love this story? There is just something beautiful in these stories of healing and redemption. How can our hearts not soar when we hear of this wonderful miracle for one who has been in pain so long. Can you not hear the blind beggar's cries getting louder and louder as he hears of a healer drawing close? Yet, oddly enough, those closest to him tell him to be quiet. These who should have cared about him showed a callous indifference towards his suffering.
Thankfully this man's cries for mercy reached the ears of the Great Physician. Can you sense the hope rising in his heart as Jesus calls him forward. This man's faith was so tangible yet only Christ saw it in him. I love how Jesus asks him what he wants even though it seems obvious to most that a blind man wants to see. In his confession we understand that he once saw and subsequently lost his vision. Perhaps you need to recover something that was lost?
Lord, let us recover the things that we have lost. Let my wife recover the ability to walk.
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
I think that it is so easy to be a Monday morning quarterback when we read accounts such as this one. We can look back and wonder how it was that everyone seemed to be so blind to the mission of Christ. How could it be that they missed it? Even when he spoke of himself as one who the prophets spoke about they did not understand the true nature and mission of the Messiah. These did not stay in ignorance but many today choose to ignore the prophets.
What do you think the phrase "This saying was hidden from them" meant? Do you think that it was all about God preventing them from seeing or do you think that something else concealed the truth from them? Is it possible that Jesus' mission was concealed from them because they really did not want to believe that the Messiah's kingdom was so much different than the one that they had expected. Could it be that their blindness was self-inflicted?
Please open our inner eyes Lord to see you and your mission in our world today.