Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 23 February 2016

The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. Mark 14, verses 46-52.

Bible scholars think the young naked man was John Mark: the same Mark whose book we’ve been examining.   If it isn’t him, then why include this strange and, frankly, inappropriate passage in the narrative?   No matter, I think John Mark’s reaction would be the same one that each of us would have had if we had been present when Jesus was arrested?

“You think I’d go running naked into the night after the church security tried to arrest me?” Yep. I’m saying exactly that.   Don’t worry or feign modesty because I’m right there beside you, streaking towards Jerusalem.

Think about it.   We’ve been following Jesus for awhile.   We aren’t part of His close inner circle, but we’ve been following Him long enough to put our faith in Him, to know that He’s got big things planned.   Just what those ‘big things’ are we can’t really say, but we want to be around when they happen.   You see, He’s been preaching truth and love and endurance and facing up to your problems.   Nobody we know of has ever spoken like this, and based on what we know from what we’ve seen and heard, we agree that He is the Christ:   the Holy One of God promised since the time of our ancient forefathers.   He has finally come, at long last, to restore our nation in more ways than one. We adore Him and believe He knows us fully.

Just five days ago, we walked in the glorious procession behind Him as He entered Jerusalem like an arriving King.   Yet He didn’t lead military columns or come in to vanquish the local government.   Instead, He went to the Temple and did what we’ve wanted to do for a long time:   clean it out; it’s sort of like what we wish He would do to Congress.   Anyway, ever since then, He has been teaching, and dining with close friends, and He’s been different; passionate, insightful, wise and kind, but different.   If Jesus is the Christ we’ve been waiting for, then things aren’t going down the way we always thought they would.

Now come these armed guards, sent by the temple priests, and they’ve arrested Jesus.   They’ve tied Him up and are frog-walking Him away.   They’ve beaten some of His Disciples, and a swordfight broke out.   When the guards came for you and me, we didn’t put up much of a fight because we were confused, addled, scared.   Instead, we struggled to break free and then get away but lost our clothes.   Where they’ve taken Jesus, we don’t know.   All we know is that something bad is going down and it’s going down quick.

So on that chilly Judean Good Friday morning, if I were in Gethsemene at all, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I was running away with John Mark.   Naked, exposed and very afraid.

Lord, forgive my naked fear. Forgive me for not standing by You, for running away when You needed me most.

Read Mark 14, verses 53-65.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 19 February 2016

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Mark 14, verses 41-42.

If you drive through the American South, you see all kinds of religious billboards.   Many of them implore you to know Jesus as soon as possible because we don’t know when He’s coming back.   I used to see one south of Savanna, Oklahoma that said “watch and pray for we know not what hour the Son of God will return.” There are others that quote dire verses of Scripture announcing hellfire for those who reject Jesus’ open invitation to free salvation. There are still more that have sayings like “Talk with me before it’s too late.   Sincerely, God.” Announcing God’s impending judgment on us isn’t necessarily regional; I suppose signs like these are everywhere. I’ve simply noticed more of them here in the Bible Belt.

Guess what?   They’re all true. Today’s verses prove it.

It’s before sunrise on the morning of Good Friday. Jesus is exhausted while His Disciples have had fitful intermittent rest on the cold Gethsemene ground. After imploring them to keep watch for sin, Jesus returns to them a third time and brings them up short.   The night is over; no more rest; no more interruptions. It’s time to get up because there’s work ahead today. It’s going to be the hardest day of your lives.

“Today I’m going to die.”

The Son of Man was delivered into the hands of sinners.   Make no mistake about it:   the temple guards who seized Jesus were sinners indeed.   They were players in a staged drama predicted since the fall of man.   These ‘innocent’ actors were only doing the bidding of their priestly overseers.   The overseers were only doing the bidding of the chief priests.   The chief priests had only initiated this arrest because Judas Iscariot came to them with news they wanted to hear.   Judas Iscariot only betrayed Jesus to the priests because he was a sinful twisted man.  He was sinful and twisted because he listened to Satan.   Satan was evil because he reveled in sin.

So do I; so do you.   We’re thick with sin and no better than Judas or the guards.   The Bible tells us so.   Jesus said so.   All those billboards scream out the fact. Here’s the good news.

Jesus faced His betrayer. The verses and chapters of Mark after this all describe the story of how He faced His betrayer, how He loved Him anyway, and then how He went to His death as an innocent lamb to slaughter. He did this because the Disciples slept instead of kept watch for sinful temptation.   He did it because Judas Iscariot, the chief priests and those temple guards were dead in their sins if He didn’t.   He did it because all the sins I’ve done today and every day of my life demand more of a penalty than I can pay.   He did it because the same thing can be said about you and everyone we know.

Will you face down your betrayer today?   Will you face your sins and own up to them, then face Jesus and repent of them?   Bibles and billboards remind us how it’s imperative that we do so.

Lord Jesus, I’m sinful through and through.   Thank You for Your holy sacrifice, for facing your betrayer, for dying for us.

Read Mark 14, verses 43-52.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 February 2016

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, verses 10-11.

Just after witnessing the woman anoint Jesus, Judas went to the Jewish priests and betrayed Jesus. Maybe he was PO’d that Jesus had encouraged the huge ‘waste of money’ that came with dumping the priceless nard over Jesus’ head.   Maybe he had had enough of all the pussy-footing goody goody do-good nature of Jesus and His “love everybody” message.   Maybe Judas had a bad day.

In reality, he had a really bad day.   One of the other Gospels refers to the betrayal by saying “then Satan entered” Judas.   The day Satan enters you is the worst in your life because only terrible things flow from that.   To be honest, I think Satan entered all of us years ago, as babies.   Ever heard a two-year old say “no?”   Yep:   sin.   They learned it somewhere, and they applied it because Satan had already taken up residence.

A bad day for Judas, indeed, when you betray the Son of Man for a sack of coins.

But do you want to know a secret?   I’ve always felt sorry for Judas; Pontius Pilate, too.   My sorrow for them is (obviously) tempered by my after-the-fact knowledge they didn’t have.   I know Jesus was resurrected.   I know He is the Son of God.   I know the history of the faith and what it means to have His Spirit working in my life.   Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate had to experience events in real time.   What we read as history are events through which they lived as they were happening.   They didn’t have Bible concordances and two thousand years of interpretive Christian perspective. We can look down on their terrible choices and we should, yet don’t lose sight of knowing that they made those bad choices without applying any fore-knowledge of just who Christ said He was. They lived through it; we didn’t.

I feel sorry for Judas because he became even more destitute and pathetic than he was before.   I’m betting he was the smartest of the disciples, that he had canny sense and was both analytic and street-wise.   He made a choice to cast his lot (pun intended) with those who sought to kill Jesus.   He knew what the priests had in mind, and he knew that his action was risky.   Perhaps he calculated that he would somehow benefit from this choice, from this betrayal.   Otherwise why do it?   Don’t forget that Satan had entered into Judas, though. With Satan indwelt, all bets would be off.

Yet I feel sorry for Judas because that choice brought him only misery, death and (I assume) damnation. Jesus loved Judas.   Let that sink in.   Jesus Christ loved Judas Iscariot.   Jesus didn’t want Judas to be further deceived by the great deceiver. Jesus wanted Judas to live a life in praise of Him, sharing His Spirit with Judas so Judas could share it with others. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of Judas Iscariot just like He did for yours, mine, and Adolf Hitler’s. And Judas betrayed Him anyway. By Good Friday afternoon, when Jesus died, Judas had already hanged himself.   I feel sorry for him, that the consequences of his choices were so dire and awful.

Lord, forgive all who sin, who betray You with our sins, who let You down.   Forgive and rebuild us, Savior Jesus.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.

Practical Proverbial, from Ruth, 18 April 2014. Good Friday

This, then, is the family line of Perez:  Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.  Ruth 4, verses 18 through 22.

Here ends our journey through the book of Ruth.   It’s fitting we should end this journey here, today, on Good Friday, talking about genealogy.  The Bible spends quite a few pages listing peoples’ genealogies, both to identify legitimacy and to prove Godly origin.  Knowing that, it’s a good thing to remember where Jesus came from.

    He came from forever.   True, a few people can claim a biological ties to the king of Israel and the King of Kings, but that’s nothing special; really, it isn’t.   Where are those people today?   Not even Dan Brown can tell you.  It’s for our edification that God included Jesus’ family tree in His instruction manual for life.   Maybe it helps us see Jesus as both man and God.   But the people listed in Scripture aren’t His only family.   We are His family too because He adopted us.   He is our ancestor, creator, brother, father, and descendant; wrap your noggin around that concept for awhile and let me know if you can figure it out.   I’m still trying.

But all my trying inevitably leads me back to the only conclusion possible (or desirable, even).  Jesus is God from forever.  He Is the I AM.   He didn’t descend, evolve, or simply be born in ways we can fully comprehend.   We get the human part, but the rest of it is the mystery of the ages and the only mystery that matters.   He proved it to Ruth.   What happened today proves it forever.

The writer of Ruth recorded the lineage of Obed from Perez, Obed’s ancestor, down to King David, Obed’s grandson.   He recorded the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz as a poetic way of describing God’s relationship with us.   That relationship is based on more than just family bloodlines.   It is based on undeserved love, unquestioning loyalty, and unending beauty.  The writer gave us this story forever because God’s love is forever…because God, the creator yet physical descendant of Ruth and Obed and David, is forever.

This story, how Jesus loves us and is loyal to us even when all else fails, also goes on forever.  While one book of the Bible ends, others remain.   All of them are Jesus’ gift to us in how He reveals Himself to us.  He revealed Himself to a poor girl from Moab, and to a destitute family from Judea, and, in time, to us all.

Jesus, thank You for Your story of Ruth.   Thank You for revealing Yourself to us, and for remaining for us forever.

 

Read the story of Good Friday found in the four Gospels, then read the Easter story found just after.

 

Daily Proverbial, from James, 26 December 2013

As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.  James 4, verse 16.

Merry Christmas on onward towards New Years.   Dinner was pretty good yesterday, and it was great to spend the day hanging out with my family.  Soon, the tree will come down and the decorations will be put away.   Before that happens, however, what arrogant schemes and evil boasting am I doing?

You see, Christmas should be a gut-check.   Once a year, as we’re making merry and enjoying how we commemorate the birth of the King of Kings, we should give ourselves a gut-check.   The day after (what I hope was) a merry day, here is James, smacking us in the gob with our evil arrogance.

Did you get a diamond ring under the tree?   Good for you, but keep it in perspective.   Was your Christmas meal a feast?   Again, good for you, but how about a little reflection (and a few sit-ups).  Tell me (better yet, tell Jesus):  what are you holding on to that makes you boast, or feel cocky, or even make your chest swell?

Yesterday, we watched the end of “Ben Hur,” after which I went into my office to write these words.   Between the two, I got my gut check.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s the story of a man and his family, and how their lives are touched by the polar opposites of Rome and the Son of God.  Near the end, the main character sees Christ crucified:   hardly a Christmas scene (which, btw, is how the movie begins).   I realized what the day was all about while sitting there next to my very-pregnant daughter.   The miracle birth at Christmas is only made complete by the miracle death coming at Easter.  Without that death, Christmas is meaningless.   Congratulations, Dave:   you grasped an obvious cliché.

And yet it’s more.   It’s more because James gob-smacked me with reality and told me how much my fat Christmas self needs that brutal murder on Good Friday.  And how much everything else pales.

Prime rib in the roaster:   tasteless.   New tools, a new puzzle, new clothes:   close, but no cigar.  Beautiful tree, decades-old traditions, priceless decorations:  whatever.   Precious memories with the people I love most in the world:  worthless, in compare.  Ten seconds of heart-to-heart with the Man from Galilee whose birth we did all this to celebrate:   merry Christmas, one and all.   All those wonderful blessings are special, to be sure, but they’re only made special by knowing it’s Jesus who does so, and whom we share, and Who was and is and is to come. Holding on to anything else is simply evil.

Only by letting go of the things that I hold dear, even the deeply buried resentments and arrogance, can I truly understand how beautiful is the death of the Savior made possible by the miracle of His birth.  That’s the best Christmas gift of all.

Thank You, Lord, for your birth…and for how we will soon remember Your saving death.

 

What so-called gifts are you holding onto too close?

What should you let go of?

When did you last consider Christmas without Easter?