All posts by Carol

Jesus Predicts His Death – Mar. 3, 2019

Writer John Irving has always said that he will not write a book unless he knows the last line of his novel. Then, he says, everything leads him to complete the book in a way that is honest to that last line. In Irving’s ‘The World According to Garp’, the last line is, “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.” The book and movie is about lost people trying to live their life the best the can. It is comical and sad, and true to the last line, all the major characters do die. (Yet they live wonderful lives before they do).

Author and businessman Stephen R. Covey wrote in his book ‘7 Habits of Highley Effective People’- Always begin with the end in mind. From this, many Christians have coined the phrase, “Always ‘live’ with the end in mind.”

Many of the great saints also encouraged us to be mindful of our final end. Saint Bonaventure, who lived in Italy in the 12th century, wrote, “To lead a good life, a man should always imagine himself at the hour of his death.”

I try not to spend too much time thinking about how I am going to die. It seems rather morbid to me. I suppose the older I get, the more I wonder how much time I have left, but I have too much to do now to die!

In the TV series ‘Early Edition’, Gary Hobson was a man who got tomorrow’s newspaper today. That means he knows what is going to happen before it does and it gives him a chance to stop bad things from happening altogether.

Danish Theologian and Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

How many times have you said, “If I only knew then, what I know now, I would have made different choices?” Sometimes, it might be handy to know what is going to happen to you.

What would you change if you knew the future?  I think most of us want to avoid pitfalls and unnecessary conflicts? Right?

That is why, when I read that Jesus knew his future and predicted his untimely death 3 times in the Gospels before it happened, I am amazed. I don’t know about you but I am not sure I would want to know all those details (particularly in his case).

In Mark 8:31 we read, “He then began to teach them, that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

The second is in Mark 9:30-31 it reads, “From there, they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”

The third time is in Mark 10:32-34 as they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, it reads,

“And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again’.”

The strange thing is, even though he told them over and over again, they never seemed to get it. In truth, they didn’t want to hear it. If we go back to the first time Jesus mention his death, we will see why this is the case.

The disciples have faithfully followed Jesus and witnessed Him perform miracles, healings and share wise words After all they witnessed, they were sure he was the promised Messiah.

In Mark 8:27-30, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do You say I Am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

That must have been a good moment for Jesus. But now that they knew who he was, it was time to reveal why he came. He was about to share his mission with them.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed — and after 3 days rise again.”

Scripture says that Jesus spoke plainly about this, in other words, nonchalantly. But Peter could not contain himself; he pulled Jesus aside and rebuked him. Then Jesus utters those famous words, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Peter tried to rebuke Jesus — and Jesus put him right back in his place!

Taken another way, Jesus is saying, “Get back in line, you are acting like the devil now, not like one of my followers. I am the teacher. You don’t understand the big picture.” It was Jesus’ way of helping them begin to understand that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8.

Jesus not only rebukes Peter, but then shocks them by telling them that the cross may well be their future too. Those who would follow him will have to “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus continues, “To save your life you must lose it.”

This news was contrary to the disciple’s expectations and difficult to comprehend. The second time he spoke of this they still did not understand him, but (Mark 9:32 tells us), “they were afraid to ask him” probably for fear of being rebuked again.

For just one moment, think about what they were hearing. Jesus was not only proclaiming he would die, but that he would be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They would demand his execution. This had to be a real shock to them. Those who should be the first to recognize and worship Jesus would turn on him.

German Theologian Rudolf Bultmann summarized the scholarly opinion of his day, when he said that the “predictions of the passion and resurrection… have long been recognized as secondary constructions of the church.” In other words he claimed that Jesus never really predicted his death and it was added in at a later date.

I beg to differ. There are many indications that Jesus knew he would certainly die a violent death. First, after John the Baptist was killed by Herod, in Luke 13:32, Jesus said, “Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today, tomorrow – and on the third day, I will reach my goal.” (Other versions say, on the third day, I will finish my course or accomplish my purpose)

And Jesus already knew the people he was dealing with, he understood all of the early prophecies. The Prophet Isaiah practically told his whole story. It told who he was, what he came to do and how he would suffer and die. You may recall; when Jesus sat down in the temple to teach, he read from Isaiah 61:1-2.

Just prior to that, Isaiah 59:4-6 explains, “No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil… Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands.” Also in that paragraph, Isaiah explains that we are like cunning serpents – and spiders whose webs are meant to ensnare others.

Paul explains ‘us’ like this in Romans 3:10-17, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”

Jesus clearly knew what he was getting himself into. He knew that one of his disciples would betray him and that all of them would abandon him. It is no stretch to think that Jesus knew he would die. The stretch actually comes as the disciples and all of us try to wrap our mind around Jesus’ mission. If you and I were in Jesus’ place, why should we care? Why give our life for such fallen, lost people. Why go through all the pain and suffering?

Jesus knew how bad it would be, why else would he pray and shed tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to remove this cup of suffering? But, Jesus said, God’s will not mine.

You see, that is the real ‘Good News’; listen carefully, no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, God loves you and he sees far more than you or we can see. Each person is of sacred worth.

Our discipline reads, “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God,” and that all persons need the ministry of the church; all persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, economic condition, and we can add; gender, sexual orientation or mental state. All need Jesus – and all are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world.

You will notice, there is nothing in there that says we have to agree on everything or affirm every person in every way. But we are called to love like God loves all his people.

Jesus, himself, said it very well when he was asked, which one is the greatest commandment. He replied in Matthew 22:37-40;

He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I want to end with this true story. On February 17, 1941, polish priest Maximilian Kolbe was arrested by the German army for helping publish anti-Nazi propaganda. In May he was transferred to Auschwitz. Although he continued to act as a priest in the prison, he suffered harassment, violent beatings and lashings. After one prisoner escaped, they decided to pick 10 men, as examples, to starve them to death.

When one of the men was selected, he screamed, “My wife! My Children!” Having compassion and knowing he had neither a wife nor children, Kolbe volunteered to take his place. He did not know the man or ask any questions; he simple gave his life out of love.

That is living like Jesus Christ.

Your assignment this week is… in your quite time with God, pray this little prayer,

“God, show me who you really are – and not just who I want you to be.”

Then teach us to love others – as you love us all.

May it be so, Amen.

The Lord of the Sabbath – Feb. 24, 2019

On Tuesday, January 28, 1986, NASA launched the space shuttle Challenger from Cape CanaveralFlorida, against the wishes of engineer Allan McDonald. The flight had been put off 7 times due mostly to adverse weather conditions but also some mechanical issues.

After working 20 hours straight to make some repairs, McDonald wanted time to rest and then recheck the asbestos-silica insulation. The insulation may not be as effective if temperatures were too cold. So, McDonald had refused to sign off on the document waving all safety concerns. On that fateful morning, McDonald watched in horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and broke up over the Atlantic Ocean, 73 seconds into its flight.

Allan McDonald wrote about what happened later in his book, “Truth, Lies and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster”. When McDonald tried to shed light on what really happened, he was removed from his job, demoted and blamed for his lack of oversight on the Challenger project.

It was much later, that he was vindicated after an in-depth investigation. The failure fell on others who were in a rush to get the Shuttle into space. They believed the multiple delays were worse for NASA’s reputation than taking a chance of the launch going bad. They were wrong.

McDonald writes, “Sometimes our exhaustion makes us dangerous.” And how right he is; Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989 have all been blamed, in part, because staff was too tired to make good judgments.

Mankind was not designed to run on empty. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night to feel rested. After 3 or 4 nights without sleep, we often begin to hallucinate. In fact, experts tell us that that we would die without some sleep. The best-known case of this is that of Michael Corke who died after 6 months of total sleep deprivation.

It was God himself who created us and set an example for us. (Even though God does not need sleep). Genesis 2:1-3 reads, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because ‘on it’ he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

Exodus 20:8-11, God spoke these words to Moses on Mt. Sinai, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the 7th day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in 6 days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

While both of these passages seem pretty clear, the people of God have always had trouble keeping the Sabbath. The Israelites repeatedly disobeyed God, so God sent prophets to warn them of his displeasure.

Jeremiah 17:21-23 reads, “This is what the Lord says: be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. 

“Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.”

Nehemiah 13:15, “In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. 

Verse 17 reads, “I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”

Because the Israelites were not faithful, the nation was taken into exile by Babylon for 70 years. Upon their release, the need to take a Sabbath Day became a deeply held value. So much so, that they put some very strict and burdensome laws in place.

Which brings us to Mark chapter 2…One Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were taking a leisurely stroll on their route to worship at the synagogue. As usual, a crowd of people followed them closely; including Teachers of the Law and Pharisees. As they were passing through a grainfield, Jesus and his disciples (See Luke 6:2) began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands to remove the wheat from the chaff and eat the kernels.

Immediately the Pharisees asked, “Why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Picking grain made them guilty of reaping, rubbing in their hands made them guilty of threshing, blowing the chaff from their hands made them guilty of winnowing and chewing made them guilty of grinding the wheat. Seriously!

In ‘The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah’, by Alfred Edersheim he explains how fanatical the Jews became about breaking the Sabbath. The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word sabbaton. Its root is the verb “to cease.” In the Jewish Talmud, there were 24 chapters related to keeping the Sabbath (39 categories). For example, you couldn’t travel more than 3 thousand feet. Some say you can’t go more than 19 hundred and 99 steps in one direction. (That is about 7/8ths of a mile)

A tailor couldn’t carry his needle. The scribe couldn’t carry his pen. Wool couldn’t be dyed. Nothing could be sold. Nothing could be bought. Nothing could be washed. No fire could be lit. Cold water could be poured on warm, but warm couldn’t be poured on cold. And an egg could not be boiled. If a candle was lit, you couldn’t put it out. If it wasn’t lit, you couldn’t light it. Chairs couldn’t be moved. Women couldn’t wear jewelry – because jewelry often weighs more than a dried fig. A vegetable couldn’t be left in salt because it would pickle it.

There were laws about picking up jars of wine, milk, and honey; laws against spitting and getting dirt off your clothes. There was; no binding sheaves, kneading, baking, spinning wool, making threads, making a knot, or untying a knot. Men were not to help an animal in need or fight to protect their property. In one incidence, many Jews died because they refused to fight on the Sabbath.

You talk about a heavy laden. The system was oppressive and it was all unscriptural and horribly ungodly and brutally unkind. It is no wonder that Jesus took offense to it.  All Jesus and his disciples were doing was eating a little grain from the field because they were hungry. Ironically, even though the Pharisees disapproved, scripture actually Ok’d it!

Deuteronomy 23:24-25 has a wonderful passage for travelers it reads, “If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain.”

So, Jesus responded in a way that he knew would get under their skin, he said, “Have you never read?”   These were the experts in the Law; of course they read and memorized scripture.

Jesus then goes on to interpret an incident involving David, as he and his companions were running away from King Saul. Here is the gist of the story; 1 Samuel 21 explains how David and his friends arrived in Nob, a town that is about one mile north of Jerusalem.

They had no food and they were hungry, so they asked Ahimelech, the priest, for bread. The priest responded, I have no ordinary bread – only holy consecrated bread. Then, the priest told David that they may have some of the Holy bread if they are pure not having defiled their bodies. (By being around a dead body or with impure women)

This bread was only to be eaten by the priests but in an emergency, under the right conditions it can be shared with someone in need; this is part of ‘the mercy rule’. And so the priest allowed David and his men to eat holy bread.

Then Jesus explained, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” You see, man was created first, the law came after. God intended the Sabbath Day to be a day of rest and reflection. It was a day to remember all that God has done for us. It was meant to be a blessing, not a curse.

1 John 5:2-3 reads, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

This event hit at the heart of the Law interpreted by the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. Jesus knew more about it than they did! He was kind, merciful and thoughtful. They were callus, insensitive, crude, compassionless, and showed no mercy. Then Jesus said something that they could not ignore. He said, “So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28) In other words, he was declaring that he was God in flesh. And he had a right to interpret Holy Scripture in ways they did not.

To them this was the height of hypocrisy; this was blasphemy. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, ignored their laws, and insulted them. Is it any wonder that they wanted him killed? The thing is, they read God’s laws but they never really understood them.

Some like to claim that Jesus just tossed out the law of resting on the Sabbath when he came, but that is not the case. Rev. John Piper writes, “So Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Sabbath but to dig it out from under the mountain of legalistic sediment, and give it to us again as a blessing rather than a burden.”

I guess the question is, how far do we carry it? Are we to abstain from doing anything on Sunday? Romans 14:5-6 tackles that, “One person considers one day more sacred than another;  another considers everyday alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.”

Also Colossians 2:16-17 reads, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

The day is less important than the time we set aside for our relationship with God. The Israelites celebrated the Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night. Christian’s celebrate The Lord’s Day on Sunday. But the principle is the same; we should set aside time to worship, remember and thank God – and to rest. And as Jesus reminded us, it is a wonderful day to do good works and to show mercy.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The great theologian Eugene Peterson describes the Sabbath as, “that uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our own activities enough to see what God is doing”.

One pastor wrote, “Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts. It is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t. And it should be a day when I allow God alone to work in and through me in love and mercy. In him I will rest and be grateful.”

One last story. There was a church in Holland that was strictly bound to keeping the Sabbath Holy. One Sunday the area they were in was threatened by high winds and ferocious waves. In fact, the tide was so high, it threatened to bust the dyke if it was strengthened and the town would be washed away. The police notified the pastor of the danger and asked for help. Unable to make a quick decision, they called a meeting of the church council to discuss the situation. The overall consensus was that God would never let anything like that happen on a Sunday. So they prayed and held worship.

You know what happened right? Sometimes certain things must go on the back burner, because mercy, compassion and love is what Jesus is calling us too, first. We should never be so legalistic so that we miss the world passing before our very eyes. Because then we become as guilty as the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.

By the way, after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, NASA did some research on the affects of how being tired affected pilots decisions. Here was the outcome; pilots’ performance increased 34% after a 26-minute nap in the afternoon. Rest matters!

Your assignment is…to take some time this week to rest, and thank God for all he has brought you through this past week. I hope you do that regularly already, but if not…make it a routine practice.

Amen.

Jesus’ 1st Miracle – Feb. 17, 2019

Daylight Savings Time was enacted on March 19, 1918. It established standard time zones and set Summer Daylight Savings Time to begin on March 31, 1918.

Summer Time, as it was called, started in the United States in March, most farmers, however, opposed it. They argued that their work was regulated by the sun and their view prevailed in August, 1919, when the Federal Daylight Saving Time Law was repealed over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson.

Nevertheless, a number of states and individual communities, particularly in industrial regions, continued to observe Daylight Saving Time. This became more widespread in World War II. and after VJ Day, In 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed and Daylight Savings Time became a permanent fixture in the United States unless individual States voted it. 

Others also fought the implementation of Daylight Savings Time. Take for instance, William Bell and Jacob Rosenwasser, two men on death row at Sing Sing Prison. On Sunday, April 30, 1922, nine days before they were to be executed in the electric chair for murder, they woke to find that the clocks had been moved ahead one hour. Bell and Rosenwasser protested to the warden and hired an attorney to fight for their extra hour.

The Boston Evening Globe reported their story on May 1, 1922. Their argument that ‘ever moment, every hour is precious’ failed to convince the presiding judge and they were eventually executed as scheduled. 

Queen Elizabeth before she died said, “All my possessions for a moment of time!”

Yet, time is not ours to ration or buy. All we can do is use it well. In the end, everything happens in God’s time, not ours.

There is an old adage that says, “Timing is everything”. Even in God’s time, there is a time for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reads, “There is a time for everything, – and a season for every activity under heaven.”

This is true in our lives and was also true in the life of Jesus. Galatians 4:2,4 reads, “He (Jesus) is subject to guardians and trustees until the time ‘set by his father’.  But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

No other place do we see this issue of time and timing being so important than in the Gospel of John. John introduces us to Jesus, the Word made Flesh. ‘John the Baptist’ testifies that Jesus is the Son of God.   John does not mention the Temptation in the wilderness and moves directly to the calling of the first disciples.

One of his new followers is named Nathanael. John 21:2 reveals that he is from Cana in Galilee. While the exact location of Cana is unknown, the name Cana in Hebrew and Aramaic means ‘place of reeds’. Scholars have pinpointed 5 areas close to Nazareth were Cana may have been located.

Nathanael is known for saying, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” But he quickly changes his mind once he meets Jesus.

Cana is also the place of Jesus’ first miracle. It took place during a wedding. Invited to this wedding, was Jesus’ mother Mary, Jesus and his disciples and most likely Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Many scholars believe this may have been the wedding of a relative of Jesus, since Mary had some oversight.

First, I will start with a little background on weddings in Jesus’ day. On the evening of the wedding, usually a Wednesday, the bride-to-be would be led by a procession through town ‘from her home, to the home of her husband-to-be’.

This procession would include music, laughter, and loud shouts of joy and approval; along the way, the entire village would join in. The crowd would carry torches or oil lamps on poles along with Myrtle-branches that they waved and colorful flowers. After they arrived at the husband’s parent’s home, the bride and groom would be crowned with garlands.

A legal document was signed, there would be a ceremonial washing of hands, then a prayer would be offered to God – and finally, the wedding feast would begin. The feast would usually last 3 to 7 days, depending on the financial situation of the family. At the end of the party, the bride and groom were sent off to consummate the marriage.

In the East, hospitality was considered a sacred duty. To run out of food and/or wine was considered a legitimate crisis. If the groom’s family misjudged how much food and drink was needed, this would bring disgrace on the family and was considered a curse on the marriage. In fact, the bride’s family could even sue them over this.

John 2:3 reads, “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” While this was simply a statement of fact, it implied that they needed help. The question is, what did she expect Jesus to do about it?

Which explains Jesus’ response, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Then Jesus added, “My time has not yet come.”

Mary, slightly rebuked by Jesus, doesn’t seem to mind or notice, she just turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

Why was Mary ignoring what Jesus just said, “My time has not yet come?” Some scholars believe she may have been giving him a needed ‘spiritual nudge’. Others argue that Jesus would never do anything, if it was not in God’s planned time. So, what are we missing?

According to John’s Gospel, Jesus mentioned ‘his time’ at least 17 times. He also said, that when his time came, He and God would be glorified. In other words, when Jesus’ real identity was made known, everyone would know ‘he was God in flesh’. It would be his public coming out. The Greek word ‘hour’ actually refers to an opportune time.

We see a similar discussion with Jesus and his brothers in John Chapter 7. Jesus has decided not to go to Judea because the Jewish leaders are waiting there to kill him. His brothers want him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles and they say to Jesus, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one, who wants to become ‘a public figure’ acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you, any time is right.” Then, in verse 10, after his brothers left to go to the Feast, Jesus also went, but in secret.

I think that is also the key to what happened at the wedding.

Jesus did a miracle by turning water to wine but it was not done it public and the miracle was only witnessed by a few. We will see that as we read on…

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water so they filled them to the brim.”

Then he told them, “Now, draw some out and take it to the head-waiter of the banquet.”

(to draw out means to dig down deep) They did so, and the head-waiter of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. 

(Here are the key words) He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. While the waiters, Mary and the Disciples knew what happened, no one else at the wedding party did. Jesus was able to do the miracle and remain true to God’s plan.

Imagine the surprise of the groom and his family. They were worried about not having enough wine and now they were celebrated for ‘saving the best wine until last’.

I am not sure what Mary had in mind, but I am sure this passed all of her expectations. Also, let’s not forget her amazing faith in Jesus. She believed that he could help and he did. And scripture says that his disciples saw this and they believed in him.

Now, some Bible scholars interpret the shortage of wine at Cana as symbolic of the spiritual dryness of Judaism at the time of Jesus. Wine was a common symbol of God’s bounty and spiritual Joy. Others say that the water turned to wine was a foreshadow of the coming of the best gift of all, the blood of Christ that cleanses all.

Just an insight, John never uses the word miracle when Jesus does these incredible things. Instead, he calls them signs. They are revelations of who Jesus really is, and only a few are privy to them, that is, until he is ready to reveal himself, publically.

Christian recording artist Michael Card sang a song called ‘The Wedding’ listen to some of the lyrics,

Lord of light, oh, come to this wedding,
Take the doubt and darkness away
Turn the water of life-less living,
to the wine of gladness we pray.

Mother Mary’s gently requesting,
That you might do whatever you can
Though she may be impatient, she loves you
And so she asks ‘what she can’t understand’.

So amidst the laughter and feasting,
There sits Jesus full with the fun.
He has made them wine because He is longing,
For a wedding that’s yet to come.

This first miracle is a sign of what kind of kingdom Jesus had in mind. The Jews wanted a warrior, a bold public figure. Instead, we find a compassionate, benevolent, caring Savior who doesn’t need to be admired and celebrated. You see, he came as a servant. What he did was often done in private. He was not seeking praise.

He came to glorify God and to remain true to God’s plan and God’s timing. All would be revealed but only at the proper time. Romans 5:6 -8 reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Vary Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might possibly dare to die – but God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

One thing is fairly certain; mankind will always be at odds with time. Some things take far too long, others go much to fast. Time flies and time crawls. When we are young it seems like everything takes forever and when we are older we wonder where the time went. And there never seems to be enough time to do what we really want. Time is a limited thing, we only get so much.

So we must live ‘within God’s time’ and not waste it. Love while you can and let go of old hurts. Finally, trust God because his timing is perfect. And as the Bible tells us, all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Habakkuk 2:3 in the Living Bible reads, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches – when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!”

“There truly is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.”

This is our time now, we need to do what Jesus did; live it well and use it to bring glory to God. We are here to advance his kingdom on earth. So…

Your assignment is…to get out your calendar and make sure you have time to do God’s work planned out. Volunteer at the Cowan school food give-a-way, tutor a child, get some training for missions, help with the youth group, make food, visit or send cards to shut-ins.

Jesus said we were to follow him; He served others. In what way will you follow his lead?     

Pray and Take action.

Amen

Jesus Rejected – Feb. 10, 2019 

People love to go to race tracks to see car accidents. It is the same way people go to hockey games to watch fistfights. Probably very similar to the way the Romans went to the Coliseum to see the death of the gladiators.

There is something thrilling and sad about a train wreck; we just can’t stop watching. Shows like American Idol, I have been told, are more exciting to watch, early on during the first auditions. That is when ‘the cats’ and ‘the tone deaf’ come out to sing.

Take for instance, Season 9, Jan. of 2010 in Orlando, Florida. A young man named Donald Jarrod Norrell, a graphic designer, drove from Georgia to audition. After stating, that he thought he could win the competition, he went on to sing ‘Amazing Grace’.

He was awful! One look at the disgust on the faces of the judges revealed ‘the truth’; and they quickly told him so, saying he “sounded like a lawnmower.”

But Jerrod refused to take no for an answer and went on to sing again, the same song. Eventually, they called in the security guards. He cried out, “I can’t leave!” as they escorted him out anyway  but he put up a fight and ended up handcuffed and arrested.

Now that is some serious rejection!

It is tough enough dealing with rejection privately, but quite another – when it is broadcast for the whole world to see and hear. It never goes away! I am sure all of us have felt the sting of rejection.  

It may have been when the person you asked out laughed in your face. Or the time you were excluded from a party. Maybe it was the best friend who rejected you for another. Or the job interview that did not go as planned. Maybe it was because you were too young, too old or too different. Finally, it may have been, when you were rejected by a dating partner or a spouse.

Rejection can be defined as ‘the act of pushing someone or something away’. It may consist of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or the withholding of affection. Dr. Charles R Solomon specializes in spiritual counseling, with a specialty in how to deal with rejection. He defines rejection as “The absence of meaningful love.” 

Rejection not only wounds us but can also hinder us from trusting, believing in others and/or engaging with others again. Not only can rejection leave us feeling paralyzed, we may also heap additional pain on ourselves and make it worse. Experts tell us that rejection affects us; emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, and physically. The question is, “Why is it so painful?”

The answer, scientists tell us, is that our brains are hard-wired that way. Researchers used MRI machines to question people who felt rejected and they found the same areas of our brains that are activated by physical pain also react to the experience of rejection.

Now, that being said, those who had a better handle on their emotions, did much better. In other words, those people who did not place too much value in the eyes or actions of others, seemed to react in a healthy manner. So, while rejection hurts, internalizing it and not dealing with it is far worse.

While rejection often feels personal, as in, it is our fault or an outright attack, it often has less to do with us than we imagine. There are often extenuating circumstances beyond our grasp; things that have little to do with us and more to do with the other person.

No one understood this better than Jesus. Before he was even born, Isaiah 53:2-3 described him like this, “He grew up before us like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

John 1:11 reads, “He came to those who were his own, but his own did not receive him.” 

Isaiah literally says that Jesus was despised; he was not merely ignored or disliked. He was hated and loathed by the religious leaders and in the end, by all the people. Jesus was not just being discarded as unwanted or useless; he was considered a real threat to the status quo. Why?

Jesus questioned their interpretation of scripture, their traditions, their way of using the Temple and the way they treated the least, the lost and the outcasts. They accused him of being a drunk, they belittled him, tried to trap him and even called him the devil, himself.

In our Luke text, Jesus returns to Galilee and preaches throughout the countryside. It says he taught in the local synagogues and everyone praised him. From there he went to his hometown, Nazareth.

Then, on the Sabbath day, Saturday, as was his custom, he went into the synagogue. While there, he stood up to read. The scroll was handed to him and it was unrolled to Isaiah 61:1-2, and he began to read, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners – and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, – and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

After sitting down, he proclaimed, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
    
And scripture says they were amazed and a bit shocked by his teaching. They acknowledge that he was speaking with wisdom and acting with power, but something just didn’t sit right. Isn’t this Joseph the carpenter’s son? Carpenter’s sons do not become prophets.

Here he was in the synagogue, a carpenter trying to teach them something about God and the Law. They all knew him. How could Jesus possibly be ‘who he was claiming to be’: the Messiah, God’s very own Son?

Not surprised, Jesus said, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Then Jesus had the gull to go on and compare himself to Elijah and Elisha. All of the people in the synagogue immediately took offense and became furious. They saw this as scandalous, an abomination, and a threat to everything they stood for. This was no prophet, this was Mary’s son and they knew Jesus’ brothers and sisters.

So they rejected him and drove Jesus out of the synagogue. They took him out of town to the cliff of a tall hill. Once there, they planned on throwing him off to his death.

Mount Precipice is a cliff near the city of Nazareth in Israel. It has a 1,000 foot plunge, almost straight down. This is serious!

One pastor writes, “I don’t know about Jesus, but at that point ‘I’m going Ninja on every last one of those suckers. I was thinking’, he wrote, ‘Jesus, just take them all out!’”

But scripture says, “He walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:30).  The same pastor writes, “Jesus is amazing, no anger . . . no Ninja. He just remains calm and stays in control.”  (I love that!)

Over and over in scripture we see Jesus being rejected and we see his reaction. How could he remain so humble and not call down an army of angels? Only because Jesus knew that God had a greater purpose for his life. Jesus never got sidelined by other people’s problems and control issues. Here are several examples of times when he was rejected;

1) Jesus faced rejection from his own family. John 7:3-5 reveals that Jesus’ own brothers wanted him to reveal who he really was, but he said his time had not come. And so they rejected and did not believe in him. Also in Mark 3:20-21 Jesus went to a home but a crowd gathered and they were unable to eat. When his family heard they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind!”

2) Jesus would eventually face rejection from the other Jews in Jerusalem. They refused to call him ‘The King of the Jews’ and said ‘their only king was Caesar’.

3) Jesus faced rejection from his own followers. Judas betrayed him. All of the disciple’s abandoned him and Peter denied him 3 times.

4) Jesus was offered up with Barabbas, a thief and murderer. His own people chose Barabbas instead of him. Funny, Jesus was accepted by his enemies; a Roman soldier, Samaritans, outcasts – even Pilate could find no wrong in him, – yet the Jewish people rejected him; the ones he came to save first!

5) Finally, Jesus was rejected by God on the cross (or at least it appeared that way).

As he hung on the cross dying, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In truth, I do not think God ever rejected Jesus, I think he simply turned his back on all our sin. But I don’t imagine that is how it felt at the time.

Maybe, in the back of his mind, Jesus was thinking about what God had said to Samuel when the people rejected him. The Israelites went to Samuel and demanded a king ‘to be the judge’ over them. Samuel was crushed but,

In 1 Samuel 8:7 the Lord said, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; ‘it is not you they have rejected’ but the have rejected me as their king.” Again, God was being rejected by his people. They see Jesus – but they do not recognize him as their God. Imagine the pain of the Father in heaven as well as Jesus, who was before them.

In anger and frustration, Jesus could have said, “Enough! Father end this now, destroy them all! They will not learn.” But he does not. One of the most amazing things is Jesus never loses his focus for his mission. In the face of rejection, he offers grace, mercy, hope, love and forgiveness.

“Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing,” he said in Luke 23:34

Jesus wasn’t looking for our approval, he had God’s. Remember what God said at his baptism? “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).

A few thoughts here… We can never avoid rejection. In fact our risk has not decreased, it has only increased. It used to be limited to our ‘one on one’ social interactions. Today, thanks to electronic communication, we can be rejected on dating apps, chat rooms, news posts, texts, Facebook, and all kinds of other social media. 

The thing is, we have to put it into perspective. We have to be careful whose approval we seek. And one wise counselor explained, “Always consider the source and the substance.”

Instead of letting every situation get to us, we must do what Jesus told the disciples to do as they traveled from town to town. In Mark 6:11 he said, “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you; shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

Jesus’ ultimate goal was to guide us into a loving relationship with God and one another. He did not come to destroy lives; we do that well enough on our own. He came to save lives. He said in John 10:10, “I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.”

Which brings me to my last and most important point; Jesus will never reject you. When someone else rejects you there will be deep wounds, there’s no denying that. He knows how we feel and he offers us an answer…

Isaiah 53:3-5 reads, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Surely he took up our sicknesses, and he carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken by God, struck by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, — and by his wounds we are healed.”

No matter how much rejection we are dealt, the love and grace God gives in return, covers it all. Like him, we can turn to the Father for assurance and find the comfort we seek.

May God guide you, to find in rejection, creative ways, like Jesus, to go the extra mile to serve even those who despise you in this life. As Luke 6:27-28 reminds us, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

That is your assignment…       Amen.

 

The Lamb of God Notes – Feb. 3, 2019

One Sunday a young pastor decided to use the 23rd Psalm for his children’s sermon. He began telling them about sheep; that they aren’t smart and need lots of guidance. A shepherd’s job, he said, is to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals and keep them from wandering away.

He pointed to the little children in the room and said they were the sheep and that they needed lots of guidance. Then the pastor put his hands up in a dramatic gesture, and said to the children, “If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?” He was clearly hoping they would say he was.

A few seconds of silence, then one little boy said, “Jesus is the shepherd.”

The young pastor was caught by surprise, said to the boy, “Well, then, who am I?”

The boy thought for a moment and said, “I guess you must be the sheep dog.”

If I could be that close to Jesus, I’d take that job.  I believe that most dogs are pretty noble creatures. Hey, I’ve been called worse!

But that little boy was right, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He has also been called; The Cornerstone, The Messiah, The True Vine, The Word of God and The Son of David. Some folks have even created long lists of over 150 names that are used to describe Jesus.

The Israelites were waiting for a Savior and King. They liked to use words that instilled confidence and power. They liked to think of Jesus as the Deliverer (like Moses); The Judge of Israel; The King of the Ages; The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So it is kind of interesting the way John the Baptist describes Jesus after his baptism. The next day, it says in John 1:29, Jesus was returning to the place where John was preaching. When John saw him he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have know him, but ‘the one who sent me to baptize with water’ told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the son of God.”

Again, the very next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

Now, this is not a coincidence, John the Baptist said the same thing two days in a row, the question is why? At this point, a lot of pastors begin preaching about atonement, substitution and restitution. They preach about the perfect sacrifice and how Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross. While all of that is great theology, at this point, it just doesn’t make sense.

Lambs get slaughtered and placed on the altar. This is supposed to be the Messiah, the Deliverer, The Son of God. The Israelites were waiting for someone to come and free them from oppression by the Roman government. They wanted a warrior not a lamb.

If John the Baptist would have said, “Look, the Mighty Lion of Judah” it would make more sense…but a lamb? So what was he thinking?

There are only two theories that hold up in relation to John the Baptists words.

The first theory is that John’s Gospel was written long after Jesus died and that John took some ‘creative liberties’ with his gospel. Unlike Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s Gospel is more into symbolism and metaphor. It was also written much later.

John’s Gospel is also deeper into theology and Christology. Jesus is the Logos (the word of God), He is the Bread of Life, The Gate, The Vine, the I Am and the Lamb of God. In other words, John is proclaiming to his audience that ‘Jesus is God’ and then he goes on to explain how he fulfilled prophecy.

The second theory though, is closer to the other three Gospels. It is saying that we just have to understand the context that John used when he called Jesus ‘The Lamb of God’. We tend to look at it ‘as if’ John understood everything like we do now. He clearly did not.

When we think of Jesus as the Lamb of God, we tend to think about the cross and his death in our place. While it is true, the unblemished, uninjured lamb was the perfect sacrifice; that was not the only way the Israelites understood what it meant to be the Lamb of God.

You see, animal sacrifice was only a temporary fix and had to be repeated at least twice a year. The blood of the lambs covered sin but did not eliminate the long term problem.

In early Hebrew history, they also knew the Messiah as ‘the triumphant Lamb of God’. This is the Lamb we see later in the book of Revelation. This Lamb of God, did not come to be slaughtered but came to end the practice of sacrifice. This conquering Savior would literally take away the sin of the world. That is the Messiah that John the Baptist was speaking of.

Later, John the Baptist even questioned Jesus asking, “Are you the one who has come or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:10)

This Gentle, humble, compassionate Jesus wasn’t getting things done, at least not in the way they expected; so naturally, John had to wonder was there another savior coming?

In June of 2008, Rev. Mark Galli wrote a book called “Jesus Mean and Wild”. In it he writes, “The Contemporary Church loves to paint Jesus as gentle, meek and…, well, nice; but Jesus loved to make people uncomfortable and he was impulsive.

 Author John Ortberg writes, “Mark writes of a Jesus that is unleashed, untamed, undomesticated, and unpredictable. I want to know this Jesus, though he scares me a little.”

While it is true that Jesus screamed at the Pharisees and teachers of the Law and even turned over the tables in the Temple, most of the time Jesus tried to avoid confrontation. He often just slipped away or refused to be cornered by his enemies.

He told stories and answered questions with a question. He told his disciples to pay to God what was God’s and pay what was Caesar’s to Caesar. When he was arrested, he told his disciples who were itching for a fight, “No More of this!” (Luke 22:51)

And when Pilate addressed him, Jesus remained silent. (Mark 14:61)     Isaiah 53:7 reads, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; he was led like a lamb to slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”

Still today we have trouble understanding just who Jesus was and still is. We are more comfortable with Jesus as a cross between; John Wayne, Rocky or Rambo than as a sacrificial Lamb.

Who doesn’t like to sing, “God’s not dead, surely he’s alive. He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion.” The problem is; we want Jesus to be tough on everyone else but us!

We want him to ride in on a white horse and bring justice but we want mercy and grace.

Truth be told, what we really need is a God of compassion. We need a God who forgives. A God who really shows us love, mercy and grace; and a Savior who came to take away the sin of the world.

In the Old Testament, Hosea mentions that God has a loud voice, like the roar of a lion. And later he uses metaphors to say that God will avenge his enemies like a lion, a leopard or a bear. Yet in the midst of this, God states, that even though he is aroused, he will not carry out his fierce anger, nor will he devastate cities. Instead he says in Hosea 11:9, “For I am God, and not man the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.”

And get this, the title ‘The Lion of Judah’ only appears once in scripture. In Revelation 5:5, we ‘see’ Jesus – but listen closely, “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.”

And when John looked, here is what he saw, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.” (Revelation 5:6)

A careful look at scripture, 1 Peter 5:8 reveals who the lion is, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

And Proverbs 28:15, Zephaniah 3:1-3 and Ezekiel 22:24-29 describe wicked rulers, evil nations – and evil men as roaring lions waiting to pounce on the innocent. In fact, the New Testament never refers to God as a lion. Yet it does speak of Jesus as a lamb over 37 times. In the final pages of the Bible, it is the Lamb who brings peace.

Revelation 21:3-4 reads, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

God gives us what we need, not what we think we want. Imagine this; he was triumphant through vulnerability and non-violence.

It was his compassion and love that overcomes all hatred. In his weakness is strength. It’s crazy, laughable, almost unimaginable, surprising, remarkable, wonderful, beautiful, — and completely true.

Who could have imagined that the Lamb of God was the real image of our God in heaven? “God’s not dead, he’s surely alive. He is living on the inside, and he’s as gentle as a lamb.”

Your assignment is,…to look up the lyrics for the song Agnus Dei, which means lamb of God. Post them where you can look at them all week long. Jesus is worthy of all honor and praise. Worthy is the Lamb.

And never forget, Jesus calls all of us to live like him, gentle, forgiving, loving, merciful and sacrificially. How will you live that out this week? Let me know next Sunday.

Amen.