Saturday, April 30, 2011

Do You Know This Warning Sign Of Weak Faith?

How easily we forget. We forget all the time. It is like the bulletin board of our memory is made of some non-sticky material so things we should remember slide away. Some things are good to forget but it's funny how it is those things we tend to remember. It seems that the good of our past is often overshadowed by the bad. Perhaps this is the reason we are such ungrateful children when it comes to the goodness of our Heavenly Father.

It is true. Did you wake up with prayers and songs of thanksgiving this morning or were your first thoughts about your lack, your pain, the unpleasant tasks for today or any other hundred thoughts that robbed you of your joy? We suffer from short term memory, forgetting how great, mighty, powerful and generous our Father is. Last month we worried and fretted over some bill we didn't have money for, but our Father provided and everything was taken care of. Now we are back in the same position and, instead of remembering what God did last month, we return to worrying again. Silliness. We should be an expectant and joyful people before our God, remembering his goodness of the past and trusting for our today.

The psalmist who penned Psalm 136 has given us an excellent example of how to maintain our joy and trust in the Lord. He wrote:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. 
            His love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the God of gods. 
            His love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: 
His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-3)

When I was younger I found this psalm annoying because of the repetition but now that I am older I understand the repeating undercurrent of my life: His love endures forever. No matter how I have failed him; no matter my doubts; no matter my fears, his unfailing love has remained and carried me through. For this reason alone I must maintain a thankful heart. How could I possibly complain when God, the God of gods, the Lord of lords, loves me and looks after me? Apostle Paul discovered this same truth and asked us the question:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Romans 8:35)

You wouldn't believe how many people have failed in their faith because of these simple matters. We think we are strong but often, due to forgetting the goodness of the past, due to ungrateful hearts, due to lack of worship, and lack of trust we allow fear to chase us away from our faith in Jesus. Apostle Paul answered his own question:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Our Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit never fail us. It is we who let go of him and I believe it starts with an ungrateful heart. Or perhaps I should say that an ungrateful heart is the first sign of weakness of our faith. Paul said that nothing can separate us from the love of God because, as the psalmist wrote, his love endures forever. His love endures but ours does not. The only way we can cultivate our love for him and keep it fresh is to remember, to be thankful, to worship him in this thanksgiving. This cannot happen once a week but must take place every day as we open our eyes, giving thanks for all the things he has done in our life. As you remember the past your thanksgiving, trust and faith will increase. Then we are able to say with Paul:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

You can't say that and believe it with an ungrateful heart. It takes a heart that has experienced the goodness of God and from that goodness has made the decision to trust God. Then we are also able to declare:

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Go ahead, count your blessings today. Count the promises that have been given to you. Count the good things the Lord has done in your past. Try to count them and you will soon find yourself worshipping him with a heart that is brimming with thanksgiving. Do not allow fear, worry and anxiety about today rob you of the joy the Lord has given to you. He is the God of yesterday, today and forever. He doesn't change and his love endures forever. What he has done in the past he will do again so rejoice that you are his child and he loves you. Once you remember this, get out of bed and serve him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. There is work to be done!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Are We Hiding From Sinners?

There has been something eating away at me recently (since last night) and I need to give it a voice. I am not sure I have worked it all through yet myself but I often find expressing it to be part of that process. It really rises from two questions: "How can we be effective for Christ if we do not associate with sinners?" and "How do we keep pure in a filthy world?"

For as many churches as there are in this world and for as many Christians who walk on the face of this planet, there are not very many people being saved. We do not seem to be effective in the mission we have been given, to go and make disciples. The problem is that it is hard to make disciples of people who are already disciples. That's how it is for many of us. We only hang out with Christians. We have withdrawn from the world, stopped associating with sinners and have hidden ourselves in our fortress of self-righteousness. We have not invested ourselves in others and instead have buried ourselves in the Church for safe keeping. I really don't think that is what Jesus was talking about when he said "go".

We seem to have a hard time handling sin. It's like it reminds us where we come from or we are worried about being contaminated. We say that God can have nothing to do with sin so we can't either. Or maybe it's the type of sin that we have a problem with. A bank robber we hold out hope for but a rapist we want nothing to do with. A couple living together out of marriage we will try to get through but a homosexual couple is the present day leprosy. It is like we believe that God is not powerful enough to transform everyone, only certain character types.

The Jesus I know hung out with some notorious sinners; some real social outcasts. There were people found in adultery, prostitutes, tax collectors even. Hey, didn't you notice on the cross, while in pain and agony, he even invited a thief into the Kingdom? Jesus went to parties at the homes of Pharisees who were probably the biggest sinners of the bunch. We have no idea what everyone was involved in but we do know the Pharisees criticized him for hanging out with the wrong bunch.

Now, I want you to clearly understand this. Jesus, who is God, came into a fallen world that was filled with sin. He walked with, talked with, ate with, slept next to, went to parties with, even touched, breathing the same air as people who were totally rebellious and full of sin. This is the Holy God who we say can have nothing to do with sin. What are we talking about? He loves sinners so much he went to the cross for them, yet we can't even shake their hand or have anything to do with them. We won't go into the bars as Jesus did to seek them out. We won't go into the prostitution area of the city because that isn't proper. We are afraid to go into the jails because who knows what these people have been involved in. We won't sit down for coffee with a homosexual because we might catch something.

Are we kidding ourselves here? Do we have any idea just how filthy Jesus got every day and the burden he took to the cross just for us? Do we skip over the verse that says that it was while we were still sinners that he dies for us? How about this:

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

We worry about contamination. Wow! I guess we do not have a very good relationship with Jesus if we are worried that talking to a sinner will fill us with sin. Perhaps we need to look at what kind of relationship we have with Jesus if this is our fear. Those who are walking in the Spirit daily, developing their relationship with Jesus in prayer, Bible study and worship have nothing to fear. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

He is faithful to keep you in his righteousness, which is not a self-righteousness. Are we saying that our God is not as powerful as we claim he is? Of course he is but we are right that there is some danger associated with the mission. We do have to remember who we belong to as we walk in our calling. We need to keep our relationship fresh and alive. We have to keep Jesus as our center and purpose at all times. We must remain focused on our Lord and the direction of the Spirit. At no time should we take the council of those who are lost because they do not have the mind of Christ or the perspective of the Kingdom. The Word instructs us:

Blessed is the man 
   who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked 
or stand in the way of sinners 
   or sit in the seat of mockers. (Psalm 1:1)

In all his association with sinners Jesus never once entered into sin. He never once took direction from them. He stood his ground when they turned against him and never compromised on the truth. He was the light reaching out to those lost in the dark. He did not allow the darkness to infect him. He sat and ate with them but he would not participate with them. He always found ways of teaching them and bringing the good news to them. He did it with stories and he did it with speaking plainly. But the point is, he was there. How could he have done it if he refused to associate with them? He said that he has sent us in the same way the Father sent him.

We spend far too much time yelling at people from a distance; pointing fingers from a distance; preaching from a distance. The world will have no idea just how much they are loved until we get into their lives, invite them out, accept their invitations and become part of their day. It's time for us to get down off our high-horses and start walking around in the dirt of life. When we start doing this maybe Jesus and the Church will start looking a lot more attractive and inviting to those lost in sin. Maybe they will stop seeing us and will begin to see the light that is piercing the dark. Jesus said it would cost to follow him. It's time to start paying the price of our discipleship so others may also become disciples. He said "go"!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What To Do About Atheists - Give Them Proof

For some of us the Resurrection celebrations are over, it is time to move on. We enjoyed our long weekend but it is time to get on with the reality of life; school, work, family, bills, even elections. However, for the disciples there was no "going back". If they thought their life had changed when they were with Jesus it had completely changed now after the resurrection.

Here it was several days after Jesus appeared to them and they were still locking themselves away. Their minds must have been reeling with the death and now the resurrection of Jesus. Now here they sat in limbo, not really sure what to do. They knew their lives would never be the same, that there was no "going back" but what do they do now?

Now imagine all of this happening and you missing out on it. It would be like faithfully attending church for years and the one Sunday you miss all kinds of miraculous things happen. For some reason Thomas was not with the others on Resurrection Day. He wasn't there to hear the women's report and then Peter's nor the two disciples who had returned from Emmaus. He wasn't there to see Jesus when he appeared to the others that evening of the first day of the week. So when Thomas was told what had happened by the other disciples his reaction was very much how most of the Church would respond today:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25)

Do you hear the finality of that statement? "I will not believe it." Sounds like some atheists I know. Show me proof or keep your mouth shut about it, is the essence of what they often say to me. I have been put off  a bit by this group of young men who refuse to hear the authority of the Word and often attack it's credibility. My only argument is the Word of God and my testimony, yet these are scoffed at and mocked. So I have been asking God what to do about it and he gave me a clear response: "Allow me to reveal my glory to them."

The question then was, how does God reveal his glory to those who refuse to believe? The preference Jesus has is for us to come by faith but God is not above giving proof to those who do not believe. Jesus responded to Thomas' statement by appearing again to the disciples when Thomas was with them and he showed him the marks on his body. When God wanted to reveal his glory to the world he did it through signs and wonders in Egypt. When he birthed the Church in Jerusalem he worked signs and wonders through the Christ followers:

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. (Acts 2:43)

Jesus had preferred that people would believe him by faith, according to the prophecies but he knew many would require other persuasion:

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:48)

Even when people experience signs, wonders and miracles it still requires faith to enter into a relationship with Jesus. We still need faith to trust the promises of God. We need faith to live the rest of our life trusting that God has planned good for us even when the storms are fierce. But the mistake we often make is not believing that Jesus wants to reveal his glory to those who refuse to believe our words.

We engage in debates and we try to persuade close minded people of the truth. We try to convince people who have hardened their hearts, who are not asking questions about God but are out to prove that he does not exist. Stop using words and allow God to reveal himself by his glory. Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, reminding them how they came to accept Jesus:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

Some believers scoff and say that the age of signs, wonders and miracles has long since past. No one has shown proof to me yet from the Word of God that this is God's intention, that he put a time limit on his glory being revealed. I believe that such an attitude has allowed the world to get where it is. Do you think God planned for the world to get this bad or do you think that he simply knew it would get this bad because his children would stop believing? It is an unfortunate fact that there are many Thomas' in the world who will not believe our testimony but will respond to the glory of God. We need to stop this unbelief and allow God to reveal his glory again to the world.

The next question is, how do we do this? We do it by finding out what is going on in their lives, asking them what they need done. Do they have someone who is dying of some kind of illness? Is there an impossible situation? Find out the most impossible thing and pray about that. Make it a huge thing so that there would be no doubt of God's glory. Tell them you are praying about that thing. Allow them to hear your prayer. Tell them God is going to give proof of his existence and his love for them. Stick your neck out, believe with no doubt and God will do this thing and reveal himself.

Come on now, either we believe or we don't. Either we have faith or we don't. What is the use of your words if you can't believe enough to put your faith into action? Let's stop treating Christianity as a philosophy and a goodwill agency and let's get some power behind it again. Let's open our hearts and minds so that Jesus can be revealed in his glory again. The world wants proof, let's give them proof. Speak to the mountains in their lives and see their reaction when they jump out of the way. Jesus wondered if he would find faith in this world when he returned. Well, will he?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Discern Spiritual Truths

We do not have because we do not ask, is what apostle James told us. Jesus told us that if we need something we are to ask, believing with no doubt and it will be given to us. We often think of these Scriptures when we are in some physical need such as when the bills are more than our income. We sometimes think about them when someone we love is sick. However, I suspect we seldom think about them when we are in spiritual need. For some odd reason we figure we have to take care of our spiritual needs ourselves.

One of our greatest needs is the discerning of spiritual truths, the understanding of the deeper meaning of the Holy Scriptures. People without the Spirit look at our Scriptures and scoff. They dissect it bit by bit, try to discredit the men who were involved in the writing of it and totally ignore the authority of the Spirit as the author of it. However, we are not like them because we are filled by the Spirit and have the capability to discern the spiritual truths it contains, if we choose to ask for that discernment. Yet, it is one of our greatest failings in this age of "information".

When I look at Jesus' involvement with the disciples after his resurrection I sense a bit of a frustration that they failed to understand Scripture and what he had explained to them. To the two disciples on the way to Emmaus Jesus said:

“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)

Foolish and slow of heart to believe is what he called them. Then he patiently spent the rest of the journey teaching them again what the Scriptures had to say about the suffering Christ. He opened their mind and revealed the deeper truths. Later that night, when he came to the disciples who were hiding away, afraid for their lives, he stated, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?" (Luke 24:38) They thought he was a ghost not understanding what he had taught them about his death and resurrection. He got after them:

“This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44)

Then Jesus did something that was incredible, changing these men of trade to men of deep understanding, teachers and preachers:

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)
He opened their minds so they could understand, and that is what is available to us. He told them to stay where they were until they received what the Father was sending, the Holy Spirit, so they would be clothed with power from on high. He was completely equipping them for the mission he was giving them, as he wants to completely equip us.

If we do not have discernment of spiritual truths it is because we have not asked. Our Lord wants us to have understanding of Scripture and we are foolish and slow of heart if we do not desire it for ourselves. We treat the Bible as if it is some kind of story book or a book of moral law. We read it but we fail to understand it. We have understanding of the surface layer but we fail to allow the Spirit to reveal the deeper truths. We are faithful to our reading plans and we may even enrol for some Bible courses but we fail to seek a personal revelation for ourselves. We accept other people's teaching but we fail to seek the Spirit's teaching. How foolish and slow of heart we are to understand what the Scriptures reveal to us, and all because we do not ask.

Make it your prayer right now, "Lord Jesus, open my mind to the Word of God. I want to understand. I want to discern the truths of the Scriptures. I want to be an approved workman who correctly handles the Word of truth." Make this your heart's desire and you will be amazed at how the Word of God will come alive in your heart, mind and mouth. How can we teach if we do not understand for ourselves? To God be the glory!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is It Possible For Your Spirit To Experience Depression?

Sometimes we refer to a dry period with God as a desert experience. You probably know what I am talking about; it's when you seem so far away from God that you can't sense his blessings, his power or his presence. It's strange that we refer to this as a "desert experience" because when we look at the desert times in the Bible it was a place of preparation and transition, with God in the midst of it. 

Israel spent 40 years in the desert in the presence of the Lord. He led them as a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night. He provided for their every need and he prevented anything from wearing out. It was a time of great blessing. The old, disobedient things died off in that desert so that when the nation emerged it was the strongest generation of Israelites who ever walked the planet. They were completely dependent on God and believed they could do anything because of him. They trusted his promises.

John the Baptist ministered and lived in the desert. He was the greatest prophet who ever lived. His was a preparation ministry as he prepared the people for the arrival of Jesus. People came to the desert to hear the voice of God, to repent, to begin afresh. John was powerful because God was present. He had words of knowledge and preached with the power of conviction. He too trusted God's promises.

Jesus Christ was sent to the desert by the Spirit in order to prepare for the coming three years that he would spend ministering to the nation. It was a time of prayer, preparation and deep fellowship in the Spirit. It is where the enemy attacked but it is also where the victory was won. There was so much happening spiritually in that place and then the angels came to minister to Jesus. A time of transition and preparation before the new thing began. It seems deserts have a great deal to do with times of transitions but it is help the old fall away and the new to come forward. It is not a distancing experience but a growing closer to God.

The fact that people have "desert experiences", a distancing from God, is a concern. The only things that can distance us from God is unconfessed sin and neglect. It is a type of depression that our spirit enters when we remove ourselves from fellowship with God. I also refer to it as a "soul sick" experience. Depression is often experienced due to loss. When we remove ourselves from God's fellowship simply due to neglect of this fellowship our spirit experiences as loss in a dramatic manner.

Those of you who exercise may understand the concept better than most. Whether you are a runner, cyclist or resistance trainer you know what it is to experience that sensation of wellness. Your body is receiving all the proper nutrition and exercise it needs to feel great and to work great. You look forward to your exercise time because of the "high" your body feels after a great work out. However, if something prevents you from exercising for a period of time your body slips into a depressed state. It feels tired, warn down, no energy; you lack motivation to do the simplest tasks and you just want to sit around and do nothing.

When we neglect our fellowship with God our spirit slips into this depressive state and we begin to feel that we are distant from God. The disciples who were walking to Emmaus were feeling this way as the discussed the matter with each other. They had a wonderful fellowship and relationship with Jesus and suddenly he was gone. They had grown dependent on him and he had become everything in their life.They felt lost, destroyed, helpless and hopeless. Their future was gone. Then Jesus came along side them without them realizing who he was and he began to teach them from the Word: 

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

There it is! How foolish we are to forget! What are we suppose to do if we have foolishly slipped into this state of depression due to our neglect of fellowship? Turn to the Word. Remind yourself of God's promises. Claim them for yourself. Remind yourself that these promises were given to you. Walk in them. I mean base every moment of your day on these promises and do not doubt. Step back into fellowship and do what you need to do to return to the familiar in this fellowship. These two disciples did not recognize Jesus until he did something that was familiar to them, something they had seen him do every day they were with him:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

Feeling distant from God is not normal and is not God's plan for you. You need to search your own heart to discover the reason for this distance because it is caused by us not God. Look for any unconfessed sin and if there is none then examine your fellowship with God. Have you been neglecting the Word, prayer, worship or even service? Have you been disobedient in tasks you have been given to do? Whatever the reason, the solution is a simple one. Turn to the Word, stand on the promises, and renew your fellowship with the Holy One. 

“Today, if you hear his voice,    
do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Did You Meet With Jesus This Easter?

Resurrection Day has come and gone and we are ... the same? I hope not. I hope that we have all received some new revelation and have drawn even closer to Jesus. I hope we were surprised by something. Maybe it wasn't at church but perhaps it was something in our personal preparation. Change is suppose to be a constant for us as we are in the midst of transformation. Every moment with Jesus is suppose to augment this transformation process because it is impossible to spend time with Jesus without being changed. Resurrection Day was not the end of it. The empty tomb was not the end of it. There is more, much more to come.

Last night Jesus met with some of his disciples. Judas was dead and Thomas was missing but all the others were there when Jesus suddenly appeared in the room. The door was locked as they cowered in fear having heard the report from Mary but not daring to believe. They dared not believe and yet he was standing there, in front of them, greeting them in peace.

Understand that these poor men were without a future. Jesus had been their future, their only future and he was stolen away from them. Without him they had no hope, no direction, no purpose; they felt completely lost. The hid away, filled with fear, anxiety and dread which paralysed them. They were really paralysed emotionally, physically, mentally. The shock was wearing off and the depression was sinking in and this is why they could not process Mary's news from that morning. She said that she had seen Jesus and he was returning to the Father. What were they to make from that?

Now here he stood in front of them. He showed them the marks in his hands, his feet and the gash in his side. There was no denying it. The sight of the marks pained them but the joy of having Jesus with them again was starting to penetrate everything else. What a shock it was to have him with them again but they were still too afraid to touch him, to embrace him, to even greet him. Three things happened that night that changed everything; three things that gave them a future, purpose, direction and hope.

Jesus said to them and to us: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21) Imagine how those words filled the void they had been left with. Consider the power of this statement: Jesus has sent us out with the same sense of rescue mission as he was sent with. He came with the purpose saving mankind:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

We go with that same understanding that the world is saved through Jesus Christ. We are sent to share the good news, to put the enemy to flight and to respond to the needs of people through the compassionate heart of God. Jesus came with power and authority through the Holy Spirit and he is sending us in the same way.

The second thing that happened is Jesus promising the Spirit, who is the power and authority of God in us: "And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:22) He told them to go and he promised the Spirit to equip them to go. Jesus set for us an example of how it is that we can serve in these weak bodies. Although he came as man and he was equally man and equally God, he set aside his divine nature and served in the flesh. He did this through the Holy Spirit, showing us that it is possible to do exactly what he did through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Going to the Father was significant. He told his disciples they should be pleased he was going to the Father because in going he was able to send to them the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is key to everything we are suppose to do in the going. Yet, it requires a faith that few of us have yet to tap because we have twisted Jesus' words so that we do not expect to do what he did. We convince ourselves that he meant something else. Meanwhile the world continues to cry out, "Show to us that your God is real".

The third thing that happened that night to change them is also of great significance. Jesus said to his disciples: "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23) Forgiveness is key to everything we do and are involved in. We cannot minister to a suffering world if we do not understand nor experienced the power of forgiveness. Love is the foundation of the Kingdom and forgiveness is its first fruit. Jesus told many parables and gave many teachings on forgiveness, stating that if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven. He told us that we will be forgiven in the same manner in which we forgive. How can we possibly share the Good News of Jesus Christ if we are not able live the first steps of this relationship: repentance and forgiveness?

This command on forgiveness was important because the disciples had to get past what had just traumatized them. They had been betrayed by Judas, one of their own. The leaders of the land just trapped and manipulated the execution of their innocent Master. The Romans and inflicted incredible cruelty upon the innocent. They were hiding in fear. They may have even felt abandoned by God. There was a lot of forgiveness needed to heal the many wounds. Then there was the forgiveness they needed to believe they received. Peter is an example of this. If you are to minister to this fallen world the first thing you must accept is that you are forgiven. The enemy will come at you with accusations of your past, trying to rob you of God's power but you must hold on to the fact you are forgiven. Knowing and accepting your forgiveness you will in turn be able to easily forgive those who will harm you in ministry.

I look to these three things and I realize that my life is brimming with purpose, direction and hope for my future. I have received the command to "go" in the same sense that Jesus was sent by the Father. There is a world that needs to know the good news and who need to "see" Jesus. I have received the Holy Spirit, who is the power and authority of God in me. Demons must flee at my command. Diseases must let go and infirmities will be healed. I have the power and authority to speak life into dead things. I have the power, ability and responsibility to forgive in the same manner I have been forgiven. Forgiveness is what it is all about. I come away from Resurrection Day having been renewed in my understanding that it is not about me; it is about Jesus and the lost who need him.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Day: What's In A Name?

Try to imagine what it must have been like for the disciples of Jesus, now a few days after his death. In the last three years their whole life had become the Master; their purpose for living, for waking every morning, for everything they did in a day. He was their hope, their promise, their future. They left everything for him, even when their friends and relatives thought them to be mad, but how could they resist him? How could they say no? And now he was dead.

They were holed up behind a locked door in a small room, anticipating a pounding fist on the door at any minute from the soldiers as they tracked them down. It was only a matter of time. They would track them all down, if it took them a lifetime to do it, just to get rid of the Master's name. The smell of fear was mixed with grief and despondency. Imagine what it must have been like in that room with the Master dead and no hope for tomorrow.

Imagine as well how they must have jumped out of their skin as suddenly fists began to pound on the door. Only it wasn't  soldiers; it was the women. Confusion. Panic. The sound of your heart pounding in your ears.

The door is opened and the women almost tumble in. Something is wrong. The colour is drained from Mary's face. Her voice is barely audible, yet they all heard her words.

"They've taken him."

The sound and meaning of the words are not long in registering but the feet are slow to react. What was that about an angel? Everyone looks to each other. What are they to do?

It only takes two heart beats before John takes action. And quick on his heels is Peter. I wonder what they thought as they ran. Perhaps it was pure emotions as rage took over. It had to be something strong to bring them out of hiding like this. Mary said the tomb is open.

John was the better runner, reaching the tomb before Peter. He was the youngest of the group. But Peter wasn't doing too bad for an old man. Sure enough, the stone was rolled to one side. Something held John back. He stood at the entrance and peered into the dark, straining to see anything in the early morning light. His heart was racing and it probably wasn't from the running.

Peter arrived but he did not slow down at the entrance, brushing past John and only stopping when he hit the back wall of the tomb. The only sound was the panting of the two men as they gasped for air, sucking it into their bodies through clinched teeth.

The body was gone.

Just as the women had said, he was gone. The grave clothes were there, looking odd in their placement. The linens that wrapped the body lay there as if someone had somehow sucked the body out. And over in the corner, the grave clothes, the one that covers the head, were neatly folded. Who would have done this? It didn't look like the work of any soldiers.

Peter and John left the tomb, disturbed at what they have found. They walked slowly back without saying a word. Bewildered. Angry. Despondent. Fearful. But mostly lost. They walked past Mary with no acknowledgement of her presence. These were just shells of men brushing past her, so different from who they were just a few days ago. Their purpose for living was gone. And those filthy Pharisees couldn't even leave his body alone.

Mary stood outside of the tomb and watched them go. What was to become of them? How could they go on? And now even his body was taken from them? A wave of grief overcame Mary and she collapsed in a heap of flesh and tears. She could hold it back no longer as a great cry of wailing tore itself from her throat.

Who knows how long she remained there but eventually everything grew quiet again. Had she fallen asleep?

Mary sat up with a start. Was that the sound of rustling she heard in the tomb? Were the robbers back? How did they get past her without her noticing? Perhaps she had fallen asleep? But now rage filled her body, along with a twinge of fear, but mostly rage at the thought that they had come back. She picked herself up from the ground  and carefully peered into the tomb.

At first she couldn't see anything. The sun was much brighter now and the contrast between the bright sun and the dark tomb was too much. She stuck her head further into the dark of the tomb. Her eyes began to adjust.

She gasped.

There, sitting at the head and the foot of the linens sat two angels. Mary blinked. They were still there. She pinched herself. They were still there. They were smiling at her. She felt faint. She refused to give into her body and held tighter to the wall of the tomb.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

They had spoken. Angels were speaking to her. She answered without much thought to what she was saying. It was automatic.

They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

The wave of grief that came over her almost dropped her to her knees again. Angels or not she could not handle any more of this. She quickly turned to leave and let out a small shriek of fright. A man was standing behind her. The gardener she supposed. A quiet one. He looked at her, concerned. There was such compassion in his eyes.

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

The thought suddenly flashed through her mind. This was the gardener? If anyone knows where the body has gone he would know.

“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Why was he smiling at her like that? Did she know him? Was he playing some kind of game with her? She felt like her whole world was crashing down on her. Any second now she was going to run off crying again.



Could it be?

At the sound of her name spoken from those precious lips her head exploded with a million different colours. The whole world turned sideways and started to spin. She couldn't breathe. She literally could not breathe. Even her heart had stopped knowing how to work.

As she dropped to her knees yet again she heard her own voice cry out, "Rabonni!" It was him. It was the Teacher. The Master. It was Jesus!

She brushed the impossibility aside as she reached out to grasp his legs. But he stepped back. Out of reach. Her great tears of joy stopped and she looked up at him in confusion. Was she mistaken? Was this not Jesus? No, it was him. She could see it clearly now in his eyes and smile. And how could she ever mistake the way he said her name. Her name pronounced on those beautiful lips. She thought she would never hear such a wonderful thing again in all her life. But why was he moving away from her?

“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

She did not understand much but she did understand this: the Teacher needed her again. She quickly jumped to her feet and ran as fast as her body would carry her. She felt alive again. Excitement flowed from the top of her head to the soles of her pounding feet. Her mind swam with a thousand thoughts but one was greater than all the rest:

"He's alive!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Has God Really Promised Prosperity and Success?

When I was in High School my classmates voted me "most likely" to be the next Edgar Allen Poe. I was into writing poetry, and not all of it was the "daisy" variety. It's funny at times what we consider successful. My friends figured success for me would be to become an acclaimed poet. Imagine if they could see me now. I wonder if they would consider me prosperous? 

We hear a lot about prosperity in the Church; some people preaching it and others coming against it. The fact is that the Word of God is filled with promises of prosperity from the Lord:

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, 
   who walk in his ways. 
You will eat the fruit of your labor; 
   blessings and prosperity will be yours. 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine 
   within your house; 
your sons will be like olive shoots 
   around your table. 
Thus is the man blessed 
   who fears the LORD. (Psalm 128:1-4)

In this psalm we can understand "blessed" to mean happy or content as a result of our relationship with God, but there is also a very clear indication of prosperity here: "You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours." This is one small example of the many passages that promise blessing and prosperity in the context of obedience. One of my favorites  is found in Deuteronomy when Moses was pronouncing blessings upon the nation. Blessings and prosperity were always promised in the context of obedience:

If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God. (Deut 28:1-2)

A list of blessings followed, one of which is this:

The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. (Deut. 28:11-12)

I am not a "prosperity preacher" and neither do I believe that God wants all his children rich. He has purpose in all that he does and in all that he allows according to his will, grace and plan. However, he has promised us that the labour of our hands would bear fruit and would be prosperous. He has promised us great blessing to support this labour. He has promised us success but such blessings flow through a relationship of obedience.

We need to understand that there is a two-fold purpose in the prosperity of God's children. First, he simply wants to bless us out of his great unfailing love. Second, he is using us to reveal his glory to the world:

The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. (Deut. 28:9-10)

But where there is disobedience there is only failure. Blessings, success, prosperity flow out from a relationship of trust and obedience. Jesus told us that if we love him we would do what he has commanded us to do. He also told us that we could ask for anything in the context of our relationship with him and our Father would provide it. He also warned us not to doubt:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:23-24)

Our curse is that we doubt so we do not ask. The other curse is our holding back from God. We don't abandon ourselves to him and instead hold back some part of self that continues to rise up and bite us. James made it clear why we don't always meet with success, why we seem to fail, why we are lacking:

You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)

I am one who believes that when we are in an obedient relationship with Jesus, when we are worshipping him and serving him with all our heart, when we have abandoned everything of us and trust him with everything we need, we know what to ask for. We need to ask, we can't just assume. Jesus told us to ask and to trust. He told us to ask and to know that our Father would provide what we need. He told us to focus on the work of the Kingdom, to be obedient, to listen to the Spirit and the gates of God's storehouse would open wide for us. However, it may not be all butterflies and daffodils. Remember, Jesus was considered blessed, prosperous and a success but look at everything he went through. The same for Apostle Paul. God's measure of success and prosperity may not be as the world measures it but even Jesus and Paul had everything they needed for their work.

The facts are in black and white: God promised us blessing and prosperity in a relationship of trust and obedience. He did not promise us prosperity to supply our greed. He wants to bless his obedient children simply because he delights in them but he also wants to bless us to glorify himself in the eyes of the world. Your attitude of defeat and despair does not glorify God. Check the root of the problem. Is it disobedience or is it unbelief? May the Lord reveal the root to you so that your life will begin to reflect his glory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 6 of Passion Week, part 8: The Cross

... he walked alone beneath his burden.

Simon was just trying to conclude his business here so he could start his journey home. He realized he didn't have much time. All business would be put on hold at sun set.

Tomorrow was the Passover celebration. Maybe at any other time he would be thrilled to be in Jerusalem at this time of the year but he had been a long time from home. He just wanted to be done with business so first thing next week he could strike out for home.

Now he had this crowd to get around. Apparently they had finally been able to put an end to this prophet that had everyone so excited. He had seen the Prophet once. He was in another town doing business. He actually saw him give sight back to a blind man. Pretty amazing. Too bad he had to cross the Pharisees like he did. It was bound to end poorly.

There! An opening in the crowd. He could cut through there and save a couple of minutes.

As he stepped through the crowd he froze in mid-step. As his eyes fell on the figure kneeling in the middle of the road, bent beneath the weight of a cross beam, his blood ran cold.

What had they done to him? Could this be the same man he saw in that town so long ago? Could this be the Prophet who gave sight to the blind?

Blood soaked his clothing and pooled on the ground where he knelt. Flesh hung loosely from his back. His hair was matted with blood. Blood covered his face and seemed to cloud his eyes. Well, at least they looked like eyes. It was hard to tell what that was beneath his swollen face. He looked more animal than man.

He should have just kept going but the sight had him transfixed. What could he have possibly done to deserve this?

Then a soldier on a horse called out to him, penetrating the back of his awareness and slowly exploded in on his reality. He looked to the soldier and to his horror realized that he had suddenly become a participant in this slow death.

Before he knew it they had the cross beam tied on to him. He couldn't believe this. He should have avoided the crowd. Why hadn't he taken the longer route?

But as they were pressed to move on his thoughts turned from himself to the Prophet who staggered beside him. How could he go on like this? Why would he go on like this? Why not just refuse to move and let them kill him here instead of on the cross?

As weak as he was the Prophet seemed determined to do this.

The crowd was mixed. Some hurled insults at him, along with stones. Others stood and wept silently. Still others were shouting out words of support. What was it about this man that could provoke such reaction?

The walk was hard under this weight. It seemed to take forever. Any hope that there was of concluding his business was quickly slipping away. But for some reason it seemed to be less important. This Prophet was heading to his death and all he was concerned about was getting his business finished with? When had he lost his humanity? His compassion?

When they arrived at the designated spot he was exhausted. How could they have ever hoped that this man could have carried this thing in his condition?

They had it off his back soon enough and he was prepared to rush off to see what he could get done, but something stopped him. Something kept him fixed on this man who even now seemed like no other man he had ever encountered.

He stepped back into the first row of onlookers just as they threw the Prophet down onto the cross piece. As his back hit the ground he arched in pain. With no thought at all the soldiers grabbed his arms, tying him down and then nailed him in place, as if they were bored with the whole thing. The sound of the nails going through flesh and bone was sickening but he could not turn away.

Besides the weeping that came from some of the women near by a hush had fallen over the crowd. That's the only way it was possible to hear his words. And everyone heard them. Everyone seemed shocked, even disturbed by them. There he was, half beaten to death, laid out on the ground, being nailed to a cross beam and everyone heard him say:

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

What? Who was this man?

With that they hoisted him up, fixing him in place. Above his head they nailed a sign that referred to him as the king of the Jews. Was it possible? Is that why they had killed him? With that the wailing began in earnest.

Simon melted into the crowd with the image of the Prophet forever burned into his memory. As he broke free he began to run. He couldn't explain why he ran, he just did. He wanted to be as far from that cursed place as quickly as he possibly could.

What had they just done? ...

Day 6 of Passion Week, part 7: The Soldiers

... he stood before the soldiers.

What had he ever done to deserve this posting? His brother got to fight in the wars against the barbarians and here he was stuck; nurse-maid in this lousy province. He couldn't wait until troop rotation took place. It had been over ten years since he had last seen Rome.

If it wasn't for the distraction these prisoners provided he would go crazy with boredom.

He looked over the latest unfortunate victim. Looks like he had already met the wrong end of a spear or two. Someone had worked him over pretty good. He looked tired. Better than what he would look by the time his friends had finished with him.

He wondered what his story was. Probably some political thing. Better not to know. It really didn't matter by the time they were handed over to the soldiers; flesh was flesh, regardless of what it was before.

Already his buddies were beginning the fun. There would be some shoving, mocking, a bit of mind games. Then they would strip him down and begin with the fists. After they tired of hitting him they would start in on the whips and chains. That's when it would really get messy.

He would rather be out fighting against other soldiers. At least then it was a fair fight. What they did here was just entertainment. He still didn't have a stomach for the scourging. He was a seasoned soldier but it was too hard to see a man's flesh ripped from his back like that.

He looked over the prisoner again as the first fist landed squarely on his jaw. They say this one had claimed to be a king. Didn't matter much now what he claimed to be.

He heard a deep rasping laugh escape from his mouth as his fist proved to be the fifth one to find its mark. He actually allowed himself to smile as his blow sent the prisoner falling onto his back. In about an hour there wouldn't be much left of that back.

He stood over him, pondering what tomorrow would bring.

No, it didn't matter much any more what he had claimed to be.

He would be dead by morning ...

Day 6 of Passion Week, part 6: Condemned

... he stood before Pilate.

By the looks of it, he didn't have an easy time of it with Herod. Maybe the robe was a bit much. The poor guy. I wonder if he really thinks it is all still worth it.

So, he's back and I need to do something about this. I have no real crime to charge him with. It's not like he led some revolt or even spoke about overthrowing Rome. There is nothing except this claim to be king. Am I suppose to crucify every madman in Israel? There wouldn't be too many people left to govern.

Now my wife is at me, something about a bad dream. That's not like her. She's never tried to interfere with official Rome business. I really don't have a good feeling about this man or this situation.

But there is this thing about releasing a prisoner for their passover. Surely if this man is as popular as Caiaphas would have me believe then it should be no problem to have this matter dealt with. If I give them a choice between a murderer and a prophet surely they will choose their beloved prophet, even if he is a madman.

It looks like everyone is ready.

He strode out to his seat of judgement and waited for the crowd to settle.

“Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

What's this? Another message from his wife? In the middle of this?

He read: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

Meanwhile he did not notice the chief priests of this land weaving through the crowd, whispering, gesturing. It seemed all too much for Pilate. The priests, Herod, his wife. What was it about this man? He just wanted the whole thing to be over with.

"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”


What? Did he really hear them right? Did they really call for the release of the murderer? Maybe they don't understand what this means for Jesus.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?”

“Crucify him!”

He stopped breathing.

How can this be right? These people are calling for the crucifixion of one of their own? He'd never heard of such a thing. 

He gave Jesus a sideways glance. What is it about this man?

“Why? What crime has he committed?”

I have to reason with them.

“Crucify him!”

The crowd was getting out of hand. If he didn't do something quickly he could lose control here. That's all he needed. This innocent man was going to die. 

Well, everyone is guilty of something. 

“I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility!”

“Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

Whoa! This is getting a bit much.

Looking to the guard he nodded. As they led Jesus away he washed his hands in front of the crowd to make sure they got the message.

As he watched this tragic figure leave, he couldn't help but feel a profound sense of sadness. 

Of well, not my fault. I tried to help...

Day 6 of Passion Week part 5: Herod

... he stood in front of Herod.

What a thrill! At last Jesus was right in front of him. How long was it that he had tried to see this man? He had heard so much about what he was able to do.

The blind had sight.

The lame were up and about.

People who were dead were returned to their families, alive and well.

Ever since he was a kid and was taught about the great miracles of God he had wanted to see some proof of this power. How disappointing it was as an adult not to find any proof of God at all, any where, in any form.

But now that this man of miracles was here it was so disappointing. He wouldn't even speak. Not a word. He would not even acknowledge where he was. This was crazy.

"Come on Jesus, I'm even willing to pay you something."


"I can fix this thing with Pilate. Give you a room in my palace? Give you a monthly allowance?"


"Come on, tell me how you do it. Is it some trick of hand? Do you pay the people something? Does it take a lot to fool the crowds or does their imagination make up most of it?"


"Do you really want us to believe that you are God? Come on, you don't look like very much to me. Not very powerful. You can't even get out of this mess let alone create a mountain."


"He's trying to take your crown King Herod."

That of course was the Chief Priest. He was usually such a spoiler of fun, not very kind at all.

"Not only does he claim to be the Son of God, he also claims to be the king, greater than you King Herod."

Somehow the way he said his name made him want him to vomit. Regardless, he was proving to be more entertaining than his so-called prophet.

"Come on Jesus, do a little dance for us. Maybe stand on your head. Come on, just make the water here ripple a little bit. I'm told you have the power to stop storms. What's a little ripple?"


Maybe I will let the guards have a go. This really is getting boring.

Herod sat on his throne disappointed. Maybe there is no God.

Silence ...

Day 6 of Passion Week part 4: Pilate

... he stood before Pilate.

What is this mess now? There is no end of it from these people and so early in the morning. Well, let's see what they've dragged in today.

“What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal we would not have handed him over to you.”

These fools. Do they not realize that I could do away with the lot of them. But no, that may cause a riot. This lot in Israel would riot if I stepped on a bug. The orders from Rome is to maintain the peace. Rome is so tired of this bunch constantly stirring up trouble.

“Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone.” 

True enough. Oh what a headache this is.

He stepped back into the building and called for the man to be brought to him.

As he came in he saw for himself how much this man was hated, or should he not instead conclude that he was feared. Bruised and bloodied he stood there, very much looking the part of a proud king standing trial in a foreign land. There was something about this man that disturbed him.

“Are you the king of the Jews?”

Simple enough question. Let's get it done and over with.

“Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?”

What? Has this man no fear of who I am?

“Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!”

Now we are getting down to it. So they are afraid of his claim as king.

“You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Testify to truth? Ha!

“What is truth?”

Did he say that out loud? Oops.

There is something strange about this man. I can understand why these sniffling weak willed leaders would be afraid of a man like this. Still, there is nothing here to find this man guilty.

Pilate stepped back outside. There they stood, anxiously waiting for his judgement. They acted as if their lives depended on this. What were they so afraid of? What a headache so early in the morning.

“I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

“He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” 

Oh bother. They were really going to force his hand with this one.

Wait a second! Did they just say Galilee? This man is a Galilean? He doesn't act like like any Galilean that I have known. Still, he is one of Herod's. Good. I believe that puppet king is in town for the big celebration this week.

As he turned away from them he tried to hide his growing grin.

I wish all problems were this easy to handle.

He rushed inside to make the transfer arrangements ...

Day 6 of Passion Week part 3: The Mock Trial

... and there he stood before Caiaphas.

What members of the Sanhedrin that could be quickly assembled were also present. There were enough at least for quorum. Of course they were the most loyal supporters of the High Priest.

Before them stood Jesus, the greatest threat that this Sanhedrin had ever faced.

It was not just his radical teaching and the crowds that followed him. Why would they follow this man who looked more like a beggar than anything else. They adored him but what about them. Did the people not realize how important they were? How hard they worked to keep this difficult nation together.

First it was the Greeks and their alluring culture with all their idols. So many people had fallen in love with this culture. It was hard to protect people from this.

Then it was the Romans, with their military might. Their authority threatened the work of the Pharisees, to keep this nation in line. What was Roman rule compared to the Mosiac law. A bunch of thugs is all they are.

But still, they must walk the line or they all might be found hanging on those blasted crosses, like common thieves and murderers. And that's why they were here. Not only did this Jesus threaten the Mosiac law and rob them of the adoration of the people, he also threatened to disturb the balance with the Romans.

After all, it was Caiaphas himself who said it was better for the one to die for the many.

Why was it so difficult to find two people to agree on what he said. Surely there must be something here to justify his arrest.

Wait what is this?

Finally two people are agreeing on something. What? They're saying that this lunatic claimed to be able to tear down the great Temple and build it again in three days? Three Days!!! Madness.

Hey, Caiaphas likes this.

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”


Is this man a fool as well as a lunatic?

“I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Whoa! Where did that come from? Does Caiaphas think him that great a fool that he would answer such a charge?

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

What? Blaspheme. He can't speak like this! Death!!!

Look at the chaos that he has caused. Caiaphas is tearing his tunic!!!!

“He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

Kill him!


Stone him!

A great chorus is arising.

Everyone is rushing forward. Fists and hands are reaching out to strike this blasphemer. Ha! He is being struck again and again. Spit is flying. The chorus of shouts for his death continues to rise.

Caiaphas looks very pleased.

This went better than he had hoped ...

Day 6 of Passion Week part 2: The Arrest

... and the chaos descended.

The disciples woke suddenly to the sound of voices and the noise of a crowd. People never looked for them here. How did the multitude track them down?

But as their eyes focused and they saw the Master speaking to this group of men, they could see that something was wrong. These men were armed and did not look friendly. As they rushed to their Master's side they heard their words:

“Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I am he.”

Then suddenly this crowd of angry men fell backwards. The disciples could feel a great power of authority from their Master and they looked at him, bewildered.

That is when Judas stepped forward and greeted the Master. Where had he been? Why was he with these men? Then they heard Jesus again:

"Do what you have come to do."

Then everything went crazy.

The men quickly grabbed Jesus. Panic struck. The disciples tried to protect him. A sword appeared. An ear went flying. Cries. Screams. Fists. What was this? What had happened?

Then the Master's voice.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Don't you think for a moment that anyone trapped the Master. Don't think for an instant that any one group is responsible for what happened. Jesus knew. He knew and he submitted himself to it. It was the plan. The Father's plan. No one took his life. He voluntarily, out of obedience, laid it down.

Just as he said he would.

Jesus reached out and touched the injured man. He healed his enemy.

Out of his great love God was reaching out. He was reaching out to his enemy, to heal them of their sickness.

To the crowd.

“Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

With that the disciples of Jesus fled into the night.

Panic. Fear. Dread. Anxiety. Confusion. Numbness.

Into the unwelcoming cover of darkness.

And as they looked back over their shoulder, they saw the Master being led away...