Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pondering the Last Week of Jesus, part 4

Sundown on Friday began the Jewish Sabbath when nothing could be done.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were both of them members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council.  Can you imagine the distress they endured when Jesus was before the Sanhedrin? On Friday as the sun was setting they had laid the body of Jesus into a tomb. 
And then all who knew Jesus mourned. 

Imagine what Jesus’ mother and brothers felt, dozing off only to awaken, screaming from the pictures of terror anew. 
Imagine what Jesus’ disciples felt, replaying their betrayal again and again.  The arguments that inevitably resulted from the hole in their gut. 
Imagine the delight of the Jewish leaders and all the demons of Hell thinking they had won.
Most of all, think of the delight of Jesus and the Father reunited again.  The pain behind.  The victory won, though only Heaven knew. A glorious day.  And perhaps, just perhaps, they were thinking of us - like a parent on Christmas Eve who found the perfect gift, who can’t wait to see it unwrapped, to see the child’s eyes get big, to hear the squeal of delight.  Because they knew what Easter would bring.

Saturday was the depths of despair for the humans who loved Jesus.
Saturday was the height of delight for those who opposed Jesus.
Saturday was the reunion of all reunions for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Are you ready for Easter? To receive the best gift from the God Who loves you beyond comprehension.

Ponder on these things and thank Him as you think of Jesus last week.

Boldly, Pastor Herb

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pondering the Last Week of Jesus, part 3

I apologize for not getting Thursday’s installment to you.  Here is both THURSDAY and FRIDAY.

Thoughts to help you pause, appreciate and experience more deeply Jesus’ final week on earth in human form.  And thus, experience Easter Sunday more fully. As you read these, try to put yourself in Jesus’ place: how would you feel, what would you be thinking, how would you act?  Then thank Jesus for all He went through for us, for you.

Jesus wanted to spend the last meal with his twelve closest friends, and so He instructed a couple of them to prepare the Passover Meal.  Perhaps He connected the dots, thinking about Himself as THE Lamb that would save the world.  At dinner (which was hours long), He washed the disciples feet, (John 13), telling them He was leaving them to be servants to others as He was a Servant.

Another distress was Jesus’ knowledge that Judas was about to betray Him and that ALL the disciples would abandon Him AND that the leader of the group, Peter, would deny Him three times.  THINK about that. ALL of them.  He would go through the mocking, kangaroo courts and abuse TOTALLY ALONE.
         When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
       “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” 30“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” Mark 14:17–21, 27-30 (NIV)

At the end of the dinner, Jesus instituted communion.  Think about how He felt as He thought about how His body would be broken and His blood would be shed.
       While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:18–26 (NIV)

We cannot comprehend what Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was facing the agony of some of the worst physical pain, but the deepest pain was facing the penalty of sin: separation from God.  That was the greatest suffering and it was literally torture for Jesus.  Medical experts tell us that sweating blood is an indication that a person is close to death.  That is what Jesus experienced in prayer.  And He was doing all this for US!!!!
       They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:32–36 (NIV)

Just as Jesus finishes the agonizing prayer, Judas arrives with soldiers to betray Him with a kiss. WITH A KISS!! We can hear the anguish in His words.
        While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47–48 (NIV)

Jesus is arrested late in the evening. His trials went into the wee hours of Friday morning.

Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court). They look for evidence against and could not find a thing. Not a single thing.  Even as they got false witnesses to testify against Him, they couldn’t get their story straight.  Jesus stood before them silent.  Until the high priest asked Him directly.
        But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. Mark 14:61–64 (NIV)

And then the abuse began.
        Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. Mark 14:65 (NIV)

The Jewish leaders were prohibited from executing a person, so they hauled Jesus to Pilate.  When he found out Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who wanted Jesus to perform miracles for him.
       When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle.He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:8–11 (NIV)

Hauled back before Pilate again with the Jewish leaders hounding, accusing, demanding Jesus’ death.  This governor took the responsibility seriously, asking Jesus if He was king of the Jews. Jesus admitted He was, but when the Jewish leaders chimed in He again refused to answer them.  Pilate wanted to set Him free, but the people chose Barabbas, the rebellious leader of an insurrection.  Feeling he had no choice, Pilate condemned Jesus to be crucified.
        “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Mark 15:12–15 (NIV)

While Jesus was enduring the Sanhedrin’s abuse, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.  Think about how Jesus must have felt as Jesus looked at Peter...
         About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:59–62 (NIV)

         The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:16–20 (NIV)

Again, there is no way we can comprehend what Jesus’ endured for the six hours on the cross.  SIX HOURS!  360 AGONIZING MINUTES.  Take time to read it from one of the Gospels.  Slowly consider the pain of the spikes through His wrists and feet.  The circle of thorns pressed down on His head.  The weight of His body compressing His lungs and pushing against the spikes in His feet.  The sun beating down on Him.  Birds landing and pecking at His flesh.  And yet He was concerned about His mother and the thieves on the crosses beside Him. 


         And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
      With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. Mark 15:34, 37 (NIV)

Take time this day to consider these things.
Take time to express your love and gratitude for what Jesus did.

Boldly, Pastor Herb

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pondering the Last Week of Jesus, part 2

Thoughts to help you pause, appreciate and experience more deeply Jesus’ final week on earth in human form.  And thus, experience Easter Sunday more fully. As you read these, try to put yourself in Jesus’ place: how would you feel, what would you be thinking, how would you act?  Then thank Jesus for all He went through for us, for you.

As I wrote yesterday, there is nothing recorded about Jesus’ last Wednesday, so let’s look at the final events of Tuesday.

Think how Jesus felt - the Jews were the people God had chosen in the past, and Jesus was God.  Now, the very people He had chosen were conspiring to kill Him. Think what it would have been like feeling that hatred and knowing of that plot as Jesus was teaching and working with His followers.
         Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.” Mark 14:1–2 (NIV)

At the end of Tuesday, Jesus was dining with a friend, when the sister, (name was Mary), of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, sacrificed an alabaster jar of pure nard. It was an extremely costly perfume, worth ABOUT A YEAR’S WAGES!! Think about how much you make in a year. Worth that much. WOW! In a moment of time Mary expressed her deep gratitude and deep love for Jesus by breaking an expensive jar and using that perfume to anoint Jesus before His death.  It must have overwhelmed Jesus to be loved and honored so profusely.
          While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Mark 14:3 (NIV)

Have you ever had a grand moment deflated by someone’s selfishness? Just as Jesus is being honored by this great sacrifice, some of the guests essentially said, “Jesus is not worth it.”  Even some of His disciples. Rather than “wasting” this on Jesus, they claimed the perfume should have been sold for a year’s wages and given to the poor.  In reality, at least one of the disciples (Judas) was stealing money from the group’s funds and took the loss personally.  Others were being so practical they lost the significance in the extravagance.  It begs the question: “Is Jesus worth all to you?”
            Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. Mark 14:4–5 (NIV)

Think how Jesus must have felt.  He was the Son of God and about to give Himself to be abused and crucified for these people – to give His all.  Though the gift was extravagant by human measures, it was NOTHING compared to what He did for us!  Think of the sadness and hurt He must have felt as the moment was sucked away and He had to scold those present.
       “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:6–9 (NIV)

Jesus knew it was coming, but being fully human, it must have sliced His heart out! That one of His closest friends, a man with whom He had spent 3 years was holding the knife that would stab Him in the back.  Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests offering to betray Jesus.  The Jewish leaders finally had a way to capture and kill Jesus without starting a riot.  And Jesus knew what Judas and the religious leaders were doing.  Oh, the pain it must have caused Him!
        Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Mark 14:10–11 (NIV)

Ponder on these things and thank Him as you think of Jesus’ last week.

Boldly, Pastor Herb

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pondering the Last Week of Jesus, part 1

To truly celebrate Easter, we must pause to consider what the week leading up to Easter was like for Jesus.  Each day I will give you some thoughts from a study of that Gospel of Mark to help you get started. I missed yesterday, so here is both Monday and Tuesday.

Jesus pronounced God’s judgement on the unbelieving Jews by cursing a fig tree.  It was supposed to have buds on it, but did not.  It had the green leaves that from a distance promised this simple nourishment. But the promise was empty, so Jesus cursed it.
         The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12–14 (NIV)

Jesus then went into the Temple and drove the money changers and sellers of animals from the outer court of the Temple.  It was the only area that non-Jewish people could worship, but it had been turned into a marketplace and a short cut so that it was impossible to worship.  Jesus’ anger exploded into violent removal.

         On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:15–17 (NIV)

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He was claiming He had greater authority than the Jewish High Priest.  Thus the gauntlet was thrown down. As a result, the Jewish leaders started looking for a way to kill Jesus.
         The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city. Mark 11:18–19 (NIV)

NOTE: Mark 12:1-14:11 (appear to all happen on Tuesday, with no mention of anything on Wednesday.  The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John are the same. It appears nothing was recorded about Wednesday, so I’m going to break Tuesday into two parts.  It is just as well because so much happened.

Ponder a moment: if you had only three days left, and you knew today was the final day of telling your followers what matters, what would you say?  Jesus spent the day jousting with the Jewish religious leaders and teaching. It was the last day of teaching the crowds recorded, so we can assume these were important lessons.  Here are just a few highlights.  I encourage you to read the chapters for yourself.

It was an exhausting day for Jesus. On the hot seat with religious leaders, the intensity of last words He wanted to impart, the plot to kill Him hanging over His head, and always the knowledge that He was headed to the most CRUEL DEATH in three days.

On the way into Jerusalem, the disciples notice the fig tree is shriveled from the roots up. Amazed, they bring to Jesus’ attention.  He responds nonchalantly:
          “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:22–25 (NIV)

“Where do you get your authority?” Jesus was asked where He got His authority. He refused to answer because they would not answer His question about John the Baptist’s authority

“Should we pay taxes to Roman government?” If He says yes, He is in trouble with the Jews. If He says no, He is in trouble with Rome.  So He says, 
                Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:17 (NIV)

 “How can you claim there is a resurrection?” the Sadducees (one branch of the Jewish leaders) asked.  Jesus shows them the next life if not like this one and we have different bodies and different relationships.

“What is the greatest commandment?” This was not a trap, but a sincere inquiry.  Because of it we have the MEANING OF LIFE. 
                Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30–31 (NIV)

After Jesus turned the traps on them, no one dared ask Him any other questions.  However, it made the Jewish leaders even more intent to kill Him.

Jesus taught important lessons on His identity, generosity (the widow’s offering), what will happen in the future, and that NO ONE KNOWS WHEN HE WILL RETURN.  That last one is especially important for us.

Ponder on these things and thank Him as you think of Jesus' last week.