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

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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?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 30

30. Poured Out

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And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)

The Greek words for pour have a very specific use, and with the exception of one verse (in John 2:15), the words have to do with either the pouring out blood, the pouring out of God’s wrath (bowls of judgment of Revelation 16) or the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:24-25)

All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. (Acts10:45-48)

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image…Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” (Rev 16:1-2,17)

Not only are the uses of poured out significant and life changing, but the English word is nowhere near as potent as the Greek definitions: gush, rush headlong, and spill. One of the reasons for such a forceful word is that it represents an impact of cataclysmic and life changing proportions. Think of what the blood of Christ has accomplished. What the pouring out of the seven bowls will bring to pass. And consider the change when the Holy Spirit is poured out in our lives. These are immense. One of wrath, one of sacrifice, one of transformation. If our God pours it all out with passion and utter commitment, should we not do likewise?

Finally, not only is this New Covenant new, it is huge. The Jews, long before they were Jews, were taught:  Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. These are the words of the LORD to Noah. Note how it was implemented into Jewish law:

‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’ “Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.’ “So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’ (Leviticus 17:11-14)

So we learn in God’s design, there are only two uses for blood. The first is for life, and the second for sacrifice. And it is only in Christ that both are realized.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 29

29. All & Fall

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 5:6)

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There are times when generalizations are used, and we need to take them seriously. When Isaiah says all here, he means all. Recall the familiar passage in Romans: As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ( Romans 3:10-18) Just as in Isaiah where all means all, in Romans, none means none.

All is a common word in the Old Testament, used over 5300 times. All is the most common of its translations, but other occurrences include: any, every, everyone, everything, whoever, whatever, and whole. Are we getting a sense of inclusiveness here? The iniquity of us all. Anyone and everyone who will come to Christ, He has already taken your sins upon Himself. As the old hymn goes: There is room at the cross for you. There are none saved, who have not had their sins taken away by the Son of God.

We must not miss the convergence here. Where as all of the iniquity of us all is dispersed amongst all of mankind, here it is focused upon The One. For Christ in His humanity to take upon Himself the iniquities of us all—and that doesn’t just mean those who existed at the time of His death; no, it means that everyone at any time throughout history past and history yet to come, every sin fell upon Him—that would be utterly overwhelming.

Fall upon can have a deadly meaning, and in most cases, the result of being fallen upon is actually to be killed. It can also mean intercede, and it is used as a geographical term regarding borders reaching or meeting one another. Christ did indeed intercede for us on the cross, and having our sins fall upon the Him had deadly consequences; but consider this as a geographical term. Heaven came down to earth, met sin, then took it upon Himself. Returning to the primary meaning, this meeting was deadly. Sin didn’t just fall; it fell on Him. Imagine the picture, of all the sins of mankind rushing down upon Christ, as an enemy would rush upon a foe, with so much violence and ferocity so as to completely devastate.

We must not think this was an exercise in gravity or magnetism; that all the evil in the world that was, and is, and is to come, was mindlessly attracted to Him. Neither should we think this was the work of the devil. No, this was the work of the Father, who caused the focus and unleashed the fall. I’m not sure we will ever understand what this did to The Father, what He was feeling and thinking; but we do know why He did it. It was for you.

Note where this comes in the chapter. Isaiah has just listed off the six substitutions of mercy and grace that only Christ could accomplish; and then—here it comes—All of us like sheep have gone astray. So immediately following the ultimate act of love and sacrifice, we wander off! Now I could see the Father becoming a bit ticked by that, as we turn from the greatest act of love ever done in the universe.  But what does He do? He caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. Look behind the cross and see in the Father the same love for you which the Son had for you.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 28

28. Cause & Consequences

lost sheep

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6)

It is a sad thing—more, it is tragic—that Christ should lay down His Life, and have accomplished the six great substitutions of mercy and grace for you and me, and what do we do? We wander off, we turn to our own little ways, because we just… don’t… care.

Wondrously the Father did care—did love—enough to cause the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. We can no longer believe the Father was only an interested bystander; this shows us otherwise.

For a moment, let’s consider what happened in eternity past when Father, Son and Holy Spirit made this decision:

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. ( 1 Pet 1:18-21)

This was not merely a decision to have Christ become the Lamb of God to die for the sins of the world. It also had to do with judgment, sentencing, death, sacrifice, substitution, propitiation, redemption, ransom, and resurrection; and certainly more than we are aware of. All the Godhead participated at the cross!

Here in this verse (53:6) we see the Father caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Iniquity is an interesting word in Hebrew. The root word from which it is derived means to bend, twist, or distort. When Christ took away the sins of the world, he became a bent, twisted, distorted figure of Who He once was. Perhaps that is what Isaiah meant when he remarked earlier in the chapter: He has no stately form or majesty; and nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Was Isaiah looking past the Christ Who walked the earth in normalcy for 33 years to see the aftermath of what the sins did to Him? When you add in all the ravages of the six substitutions, perhaps so.

Let’s return to the crowd at the cross. As we consider the different characters there, what did they see in this beaten, bloodied, and tortured body? Were they sick to their stomachs? Were they offended at the sight? Did they rejoice? Did they look but not see? Did any believe Jesus was deserving of such brutality? If they did, was this seen as a divine transaction of justice, or merely a human one?

For those who considered this a proper act of God, did any of them perceive that Jesus’ affliction and agony were requisite to the sentence He bore? Did any grasp it was in fact an act of God (the Son) that kept Him there?

Another reason to take note of this word is that it not only draws from the iniquity and guilt that fell upon Him, but it also speaks to punishment that fell upon Him. So you have both the cause and the consequences. And this is something we miss today. We all understand our nature and bent to sin, but do we understand the consequences? The punishment? We too easily and flippantly recite 1 John 1:9—If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness—and indeed we are forgiven. But do we understand the devastation sin has unleashed upon us? I think not.

As in the case of Christ,  He bore not only the sins of the world, He also bore its deserved punishment as well. We understand that He was our substitute and, like the thief on the cross, we declare: “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” ( Luke 23:40-41) That is indeed true, Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life, and in His life did nothing worthy of such a death—or any death. But the moment He took on our sins, then the punishment, the consequences were deserved.

Father: Help me to understand what it cost Christ to bear my sins on the cross, and what it cost You to be His Judge. Amen