pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Blood

Reading: Exodus 12: 1-11

Verse Seven: Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses…

After many years of slavery in Egypt, God is about to free His chosen people.  He has heard their cries and has sent Moses to free them.  Nine plagues have hardened Pharaoh’s heart but the tenth will set them free.  It will become a touchstone moment for the Israelites.  This event is so important that God resets the calendar to zero to begin the next stage in the history of His people.  It is an event that continues to be celebrated yearly in Jewish homes.

God gives specific instructions for this night – select a lamb or goat without defect and care for it for four days in your home.  Slaughter it at twilight and roast the meat over a fire.  Do not boil it or eat it raw.  Eat or burn all of it.  Eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.  Eat it in haste – with your cloak tucked in and sandals on your feet and staff in hand.  Be ready when Pharaoh relents.  And the blood.  “Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses”.  Take the blood from the sacrifice and use it to mark yourself as mine, says God.  Celebrate the meal exactly this way.  Trust in God and the plan He has laid out.  Trust and follow the plan.  Know that God is with you and will go with you wherever you will go.  Every year Jews celebrate the Passover, remember God’s promises, and look forward to continuing to live in His promises.

The same imagery and message come on the cross.  Remember the blood of the Lamb.  Remember how Jesus bled for you and for me.  Celebrate the blood that washes away our sin and marks us as holy and pure in God’s sight.  And remember the promises: the cross is because I love you.  I will be with you always.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  I love you.  Thanks be to God for His everlasting promises of love and grace.  We are and always will be His.  Thanks be to God.

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Come and Follow

Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28

Verse 24: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Jesus was quite the radical in His day.  He called a group of men to be His disciples not from within the elite of the pre-Rabbi schools but out of ordinary life.  He did not spend all of His time in the temple but was out in the towns and villages eating and teaching the sinners and the lost.  Jesus did not simply read the scriptures and proclaim the word, but He also rolled up His sleeves and served others as a mean to show them God’s love.  He lived this way so that we would know what it looked like to live as a Christian.

In today’s passage we hear these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.  The first step is to deny self.  Society teaches us to first look out for #1, but Jesus says to put self last.  Jesus loved God with all He was and then next loved all of His neighbors more than He loved Himself.  He first sought to serve God and neighbor and only then did He consider His own needs.  In doing so, Jesus met people’s basic needs, sought equality for all, showed love and forgiveness and compassion, and lived a humble and simple life.

The next part involves taking up our cross.  On the cross of Calvary, Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice.  When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is asking us to die to self, to be willing to live with less so that others may have some, and to be a servant to all.

And then He says, “Follow me”.  Jesus calls us to do what He did, to follow His example.  Get out there into the ordinary of life – get outside the walls of the temple and our homes and our comfort zones.  Spend time with the lost – the sinners and the atheists and the non-believers.  Eat with them, talk with them, share Jesus with them.  Find ways to serve others, to meet people’s basic needs, to lift them up, and to bring them hope and justice.  In all this, we follow the One who lived God’s love out loud.  May we come and follow, showing the light and love of Christ to all for the glory of God.


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All for Jesus

Reading: Matthew 10: 24-39

Verse 30: Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Couched within this difficult passage are words of love and care.  Jesus has commissioned the twelve to go out in the beginning of Matthew 10 and now He is preparing them.  Jesus is letting them know that it will challenge them but also encouraging them to “proclaim for the roofs” what is whispered in their ears.  We too will be led by the Holy Spirit when we are willing to go out and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.  The power and presence of the Holy Spirit will whisper in our ear and give us the words we need to share.

In the middle section of our passage, Jesus emphasizes “do not fear” three times.  He is building them up for service.  He is assuring them that God deeply values them.  Jesus tells them, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered”.  He is saying God knows them intimately.  God knows us in the same way.  He knows us so well that the small detail of the number of hairs on our head is precisely known by God.  Jesus notes that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing.  So how much more are we in God’s eyes.  He says, do not worry, God has us.

The passage ends with the call to take up the cross.  For those disciples,who have literally seen people take up a cross on the way to their death, this call would have real meaning.  Jesus is asking them to be prepared to give their all.  Knowing what Jesus did on the cross, we too know what He asks of us.  Jesus is asking for our all.  The cost of discipleship can be high today as well.  To walk as Jesus walked, to be like the teacher, is hard.  But with God’s love and care and with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the difficult is made possible.  We are loved by a God who knows us intimately.  With our God all is possible.  As we go forth, being light and love, we go with God and the Spirit, empowered to transform the world.


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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One

Reading: John 17: 6-11

Verse 11: Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one.

In today’s passage Jesus is praying for those who know Him and for all who will one day know Him.  This prayer parallels Jesus’ work on the cross.  On the cross Jesus took on all sin – all that ever was and all that will ever be – for the salvation of the world.  He went through torture and pain and death for each of us.  His love for each of us is so great that Jesus would have gone to the cross even if we were the only sinner.  But we are all sinners, so Jesus gave His life for all of us.

Today Jesus speaks first of our belonging to God.  Each and every one of us is a child of God.  We are all knit together in the womb and are all therefore born with a spark of the divine within us.  We are all created by and dearly loved by God.  We are all called to God.  Even though some deny or reject God, they too sense His presence in their lives and in the world.  Out of His great love for each of His children, God continues to call out, to reach out to them.  God never gives up on anyone.

Jesus then speaks of the evolving relationship we experience as we get to know Him more and more.  As our relationship with Jesus grows, we come to see the connection between God and Jesus – that they are one.  As we continue on our journey of faith it is to become more and more one with Jesus.  We also come to see our unity with Jesus.  We long to grow in Him and to see the world as Jesus sees the world.  Our eyes become eyes of love.

Jesus ends this section of His prayer by asking for God’s hand to be upon us.  He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”.  Not only does He ask for God to be with us and to protect us, but Jesus also prays for our unity.  He knows that unity is important for Christians.  We walk the road of faith best when we walk it together.  This was Jesus’ model with the disciples and He prays for this for all who believe and for all who will believe.  Jesus desires for us to have unity not only with God and Himself, but also with each other.  This day and every day may we ever seek to be one with God, one with Jesus, and one with each other.


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The Blood

Reading: Matthew 27: 11-26

Verse 23: Why? What crime has he committed?

Today we read of the “trial” before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Like a few stops along the journey to the cross, we could ask if Jesus had to die.  Couldn’t there have been another way?  Pilate had the authority to free or to condemn Jesus.  The decision concerning life and death rested in his hands alone.

The religious authorities that have been pushing the action to this point in the story would say that Jesus has to die.  They have traded barbs with Him over the last few years and it has increasingly become an “us or Him” type of situation.  They have schemed and trumped up a charge.  They have the crowd whipped up and ready to influence Pilate.  All goes according to their plan.  Even though Pilate senses Jesus is innocent, the crowd is too much for Pilate.  They roar for Jesus’ death even as he asks them, “Why?  What crime has he committed”?  Pilate condemns Jesus to desth, but washes his hands of Jesus’ blood.

Is it all going according to their plan?  Did Jesus gave to die?  The plan being followed is not the religious authorities’ plan.  It is God’s plan.  To die, to be our sacrifice, is why God sent Jesus in the first place.  It is hard to understand why a father would send a son knowing his fate on the cross.  But God has a few years of experience with humanity.  God has sent prophet after prophet, priest after priest, king after king to try and lead the people to live in a right relationship with God.  He has seen dove after dove, lamb after lamb, cow after cow sacrificed on the altar.  None brings atonement.  None removes the guilt of our sins.  None ultimately changes the relationship between God and the people.  Mankind is sinful.  We are of the flesh so we struggle with sin.  We live in a constant battle with sin.  The old covenant left humanity captive to sin and death.

In Jesus’ death and resurrection God established a new covenant with humanity.  On the cross, Jesus took on the sin of the world.  He took on sin that was, sin that is, and sin to come.  In His sacrifice Jesus paid the price for our sin.  We do not have to offer sacrifices any longer.  Jesus is our sacrifice.  He chose the cross so that the sins of the world could be washed away.  Through His blood our sins are washed away.  Jesus fulfilled His statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  Through the name of Jesus we can claim eternal life.  In His name, our sins are forgiven.  Thank you God for the blood of the Lamb.


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Amazing Love

Reading: Matthew 26: 14-16 and 31-56

Verse 35b – And all the other disciples said the same.

Sandwiched in between Judas’ betrayal and the Garden scene in today’s reading is the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  In that upper room Jesus tells the disciples that one will betray Him.  It has already been arranged but all twelve still say, “Surely not I, Lord”.  Jesus goes on to take the bread and the cup, knowing that all twelve will betray Him.  Yes, knowing that all twelve, who have been with Him for three intimate and powerful years, would soon betray Him over and over, He still is willing to offer up His body and blood as a sacrifice for those twelve and for all of us.  What love Jesus had for these disciples and what love He had for you and I.  It is an amazing love.

In verse 31, Jesus again tells them that they all will fall away that very night.  Jesus quotes from the book of Zechariah, telling them that the sheep will scatter as the shepherd is struck down.  Peter responds that he will never fall away.  After Jesus lets him know that he will deny Jesus three times that very night, Peter declares that he will die with Jesus before he disowns Him.  All the others make the same vow.  In verse 35 we read, “And all the other disciples said the same”.

Jesus then takes the disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsamane​ and asks them to pray with Him.  He takes the inner three a little farther in and asks them to keep watch because He is overwhelmed with sorrow.  As Jesus prays we see His humanity as He prays, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me”.  We also see His obedience to God as He prays, “Yet not as I will, but as You will”.  As Jesus wrestles with the emotions roiling inside of Him, He finds the disciples asleep again and again.  In their weakness, they are already betraying Him.

Jesus does not scold or rebuke or cast them aside.  He invites them to come along, for the hour is at hand.  He is arrested and indeed the disciples scatter like lost sheep.  Yet Jesus will continue to walk this path, beginning the journey to the cross.  He walks it for the twelve.  Yes, He walks it even for Judas, the one who betrayed Him to the authorities.  He walks it for each of us too.  What amazing love.