Live it! Blog

Wednesday, 03 August 2022 00:00

We Were There

We Were There
Matthew 27:27-37
Wednesday, 3 August 2022

“Hello! We were there and were the closest to Jesus during those horrible hours before, and just leading up, to His crucifixion. You will remember that His disciples fled—well, two of them might have hovered incognito close enough to see, but not close enough to be seen by those that might also condemn them to death. Okay, who of us will go first to tell what we experienced?”

“We’ll go first. After all we were with Him most of His ministry and during the entire time. I guess we should introduce ourselves. We were Jesus’ every day garments. He wore us daily. We were honored to be there throughout his ministry to the hurting, the demon possessed, and the sick. We were proud to feel His heart beat for those who were disadvantaged in many ways. We were there when He went off to be by Himself to pray. We felt the perspiration of His body as He walked on paths to the various towns to minister to anyone who would hear. We also were closest to Him when He was criticized by those fancily dressed “religious” types who accused Him falsely. We can attest to His purity and perfect life. We were with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “not my will, but Your will be done.” See the drops of blood here and there on us? That was from His perspiration of blood. We never knew that was possible, but here’s the proof right there in the fold. Can you see it?”

“But we’ve gotten a bit off track. Actually, they took us off of Him after His trial. What a mockery that was. Then the soldiers went too far with the “levity”—How is it possible to further mistreat Him by taking us off Jesus and putting a “scarlet robe” on Him? They said they were dressing Him like a King. He was certainly more worthy of royalty than that governor…”

“Wait! It’s my turn! I’m that purple-scarlet "robe". Really, they pulled me out of the worn out Roman uniform bag there in the Praetorium where He had just been tried. I watched that mockery too. I used to belong to a military leader. It was the closest garment to a kingly costume they could find in the soldiers’ mockery. They were poking fun at this Jesus—I knew He wasn’t a Roman official—those officers were the proud, arrogant sort, straightening me to make them look more important. Jesus, however, was so gentle and humble, his back didn’t arch in defense or refusal to submit to this horrible treatment.  It was strange for me to be clothing on a Jewish man. He definitely wore me with such meekness. But I had seen better days and was thread-bare in places. And see the blood all over, especially the back where He had been scourged and the blood was still running. I was so dirty from being worn by a stinky centurion, but He didn’t seem to notice. It was like He was numb from all the horrible beatings, but He didn’t resist even when they put that ugly crown of thorns on His head…”

“Who are you calling ugly? I was at least new and fresh off the flowers that decorated the outer court. I’m the crown of thorns. I was fashioned (if you can call anything used for such an outrageous purpose fashioned) into a crown. My thorns were long and could be painful, and to think I was pushed down on Jesus’ precious head. The head of the One who created me. It’s difficult for me to think that when the gardener planted me, the gardener didn’t know, but Jesus knew, that I was going to be cut apart to make a “crown” for my Creator’s head. I wasn’t gently placed or even royally placed with the pomp and circumstance of a royal inauguration, on His head. No, I was slammed down and crushed into His already bruised scalp from the rods that beat Him. My most significant memory, was His bleeding profusely from where my thorns stuck into His scalp…”

“Oh, I remember! It’s me, the “royal" robe again. I remember that’s where the most blood ran, or should I say flowed onto me. Hence these stains that no fuller could ever remove. And those spots—it’s so disgusting, that is where they spit on me. Then they took me off of Him…”

“And that’s where we, His everyday garments, come back into the story. They put us back onto His badly mangled body. It’s a good thing we aren’t fitted garments like the clothes of the future. They could never have gotten His limp arms into a tailored jacket. Then that man, Simon the Cyrene, walked by and the soldiers made him carry the cross. The soldiers were tired of helping Him, so they got that man who was heading toward the city to do their dirty work… but we were with Him first, and we were with Him last… Well, we should say before they stripped us off Him and hung His naked body on the cross. The one that was marked, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Then the soldiers gambled to see who would win with us as the prize. It was the saddest day of our existence.”

Life Application Questions

Would you be so quick to claim if you were there? If so, how would you describe it?

Based on your reading of the passage, what part of this account between the sentencing and His crucifixion touches your heart the most?

After the time of the soldiers’ mockery in the Praetorium came the crucifixion. Would you have followed along to watch? Why or why not?

Tuesday, 02 August 2022 00:00

Insurrection

Insurrection
Matthew 27:11-26
August 2, 2022

Insurrection against the government is a crime. The Revolutionary War was built on the people rising up against the tyranny of the British rule. Christ followers should be counter cultural and stand out from the crowd as they seek God’s truth. The Roman Empire was always seeking to stamp out the first hint of an insurrection. The Jewish leaders knew they would need to accuse Jesus of something more than claiming to be the Son of God to get rid of him. So the Jewish leaders said, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be the Messiah, a king” (Luke 23:2). What claims have people made to begin to fight against a regime? Why were the Jewish leaders making these claims? 

Governments have had to deal with opposition throughout history. In America’s struggle for freedom, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He also said, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” It is not unusual for people to want to throw off what perceived chains of tyranny. Throughout history insurrection has been deemed a necessary evil. Pilate feared this very thing, so when the Jewish leaders made accusations against Jesus, Pilate listened, but he focused on the third charge—that Jesus claimed to be a king—because this was a threat to Rome. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33). Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). How was this received by Pilate? Why did this trouble the Jewish leaders? How does Jesus kingship impact us today? 

As a Christ follower, I would like to identify with the Palm Wavers at Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. I would prefer to join the crowd of Hosanna singers than be identified with those shouting, “Crucify him.” I am sure Jesus’ followers found it hard to identify with a king who would abdicate his throne before he had even begun his earthly reign. I am certain that they were confused by the king who would accept a death sentence without a fight. Did they ask themselves, “Why does the Messiah not defend himself when the mob is getting so angry and loud?” Were the followers thinking, “Now would be a great time to bring in your witnesses for your defense”? It’s time to cue the music, strike up the royal angel choir. Where are the Hosanna shouters and palm wavers now? Many of Jesus’ followers slunk away to the periphery of the crowd. Jesus did answer Pilate, “You say I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). What kind of king had Jesus’ followers hoped he would be? What truth was Jesus testifying to? Jesus was accused of being an insurrectionist when his actual mission was to take back his people from their spiritual tyranny.

Democracies exist because people had the courage to stand up for what they believed was right. Other governments still resist that rule with an iron fist. The Roman Empire clearly ruled in Jerusalem. Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, yet he feared the people too much to do what was right (Mark 15:15). Pilate yielded and listened to the crowd. Would you have been a fickle Hosanna singing, palm branch waving part of the crowd? Where would you have been found on that Friday? There were days in our country where church attendance was as American as apple pie. Today, it has become counter cultural to live as a Christ follower. Will you stand on the edge of “the crowd” or will you join Jesus, the spiritual insurrectionist, to be mocked and spit on? Will you pick up your cross, despite the cost? Jesus came to liberate us, to set us free from a spiritual tyrant.

Lkb

Monday, 01 August 2022 00:00

What do you think

What do you think?
August 1, 2022
Matthew 27:1-10

Why did Judas betray Jesus? What were his reasons, his motivation? What do you suppose he was thinking when he took money from the religious leaders to give up the Master?

Judas was one of the twelve, the privileged disciples who walked, ate, and lived with Jesus. He heard his sermons, witnessed his miracles, and watched him pray. He heard Peter’s identification of Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). There is not much about Jesus that Judas didn’t know.

How, then, could he so easily give him up to his enemies, knowing they meant no good for this one who loved him and fellowshipped with him so closely? It may simply have been greed, although in the end he gave up his earnings in disgust and sorrow.

Did he do it because he wanted more attention? Peter, James, and John seemed to be Jesus’ favorites; he called them to him for a couple of the most momentous events in his life: the transfiguration and the prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Certainly, this was not the way to gain anything more than notoriety for such a dastardly deed.

Was he seriously thinking that he could somehow hasten the establishing of the kingdom Jesus preached about? Did he think that the all-powerful Son of God would overcome his deceit by putting down the false teachers and overcoming the evil Roman rule?

Perhaps the simplest answer is that Judas had never given his heart to Jesus. He was a fake who was probably in it for what he could get out of it. In fact, he had allowed Satan himself to “inspire” him. Here’s the story:

Jesus: “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil” (John 6:30).

“Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot” . . . “and he went to the religious leaders “to discover the best way to betray Jesus” (Luke 22:3).

“The devil had already prompted Judas . . . to betray Jesus” (John 13: 2).

Jesus quoted a portion of David’s Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread has lifted up his heel against me” (John 13:18).

“As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him” (John 13:27).

Peter: “The Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16).

Life Application Questions

Are you a "fake follower," going through the motions of being a Christian? If so, don't wait another day to repent of your sin and become a true disciple of Jesus.

Is there anything in your life that might give Satan a wedge to encourage your own unfaithfulness to the Lord?

Are there distractions in your life that cause you to forget the necessity and importance of pursuing spiritual maturity?

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

jbd & gmd

Friday, 29 July 2022 00:00

On Trial

On Trial!
Matthew 26:57-75
Friday, 29 July 2022

Jesus and Peter, the rabbi and his pupil, the master and his disciple, on trial. Without a doubt the master would pass the test. Would the disciple pass too?

Jesus, the holy Son of God, the only one not guilty of anything—ever—being grilled as if he were the worst criminal—ever. Actually, he could have called 10,000 angels; he was the commander-in-chief after all—not a convict! But he died alone for you and me. Tears and thanks.

Peter, a human, innately a sinner like the rest of us, a Jesus-follower for three years, even spokesman for the rest of the disciples. But now he was being asked simple questions: Was he guilty by association with the assumed-to-be criminal? Loaded questions. Shamefully Peter denied his Lord and Master.

Backing up, Jesus had invited twelve young men—probably no older than himself (in his mid-30s)—to become his followers. They accepted promptly, though they had little idea what they were getting into.

Like other Jews, they were eager for a messiah who would set up a kingdom like King David’s of old, freeing them from Roman domination. But the disciples weren’t listening carefully. Jesus primarily described the kingdom as a new order and society, a kingdom of love and grace, a community of saints who were humble and dedicated to helping one another and the needy. Jesus definitely was not offering his followers high ranking positions in a political kingdom. That’s not what following him was about.

Unfortunately, the followers were not in lockstep. Though Peter boldly announced that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah, because of what he said next Jesus referred to him as Satan! Add to that, no less than James and John asked Jesus if they could have the highest rank next to him in his future kingdom. Jesus replied something like, "Hold it: Whoever wants to become great must be a servant!" (Mark 10:35-37). Later on, the very night that Jesus broke bread saying, “This is my body, given for you,” the disciples were arguing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24)! Incredible.

These human failures came to a head in Peter’s denial—calling down curses on himself he swore, “I don’t know the man!” (Matt 26:74), and in Judas’s betrayal—“the one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away!” (Mark 14:44). We have to wonder: Where were the disciples while Jesus was on trial? None came to his defense. Where were they when he was crucified? Only John is mentioned as being present. Where were they when it was time to take the lifeless corpse down from the cross? The little known Joseph of Arimathea cared for the body and placed it in a tomb. Why was it only women who visited the tomb?

With the death of Jesus, the disciples apparently concluded the whole deal was over. Jesus seemed to be gone for good, and like the two on the road to Emmaus, they might as well get out of town.

In retrospect, the disciples’ coming to true faith was evidently a process. It was a big learning curve, and there were missteps along the way. Peter’s denial and Judas’s betrayal were terrible injustices, but that was the tip of the iceberg. The rest were guilty too. The good news is, the resurrection changed everything!

Life Application Questions

  • In some ways every follower of Jesus is on trial. What kind of tests might we face, and will we do better than the disciples?
  • Might becoming a faithful follower of Jesus today be a process as well? Maybe it’s a learning curve, especially when we realize it involves carrying a cross. Maybe we fail to count the cost and have second thoughts along the way. But hopefully there will be a point, like the resurrection was for the disciples, that we will fix our faith firmly in him and stay in step the rest of our lives.

~ dbs

Thursday, 28 July 2022 00:00

Betrayed and Arrested

Matthew 26:47-56
Betrayed and Arrested

How odd that Jesus defers omnipotent power in order to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified. This week’s reading guide moves into apocalyptic times when hope betrays and love crashes.

Creator Sovereign Jesus came to us. Abandoning Heaven’s court and its accoutrements to be with us—He is Immanuel. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

If we ask, “What kind of power did Jesus possess,” the answers are startling. Because the slant of the earth is a precise 23 degrees, we have seasons. If the slant were not precise, vapors from the oceans would move both north and south, piling up continents of ice.

If the moon was only 50,000 miles away from earth instead of 200,000, the tides might be so enormous that continents would be submerged—even the mountains would be eroded. If the crust of the Earth were ten feet thicker, there might be no oxygen. If the oceans were a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have been absorbed and no vegetable life would exist.

The earth’s weight has been estimated at six sextillion tons (that’s a six with 21 zeroes). This same Earth turns on its axis revolving at more than 1,000 miles an hour or 25,000 miles a day. Considering the tremendous weight of six sextillion tons rolling at this fantastic speed around an invisible axis, held in place by unseen bands of gravitational force, the words of Job 26:7 take on unparalleled significance: “He suspends the Earth over nothing….”

No wonder David cries out, “Yahweh, our Lord, how great is your name throughout the Earth…what is man that you are mindful of him” (Psalm 8).

Praise God, that in his complete omnipotence, he decided to empty himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified for our sake.

Life Application Questions

While reading Matthew 26:47-56 which images are most striking to you?

Is a purpose revealed in Jesus’ accepting betrayal and arrest?

How do you understand Jesus coming and avoiding employing his divine powers?

What kind of power does Jesus possess?

Note: Thanks to Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, for collecting reflections on the creation power of God.

~ajs

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