Archive for March, 2013
“So Pilate then handed Him over to them to be crucified” (John 19:16).
The idea that Jesus was “handed over” is a common thread in John’s gospel. Judas handed Him over to the Jewish authorities. They handed Him over to Pilate and the gentile authorities. Pilate handed Him over to the soldiers. The soldiers handed Him over to death on the cross. That He was “handed over” by so many during the final week of His life gives the appearance of being a victim. However, there is a larger story that precedes this Passion Week. “For God so loved the world that He “handed over” His only begotten Son.” Anticipating His death, Jesus said about His own life, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I “hand it over” on my own initiative…and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Jesus was no victim being handled. He was, at every stage, the Victor handling everything as it had been intended.
So much has been “handed over” for our benefit, might our Easter prayer be a determination to “hand back” our lives to Him as a living sacrifice.
“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink” (John 6:54-55).
Because of its association with the body and blood of Christ, some might consider the title of today’s devotion offensive. That’s okay because many disciples found this particular teaching of Jesus to be offensive. In fact, many would fall away and no longer continue with Him (v.66). Whatever one’s theology regarding the “real presence” of Christ in the communion elements, it is in Him that we find real food and drink; a true and filling diet of satisfying Truth. In a world that offers only an empty calorie diet of false, fleeting, relative, and ever-changing propositions, I can certainly understand why His words would be offensive.
“Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus” (Matthew 26:14-16).
For those traditions that follow the Revised Common Lectionary, Wednesday of Holy Week is recognized as the day Judas first conspired with the chief priests to betray Jesus. What Judas did was premeditated and his name has survived only in scorn. But, what of our betrayals? Oh, we would never be so crass as to sell Him out in such a calculated way, nor for money. Our betrayals are unplanned, unintentional, but nonetheless significant and damaging. When we fail to gather rhythmically with the community of faith for corporate worship are we not betraying Him and the confession of our lips? When we pass judgement and withhold grace, embrace greed instead of giving joyfully, or demonstrate destructive attitudes instead of portraying the fruit of the Spirit are we not also betraying Jesus? Don’t worry, He recognized all of this within us. That’s why Friday is coming.
“The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29).
For the uninitiated, Passion Week, the events and suffering leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord, culminates in what they see as a horrific accident; as something that never should have occurred. What should be noted, however, is that in every unfolding event during this last week of Jesus’ life, from His betrayal, to His arrest, to His trial, and even to the cross He is in control and reigns supreme. What is true in the last week of His life was anticipated and understood in the very first week of His public ministry, and even heralded by John the Baptist.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).
This proverb, familiar in the day of Jesus, is an admonition to be patient. What Jesus is arguing for, however, is just the opposite. His charge to disciples then and now is that when it comes to the work of evangelism, being a missional presence in the world, NOW is the time. Don’t wait! Your daily life is pregnant with opportunities to be the presence of Christ. What one soon discovers is when we wait for another chance we, inevitably, miss the only chance we had.
“When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10).
Deterred and denied access to the places he wanted to go, Paul, now in Troas, has a vision for an opportunity nearly 300 miles away in Macedonia. We have all been to Troas–that place in life where we don’t really want to be. The greater question is one of vision. We have either a nearsighted faith, focused on our own narrow concerns, or we have farsighted faith that concludes we are to go further than the circumstances that seek to restrain us.
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2).
It’s unfortunate that so many perceive God as a heavenly killjoy, and His moral codes as the means by which He deprives us of the pleasures to which we think we are entitled. A more appropriate understanding is to see His Laws and precepts as an efficient guide to how life is best lived, and the means by which we function together in community. Even under grace, we cannot reject the moral absolutes that God saw as basic to human existence. When society rejects the absoluteness of moral law and embraces, instead, moral relativity, it cannot then complain about the want of virtue. Relativity emasculates the human spirit and then wonders why it doesn’t produce character.
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which our fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
The parting conversation I had with each of my children as they left home included a challenge regarding their relationship with the Lord. My word to them was that they would now find out if their faith is really their own, or if they have just been borrowing from their mom and dad. As the crowning achievement in God’s created order, we are designed to both choose and worship. By our very nature we are going to choose to worship something. Will it be the God or gods of your family that, maybe, you don’t really know? Will it be the gods of your culture? Or, will it be the Lord our God, revealed and known in the person of Jesus Christ? It is a pass/fail test. Choose well.
“I have food to eat that you do not know about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:32, 34).
I’ve heard it expressed that every between-meal trip to the pantry or refrigerator is a search for God. The same could be said of the drink ordered at the bar; the use of illegal drugs or the abuse of prescription drugs; every illicit relationship. The idea being that many seek to fulfill the boredom, stress, and meaningless of everyday life with things that bring comfort and a sense of being fulfilled, only to realize that it is a temporary satisfaction. The eternal longings of the soul will never be fulfilled by the physical offerings of this world. It’s only in relationship with Christ and living for Him that our deepest appetites are filled.
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).
The idea of vocation finds its origin in the Christian faith and refers to the call of God on a person’s life. Vocation then was life being lived in service to God. After the middle ages the term found it’s way into common vernacular and was used to express what one did to “make a living.” For life to be more than just existing; trying to make it through the day or next pay period, we must recover the original sense of vocation–no longer meaning what we do to make a living but a way of living that gives life meaning. Only then does the most menial job or task become a glorious offering to the service of God.