Tag Archives: Yourself

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 44

44. Save Yourself

running away4And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” (Luke 23:35-37)

There is an interesting dichotomy here. Note who the Pharisees were addressing when they said: He saved others; let Him save Himself. Certainly they were speaking to one another, and the passers-by, and the  bystanders. Although their mocking was about Jesus, it was not directed at Him. We see them playing the crowd. I get the sense they were so over this. They had rendered their verdict in the Sanhedrin; manipulated Pilate to get the sentence they wanted; the sentence had been carried out, and now, “So die already”. They were working the crowd, trying to ensure these witnesses at the crucifixion would not be moved by what they heard, or Who they saw on the cross. But with these kinds of comments, they were able to keep their distance and position—the position of appearing to be above all this.

The soldiers also mocked Jesus, but they chose to talk to Him rather than talk about Him. They offered Him sour wine; then, they specifically addressed Him. Because of this difference, they are closer to discovering Who this Jesus was than the Pharisees were. Indeed the Pharisees et al, had all the evidence they needed, but there was no life, no faith within them. Thus, they chose not to look. But the soldiers, they watched—they mocked—but they watched. They were not distracted by the running diatribe of the religious rulers.

But I don’t want to necessarily exalt one above the other—both had committed atrocious and terrible acts. Both had said and done things that were detestable; and they both essentially said the same thing: Save Yourself.

Save Yourself. One presents the impossibility that He could be: The Christ of God, His Chosen One; the other puts forth: King of the Jews. Neither believed such titles or claims. And that is why they asked for spectacle rather than salvation. Even the unrepentant thief was a little closer to the truth: Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But there was no cry for mercy, no pleas for deliverance—they only wanted a show: Save Yourself. Now Christ saving Himself was never part of the plan, indeed it ran counter to it. It only seemed to them that Jesus needed saving. But explicit in their mockings to save Himself was His perceived guilt—of which He had none. Jesus didn’t need to be saved, just everyone around Him. Remember Lazarus?

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw* Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said*, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

They will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. Now I realize the Pharisees, the soldiers, and others in the crowd were asking Him to save Himself, which probably meant come down from the cross, bring in your army, etc., etc. But even if He did those things (which He would not) would they have believed? For the Romans it would have just been another King and another campaign, and for the Chief Priests and their associates, just another outsider to endure. Their religion had no room for Messiah, let alone the true Son of God.

One more thing. If Jesus had saved Himself, He wouldn’t have save you and me. There would have been no sacrifice, no atonement, nothing. In the words of the apostle Paul: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Graciously and wondrously we know Jesus remained on the cross. He chose to save you and me rather than save Himself.

 

Singing with the King (93) – The Necessity of Community

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

I suppose I inherited it from my mother—she loved to walk. Now I’m not sure I love to walk, but I do need to walk, as I’m dealing with heart disease. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I go to the gym. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, I walk.

But today, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, and walked down to the Whole Foods and picked up some healthy snacks: apples, nuts, etc. So here I am, walking back to work, with my bag of healthy goodies, and walking in the opposite direction I approach a young man, and begin to say, “Good morning”, but then I notice he has his earbuds in and he won’t hear me, and he doesn’t look up.

And therein lies the danger of social media, smart phones, et al. We isolate ourselves from personal touch. We lose even the common courtesy of being able say “Good morning” to someone. Who knows, perhaps you’re having a bad day, and if someone happens to look at you and smile and says good morning, wouldn’t that help at least a little bit? Maybe even more than you can imagine.

This verse from Psalm 122 reminds us of the necessity of community. Not only should worship be done together, but going to worship, and leaving worship, whenever possible, should be done together. Why?

Well, the conversation is going to be a blessing and encourage you. You will be after all, talking about Jesus, what He’s done for you, how He’s answered prayer, or how you need prayer. How you’re feeling lost, or how He’s been guiding you. There’s a whole myriad of topics and thoughts and hopes and needs that could be expressed in your coming and going to and from church. Or, maybe you’ll talk about the sermon, or the worship pastor (hopefully mostly good).

As far as being in worship, it’s all about Him. Your fixing your eyes on Jesus, and worshiping Him. And you’re doing it with people you love. Your adding your voice to a host of others, and lifting your praise to the Most High. Perhaps there is prayer time, and you hear about those who are going through some really tough times, or the latest request from one of the missionaries, or maybe the church is starting a new ministry, or a building program. You as a community, you as a congregation, are lifting up these needs Together. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20)

And so for a time, you’ve got yourself out of yourself, you’ve got your eyes off of yourself, and your focus has been on the Lord, and your concerns have shifted from self to others. The apostle Paul talks about that:

Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. (Romans 12:10-11)

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Now unfortunately, I need to make a disclaimer. Not all churches are kind churches. Not all churches are friendly churches. There are some who are judgmental, critical, legalistic, and cold. Now in regards to the latter two in that list, some could make a case that they are being biblical. But when grace and love are lacking, how long can you stand upon a “good doctrine” platform? But I like to think that most churches that love Jesus, love people; and I hope you can find one. I’m fortunate, in that I attend two churches that love Jesus and love people in my hometown. So I know they’re out there. So don’t get discouraged. Keep looking.

But for now, take out your earbuds, and look for opportunities to smile and say hello. Let the love of Jesus shine through you. And get off that little screen—or big-screen— and go to church, with friends, and share what’s going on. And when you’re in church enjoy the fellowship, embrace the community, as you worship the One True Living God

Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good.  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 

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