Monthly Archives: April 2019

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 40

40. God’s Truth

light reveals1Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Say correctly is just one word in the Greek. Most of the time it is translated as some form of say. But this is not speaking for the sake of being heard; rather it is an affirmation and exhortation; and one that is done aloud. It is not just a nodding of the head, nor is it words without a point. It is a declaration of your position. And what Pilate affirmed was that Christ was a king.

Jesus gives the reason why He was born. It is not to be King; rather it is to testify to the Truth. Boy if that isn’t counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, I don’t know what is. See the statement again: “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.” Even though being the King of kings is His birthright as the Son of God, it was not His purpose as the Son of Man, at least not yet. He is King, He shall be King, but why was he born in a manger in Bethlehem? To testify to the Truth.

For this I have been born. Literally, He became flesh, He was born of Mary. Metaphorically, the word for being born in the Jewish mindset has to do with converting. It also has to do with us becoming His sons through faith in Christ (i.e.—being born again).

For this I have come into the world. Come has to do with making an appearance; to be public. But it also has to do with arriving, and Jesus’ arrival was truly from heaven to earth. This is huge.

For those among us who are more driven and intentional, we can say that we were born for this or that. You were born to lead. You were born to be a musician. You were born to be a doctor. You were born to be a missionary. And on you could go. But, none of us can say for this we have come into the world. Our existence has solely been in this world. When we were conceived we were in this world. One day, for those who love Jesus, we will no longer be in this world. Indeed we can say this world is not our home; we are citizens of heaven. But now, today, we have known nothing other than this world.

But Jesus has come outside this world. He came from Heaven to earth. He came from the perfect to the fallen. He stepped from eternity into time and space. He moved from creator to created; from Son of God to Son of Man; from ever-present and all-powerful to finite flesh and bones.

To testify to the truth. Testify could just as easily be translated as witness. And it is where we get our word martyr. We must not miss this. Christ died for the proclaiming this inconvenient (and absolute) truth.

The history behind the word truth is revealing (pun intended). In the Greek is has the prefix a- (which is negative, as it is in English) and the root word is lanthano which means to be hidden or escape notice. So with the negative prefix it then means not to be hidden and not to escape notice. Christ has come to reveal the hidden, and to ensure that it does not escape notice. Also more attributes are exposed in its use: it speaks to its objectivity, its certitude, and its universal application. Certainly a far cry from what truth has become in our culture.

That’s the danger of religion. It buries the truth in tradition and dilutes it so that it is no longer relevant, submerging it in ritual.

But it’s also the danger of the unregenerate life. Truth is merely a personal tool, to be used when convenient, but then to cast off for another, when what’s new fits one’s current worldview better. The world needs to have truth hidden and to escape its notice, because only then can personally manufactured truth stand.

How important is truth to God?

Christ has just spent the whole night in a mockery of a trial, where there was no truth offered, none was heard; and when they finally and only heard the Truth from Christ’s own lips, they called it blasphemy. And that’s how they were able to protect their turf—turning the Truth into blasphemy. Truth obviously wasn’t important to the Jews. But it was at one point, for being a false witness and providing false testimony was a big deal to God.

The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. ( Deuteronomy 19:18-21)

A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. ( Proverbs 21:28)

The Greek word for blasphemy is from two root words: blapto, and pheme. The former is to hurt, to harm, to injure, to stop, make lame and cripple. The latter is news, or fame, or a report. Isn’t our very misuse of truth by definition blasphemy? We may not be able to completely annihilate it, but we certainly can cripple and injure it. We can make it so disfigured that few will find any appeal in it.

And let us not forget this is why Christ  was born, why He had come into the world: to testify to the truth. If this was Christ’s purpose, than it was God the Father’s purpose as well.

This is one of the greatest battles we are in—the battle for Truth. Without truth, there is no commonality, there can be no consensus, nor is there a point of reference. Is there any doubt why we are so fractured, isolated, and defensive. If all we have is our own personal point of view, our own manufactured truth, then a great deal of our time is spent defending and reconstructing. So what happens when we avoid the truth?

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. ( Romans 1:25)

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. ( 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Father, may your Truth break through in my life. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 39

39. An Interesting Question

Jesus and Pilate2

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  (John 18:33)

I wonder how Jesus felt having to be dragged into the Praetorium? Unlike the Pharisees, it probably didn’t even enter His mind. So battered and manhandled was He. And He knew more was coming. Could He feel the sins of the world gathering together to crush Him? Or was He thinking: Uh, no, no guys. I can’t go in there. I’ll become unclean! The magnitude of Him becoming the sacrifice for our sin precluded such thinking; and coming up with an excuse like the Pharisees would have never entered His mind.

Anyway, Jesus is summoned into the Praetorium, a place where no self-respecting Pharisee would be caught. But wasn’t that the hallmark of Christ’s life? Going where no self-righteous legalistic person would ever go? Hanging out with and consorting with tax collectors and sinners? But I ask: If Christ did not go into such places, how would the prisoners be set free? He did not need to be summoned; He would have willingly walked in, because that is where He found you and me!

It’s an interesting question, Are You the King of the Jews?  Only two people have used this term: King of the Jews; Pilate and one of the Magi. It’s a title and a question that spans the human lifetime of Christ, from birth to death.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ( Matt 2:1-3)

We find more than merely earnest seekers asking the question of Herod. These Magi had traveled hundreds of miles, following a star based on prophecies left behind by Daniel and Jewish elders generations earlier, and they were the ones ordained to be at the right place and the right time, asking the right question.

It’s interesting to note this name is used only by foreigners. Have we become so ingrown and myopic that we need to be reminded from the outside just Who this Jesus is?

king of the jews

Father, whatever it takes, may I know the One and Only, True Son of God. The king of the Jews, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and the King of my life. And knowing Him, may I serve my King with the all the love and obedience I can give. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 38

38. Ritual Distraction

do not enter Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. (John 18:28)

Did you get the irony? The Jews were willing to conduct a mock court, seek to commit murder and reject the True Son of God, One Who is sinless, faultless, perfect and blameless; but they are unwilling to become unclean so as not to miss Passover? They already missed the Lamb of God, the very One they were waiting for.That’s what legalism will do to you: it seals off your heart while you cling to the rule of the Law, and you miss the Intent of the Law Giver. When you can’t see and feel the heart behind the Law, if your heart is not included in your obedience, the heart will wither and die while you blindly cling to the rules and regulations that your mind has accepted and your hands so willing do—yet without love, without the heart. And that’s what makes it so easy to move from the Sanhedrin to the unclean pagan courts.

The word defiled literally means stained. We are all stained by sin. The questions that arise are: Who defines the stain? Who recognizes the stain? Is there a stain of sin in your life which you are unaware because you believe your ritual has made you safe and secure? Is there some outward practice that has inoculated you against realizing that your sins killed the Christ? Is there some sacrament you perform which you think has removed the stain when it has only whitewashed it?

“Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord GOD. ( Jeremiah 2:22)

So then, what removes the stain? Only the blood of the very One Who was crucified. Do you remember the old Gospel hymn? What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

“And a certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” (Acts 22:12-16)

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

For years when I would read this verse it always struck me that someone would actually think he has no sin. Now I suppose there are some committed atheists who do not acknowledge their sins because they do not believe sin exists. But there are others who do acknowledge the existence of sin but say they have no sin. Are they claiming some sort of immunity? Or are they claiming some sort of fix?

It is the latter which I believe they are claiming. They trust in a system of ritual and rules to place them into what they believe is a condition of forgiveness. They may not be claiming sinless perfection; rather they believe they are protected because of their ritual practice—which although was once rooted in truth, has had the very life squeezed out of it.

Finally, there’s an attitude problem. The Jews were essentially saying: Lets get this annoyance over with and out of the way so we can get to the important stuff: Passover. After all, Jesus has only been around causing problems and stirring up the people for a couple of years; but we have been celebrating Passover for centuries. What’s a crucifixion compared to such a long standing ritual? And, Passover started out while we were in a foreign country under foreign rule, and here we are again under foreign domination. Could they have thought that Passover would provide another deliverance, this time from the Romans? Regardless, they missed the deliverance that would be accomplished by the Lamb of God, the Son of God.

For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

So, are there rules and regulations, rituals and traditions that are keeping you from seeing Jesus, your Deliverer? Or maybe it’s nothing as elaborate as that. Maybe it’s self-deception; or a counterfeit worldview. Such things are utterly devoid of grace; and grace is the only answer for deliverance from our sin.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 37

37. Counter-Cultural Christ

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Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face. (Mark 14:65)

Next comes Christ’s humiliation and torture.

Spat upon—He Who used His spit to heal a blind man was spat upon.

Every occurrence of spitting in the Old Testament has to do with uncleanness, derision and hatred. Leave it to Jesus to completely realign its purpose and use: And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)

Blindfolded—Those who were blind guides sought to make God in their own image.

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:16-19)

Beat with fists—The One Who touched, held and healed with His hands, was beaten by fists.

While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. (Luke 4:40)

You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. (Hebrews 1:10)

Mocked and yelled at—The One Who formed language was abused and mocked by it.

Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

Slapped in the face—The One Who told us to turn the other cheek endured the slaps.

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.  Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:39-42)

So what was it that caused Him to endure all this? Well, He did it for us. Consider the following: Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 36

36. Pharisee Fever

Swear

Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. (Mark 14:55-59)

The Greek word for trying to obtain is very intentional and very deliberate (one of its translations). It is a mental, emotional, and physical process. You are trying to reason it out or meditate upon it; but you are also striving after it and craving it. The pursuit and maintenance of untruth requires total commitment on your part. Heart, soul, mind and strength. Sound familiar?

Do you remember the passage from the Sermon on the Mount? Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. ( Matt 7:7) A more accurate way of representing this passage would be: Ask (and keep asking) and it will be given to you; seek (and keep seeking) and you will find; knock (and keep knocking) and it will be opened to you. Note the sense of persistence in this passage. The question arises: Are we as persistent in seeking God’s Truth in our prayers as the Pharisees were seeking untruth?

The Greek word for consistent is where we get the root for an isosceles triangle; or equilateral triangle. And if one of the three angles is off even a fraction of a degree, then it is no longer an isosceles triangle. So it is with the truth. If there is any divergence from it, then it is no longer truth but a lie.

In the Greek, the meaning of the word has to do with being the same or equal, measure for measure. It has to do with equal shares, equal rights and fair measures. It is a sad thing to note that the Pharisees had the law and the prophets in their possession; but the truth and guidance found therein did not possess them..

I call this the Pharisee Fever. They had God in the flesh before them, they had Truth Incarnate standing there. He had proven Himself by authority, through miracles and teaching; yet they still would not accept Him as Messiah.

Now, when confronted with the Truth, you either accept it or deny it. But denying it requires that you disassemble it. You cannot ignore it; for if Truth remains it will be revealed, it will be found, and at some point, it will cause you to stumble and your house of cards to fall.

The need to destroy the Truth becomes so great, that eventually it doesn’t matter if what you proclaim has no consistency or credibility. You simply declare your version is consistent, credible, and worthy of placing your trust in it. And that’s what you do—you put your trust in it. And it doesn’t really matter how many civil, social or spiritual commands you break:

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)              

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:4)

You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:11-12)

There are more, but you get the point. The members of the Sanhedrin knew these laws but to keep them would have meant giving up their truth.

Here then is the first phase of the Pharisee Fever: your truth receives its validation and authority from you. You declare it to be meaningful and trustworthy. And you declare it long enough and loud enough until any inconsistencies are seen as irrelevant.

True Truth, absolute truth, has no need for validation. It simply is. That’s how God designed it. It’s worth, veracity, and application is not determined by human perspective, nor by individual interpretation, but by divine decree. It is utterly consistent and will stand up to the most strenuous scrutiny.

The second phase, and indeed the very purpose to the Pharisee Fever, is to destroy the Truth so that manufactured truth can stand unchallenged. Manufactured truth cannot stand when seen in the light of absolute Truth. The Pharisees were not about to trade in their cushy religious jobs and their seemingly exalted positions for a relationship with The Most High.

The reason for the existence of manufactured truth: pride.

The power behind these acts of pride is organized religion (I use that term in the broadest sense). When people choose to ascribe to the same opinions, beliefs, philosophies, and untruths, then build rituals and traditions around them, a unifying and destructive power begins to grow. And those who have gathered beneath its shadow, with the truths they believe, the pronouncements they make; and the actions they take, risk perilous and eternal consequences. Note the actions in Psalm 2.

Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.  Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2:1-12)

Note how the LORD addresses these kings. He lays down the consequences for their actions: break them with a rod of iron…  shatter them like earthenware. But He also gives them the opportunity to repent: show discernment, take warning, worship and do homage. He is revealing to them the path of repentance, and the opportunity to turn from rebellion to refuge. But how can they know this, these pagan kings, who have neither the commands of God nor Word of God. Recall the passage Paul’s letter to the Romans: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

God has shown enough of Himself for all to know that HE IS. Knowing that, it is then our responsibility and journey to leave the path of rebellion and travel the path of refuge, that we might find salvation.

If there is hope for a pagan king to repent, is there hope for the Pharisee? Can you be healed from the Pharisee fever?

Father, help me to seek You, and to seek Your Truth with at least the same total and utter commitment as one who would seek and maintain untruth. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 35

35. Do What You’ve Come For

Kiss on Cheek

Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.(Matthew 26:48-50)

Now, it’s part of my smart-alack nature to think that when Jesus said friend, He was being sarcastic. But Jesus wasn’t like that. Rather than imposing sarcasm upon our Lord’s statement, we really see His humble and gracious nature. Friend meant friend; and Jesus reminds Judas to the very end what kind of relationship he had enjoyed with his Lord. But Jesus also knew what Judas was doing, and Judas knew that Jesus knew. Judas came face to face, one last time, with understanding and grace.

Paul quotes this passage from Proverbs, so Judas could have known it: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” ( Romans 12:20; Proverbs 25:21-22). How far must we go, before the Lord will no longer be gracious? Is there a line we cross where we can never turn back?

Friend, do what you have come for is a very intentional response on the part of Christ. I suppose the purpose of Judas being here, and betraying his Lord, was sealed just before the Passover: And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money. So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd. ( Luke 22:3-6) He had a new purpose at this point; and that purpose drove him to the Garden and to his betrayal.

Purposes and causes come and go as we switch allegiances, alliances, and loyalties along the way. But doesn’t it make sense to give our allegiance, our loyalty, our love and our very lives to One Who is always faithful? To the One Who understands us and is gracious to us?

So… what—or Who—is your purpose?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 34

34. With Jesus

gethsemane5

 

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”  (Matthew 26:36-38)

Beside asking them to remain, He also asked them to keep watch. The root word for keep watch is very familiar: For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead,  and Christ will shine on you.” ( Ephesians 5:14) Jesus asked them to stay awake, but they could not.

The root word for watch is very powerful. It can be used with raising the dead; stir up and rise to arms; get up, come, and rouse. Apparently watching wasn’t just watching. Perhaps we have a contemporary analogy.

Think of the word worship. It’s both a verb and noun. It is both action and attitude. But oftentimes we fall too easily into the spectator mode. We watch the worship, rather than being engaged in it. Besides, who is it we are watching? Shouldn’t we be fixing our eyes on The Most High? And on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith? True worship should stir us; it should cause us to rise up. Who knows, we might even be risen from the so-many dead who occupy the pews on a Sunday morning. Figure out what pleases Christ, then do it.

In this verse, we again witness the amazing condescending love of Jesus Christ: Keep watch with Me. What an awesome privilege we have to keep watch with the Son of God. Like Peter, James, John; will you stay and watch with Him?

I suppose one could ask: Watch what? The disciples probably didn’t even have a clue. Do we just watch Him? Do we watch for the betrayer?

Well, maybe they had a clue, and so do we. We watch Jesus; and at this point we note that He was grieved and distressed.

Grieved is most often translated as some form of sorrow. There are many reasons for His sorrow: He was leaving His friends, His disciples. He is grieved because of what will happen to His disciples. He is experiencing first hand what it means to be ensnared by sin. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) I’m sure the sorrow also had to do with the complete disregard and ungratefulness mankind for the great salvation He was providing for us. Yet as we learned in Isaiah 53, He still became our sacrifice.

Distressed is also translated as heavy. Surely the sins of the world were beginning to weigh Him down. The above passage from Hebrews applies here as well.

These were probably new emotions the disciples were witnessing in Jesus. In fact Christ being grieved during the Last Supper, just a few hours before, was only the second occurrence of grief. There it had to do with being betrayed.

But here in the Garden, we find Jesus providing insight into His condition to His followers Peter, James, and John. How grieved was He? He was deeply grieved, to the point of death. This may have been new to His followers, but it was foretold: A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. I wonder if this occurred to His disciples? Did they realize it was their sins which brought about His grief? Only once was the Savior grieved outside of the passion. It was earlier in His ministry.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Mark 3:1-6)

It’s worth noting that here is the origin of the Jews trying to kill Him. It had to do with the supposed breaking of the Sabbath. And the hardness of the Pharisee’s hearts, which caused them not to rejoice in the healing of someone in their midst, eventually culminated in the crucifixion. Let this be a warning to us all. Left unchecked, the hardening of one’s heart will lead to devastation and great loss.

Take heed of the peril of a hard heart: These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” (John 12:36-40)

Only three times then, is it recorded of Christ being grieved: the first regarding the hardness of hearts; the second during the last supper; the final in the Garden of Gethsemane. Grief in His last days was brought on by betrayal and His impending death, as the sin of the world gathered around Him. Having a hard heart is serious; and we should consider well, its menace. Are you able to grieve because of what you caused the Christ, the Son of God to suffer? Or is your heart hard, unable and unwilling to see what Jesus Christ has done for you, what He went through for you?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 33

33. Remain & Abide

sitting at Jesus feet

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”  (Matthew 26:36-38)

Jesus has laid it all on the line, has given His all, and all He asks from His friends is to keep watch with Him.

The Greek word for remain here is also translated as abide.  Note the use of abide in John 15:4-10

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

John continues this thinking in his first letter:

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. ( 1 John 2:24-29)

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

Abiding refers to a particular place; a particular time; and the condition of staying put. So it’s not merely an action (or lack of), it is also an attitude. Other translations are to remain, tarry, and various forms of stay. Some other insightful uses of the Greek are: to stay at home; and speaking to soldiers, to stay and stand fast, also to wait for. Within this word is a sense of contentment—and expectation.

Do you see what a wondrous word this is as it describes the multifaceted fellowship that we have with our Great God? Is not Christ our home? Are we not in a battle; called to remain fast? Are we not supremely content to abide in Him, and wait for His return? And is there not a holy expectation for us to know Him more? Better? Deeper?

This is a fresh teaching which only precedes the Cross by a few hours. I think the disciples got this. He needed them to be there with Him. Unfortunately abiding can be like the old hound dog lying asleep at the feet of his master. And this was the role the disciples slipped into, too easily. I’d like to think that you and I could do better, waiting along side the Lord, and not falling asleep. But probably not. We’d be texting, tweeting, talking, or playing Angry Birds. It’s tough to wait. It’s hard to be still. And yet, that is what God asks us to do even now. Psalm 46:10 says: Be still and know that I am God. What an awesome privilege we have to be still and know… Him.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 32

32. Master or Servant?

greatest

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

First came the volley of questions from each of the disciples: Surely not I, Lord? Now I know we don’t have the entire conversation of the Last Supper recorded, even across the four Gospels. But why didn’t anyone come to Jesus’ aid? Why didn’t Peter, or one of the Sons of Thunder, cry out and say: “Lord, who is it? Let us kill the betrayer now”? Obviously this could not happen, since Judas still had a role to play. But one of the disciples could have at least asked. They did not. They were too worried about their own skin rather than their Teacher and Lord. And I suppose we would have done the same.

That brings us to the next question, which also is driven by self-interest: which one of them was regarded to be greatest? Here’s Jesus pouring out His life before them and all they can talk about is who will be the greatest?

I’m not sure how the transition from betrayer to greatest happened (I’m not sure it even was a transition). I suppose once they had assured themselves that were not the betrayer, they went on to more “important” things. How often do we move on to other things before wrestling with the things God has laid upon hearts. It’s Spiritual ADD. We may never develop a deep relationship with the LORD because we refuse to tarry on matters which may be uncomfortable or difficult. OK, I’ve dealt with that; now let’s get on to something that really matters: who’s the greatest?

Fortunately, our Dear Lord chooses to deal with the matter that was “on the table”. Apparently the disciples were looking outside of the One True Source and Example to find what it meant to be the greatest. They were looking to the kings of the Gentiles and their local rulers.

From their own history, they should have at least looked to David, and some of his godly descendants. But power is an intoxicating thing and there are few of us indeed who would reject the opportunity to lord it over and have authority over others. So who were their examples? Caesar? Pilate? Herod? Pitiful. And they find it necessary to be named “Benefactors” (literally do-gooders). Nice euphemism.

But Jesus provides a counter-cultural model: the greatest must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. Another lesson in humility—something that Jesus taught all the way to the cross.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:3-5)

Whereas Jesus taught a lesson on humility on the very eve of His crucifixion, I would have thought he’d have slapped the disciples on the back of the head for missing the point. Instead He chooses to address the matter. Again He uses Himself as the archetype: For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

It’s a matter of magnitude. Here we are arguing about who is the greatest among twelve blue collar workers, from a backwater city, in an obscure country, on an infinitesimal planet, on the edge of a ordinary galaxy, in front of The One Who made all this stuff. Three words: humility, humility, humility.

Still Jesus chooses to let them know that they would be receiving mega upgrade: You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Take note: it is not their hard work, nor their position in life that awards them such roles; but rather it is Who they stood by and remained faithful. What does David say in Psalm 84:10. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Here the cliche really does work: It’s Who you know.

So, the disciples get thrones and they do receive a significant place in Heaven; but are their thrones any comparison to the Son’s throne? Are they anything like The One Who sits upon the throne, The One Who sits at the right hand of the Father? The answer is obviously not. But still He served. Why shouldn’t we?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 31

31. A Question, a Confession

confession3

Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said* to him, “You have said it yourself.” (Matthew 26:20-25)

Put yourself around that table with Jesus and the disciples. We find the disciples completely taken over by who was going to betray Christ; each asking: Surely not I Lord? And I have to ask myself that question: Surely not I, Lord?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes; I have betrayed my Lord and my God. My sins have been forgiven and paid for, and yet still I sin. I have wisdom and understanding, have even been given the mind of Christ; yet I continue to choose foolishly. I even have the Spirit of God living within me; yet I carry on as if my old nature alone lives within me. When faced with this question, I am forced to answer yes—I betrayed Christ.

So what must I do? I join with the Apostle Paul in this confession: Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 7:24-8:1)

I will give thanks for what Christ has done. I will rejoice that I am in Him. I will continue to be conformed in His image, continue to be transformed. I will choose to follow Him, serve Him, and make decisions that are according to His holiness and righteousness.

It should be noted that Judas’s question was different: “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” There is a huge disconnect between Lord and Rabbi.

The Greek word for Lord is kurios, which is most often used for God’s name. The disciples even in this desperate moment acknowledge Christ’s divinity.

Rabbi on the other hand is a Hebrew word which means master or teacher, and it is a title which was used for Christ and other religious leaders. There is no equating with God in this title, no name of God, and no divinity within its confession. Was Judas unable to make the transition from Christ being a great teacher, certainly one worth following, to falling before Christ and proclaiming that He is God?

Perhaps this should be called the Judas Effect. So many people are willing to recognize Christ as a great teacher, but few will confess Him as Lord and Savior. Who is Christ to you?