pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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It Is Finished

Reading: John 19: 16-30

Verse 30: “Jesus said, ‘It is finished’. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”.

In John’s gospel we move quickly from Pilate handing Jesus over to Jesus being on the cross. In the other gospels there is not much attention paid to the painful and torturous process that Jesus actually went through. The focus is on the fact that Jesus went to the cross for us. Once there, John focuses on a few details.

First, the sign. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. The religious leaders protest but Pilate does not budge. The truth remains atop the cross. Second, the four soldiers divide His clothing and cast lots for the 5th item – the perfect one. This fulfills a passage from Psalm 22. Third – the human side of Jesus emerges. He is near the end and looks down and sees His mother. Also present is John, “the disciple whom He loved”. In an act of care and compassion, Jesus arranges for His mother’s care.

A bit later the time comes. After a sip of wine vinegar, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished’. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”. The sins of the world had been heaped upon Jesus. He was ready to depart. Jesus was not at the point of death by crucifixion. He was not suffocating. The task had been completed and it was time for Jesus to end the earthly pain. His last breath was on His terms.

The body that God has inhabited hung on the cross, naked, bloodied and beaten, lifeless. It showed how God’s love had entered the world and lived among us. It showed how God endured much pain and suffering for our benefit. The scars are the scars of our sin. The marks represent what Jesus bore for you and for me. Jesus was wounded for and by our transgressions. It would be a tragic end to a really good three years of ministry and teaching if it all ended here on the cross.

The body will be laid in the tomb. Two brave men go and get the body of Jesus, prepare the body, and leave it in the tomb. The Sabbath is near. The Jewish day of preparation is drawing to a close. God was preparing for much more. We await it upon Easter Sunday. God bless.

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

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Joyful Praise

Reading: Luke 19: 28-40

Verse 40: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”.

The parade that we observe today began with Jesus’ disciples singing joyfully as the approached Jerusalem. As His followers participated in a somewhat impromptu gathering, they did what Jews often did when approaching or ascending into the city: they sang a Psalm. The followers of Jesus were singing from Psalm 118 on this joyous occasion. Verse 26 reads, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. It has been implied that as the disciples neared the city, others joined in the singing and in the parade. Note the words in verse 38 from our text for today. It reads, “Blessed is the king who comes…”. It is a subtle but important shift.

In general, the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their religion. They were allowed to hold the three major festivals each year even though they drew large crowds. Large crowds meant possible rebellion so the Romans tended to be on edge during the festivals. Passover was approaching so the population of Jerusalem would be starting to swell. As long as the religious leaders kept the crowds under control, the Romans tolerated the festivals and regular practices of worship and sacrifice. Being able to keep things under control was essential to the religious leaders keeping their positions. Thus, as the crowd built, waving palms, singing, laying down a royal carpet with their cloaks, the use of the word “king” aroused the religious leaders. They asked Jesus to quiet the crowd. Jesus chooses not to. Instead, Jesus says, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”. It is a reference to how all of creation glorifies the Creator. It is a way to claim who He was without crossing too far over the religious leader’s line.

Today, on Palm Sunday, we too may get caught up with the crowd. There will be lots of smiles and some joyous singing in churches this morning as the palms are paraded around. That joy is good for us in two ways. First, it connects us to our King, to our creator, to our sustainer, to our redeemer, through joyful praise. It is good and right to praise the Lord. Second, we need some joy as we step off into Holy Week. The joy of today reminds us of the joy that comes in a week, on Easter or Resurrection Sunday. It is important to remember that in the end, we are Easter people. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: God, like the stones, may I cry out. May I join the crowd this week in joyful praise of you, my King. Sustain me with that joy as I walk through Holy Week, bringing me at last to Easter Sunday. Thank you, God. Amen.


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Easter People

Reading: 1 John 1:1 through 2:2

Verse 1:7 – “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin”.

Just seven days ago we celebrated Easter. It is all on clearance in the stores. Whatever did not sell is now available at 60-80% off. For some who came to church last Sunday and even for some who return today, Easter is done and over. The good news that we were selling on Easter Sunday seems like old news and is already deeply discounted.

Yet for all believers everywhere, Easter still echoes in our hearts and minds because we are an Easter people and the news is still good. We know that because of Jesus Christ we are loved and forgiven and are freed from the chains of sin and death. At times we are broken and sinful, but Jesus’ love always conquers our failures. Because we walk daily with Jesus, we are given grace and are made into a new creation over and over, each day becoming more Christ-like.

As Easter people we seek to live in unity with one another. Yes, we do have disagreements and at times we do not see eye to eye, but we do strive to live in community as one body, because “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin”. It is through Jesus that we have community as ‘one body’ and it is through Jesus that we are forgiven and justified. We find wholeness, both corporate and personal, through Jesus Christ.

As Easter people we also have hope. Verse two reads, in part, “we proclaim to you the eternal life”. I missed the importance of this line when I read this passage earlier in the week. Jesus is the eternal life. It connects with what John wrote in John 1 and again in today’s scripture. Jesus always has been, is, and always will be life. Jesus is the eternal life and He invites us to join Him in eternal life as well. Talk about good news! This hope of promise beyond this world was, is, and always will be good news. As Easter people, may we share this hope today and every day.


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News to Share

Reading: 1st John 1:1 to 2:2

Verse 2:2 – “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”.

1st John opens with some excitement in the writing. In his words we can still sense the excitement related to the recent resurrection. John bases his authority to proclaim the gifts of eternal life and salvation from sins on his firsthand experience hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus. The opening section concludes with, “We write this to make our joy complete”. John receives joy from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Coming off Easter Sunday we too should be full of good news to share with those in our world. Yesterday we joyously celebrated the risen Lord. Will we go out into the world sharing the joy? Will you?

John goes on in the remainder of 1st John 1 to encourage us to walk in the light. He writes, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness”. We must walk in the light to remain connected to God. John writes of the benefits of this choice. First, we have fellowship with one another. Second, we experience the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. For our part, we must confess and seek to repent of our sins. John also acknowledges the reality of sin in our lives. He reminds us that we do walk in darkness, in our sin, at times. John also warns us not to claim that we do not sin because then we “make Him out to be a list”. Don’t want to do that!

In 1st John 2, John goes on the address when we sin. He reminds us of two important details in our battle with sin. First, Jesus speaks to God on our behalf. He stands between God and our sins. Second, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. He has already paid the price for our sins and, in fact, has paid the price for the sins of the whole world.

All of this is indeed good news worthy of sharing. There are none more in need of hearing this news than our broken and hurting brothers and sisters who are living lost lives. If we do not share the stories of the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, how can they come to know the healing and redeeming power of Jesus Christ in their lives? Yesterday we were reminded that we are Easter people, that we are resurrection people. The good news is always good. It is always worthy of sharing. May we each live our love of Jesus out loud each and every day, helping others to walk in the light of God’s love. Lord, give us the strength and courage so that it may be so. Amen.


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A Day of Quiet and Reflection

Reading: Matthew 27: 57-66

Verse 59: “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock”.

Today is a hard day for the followers of Jesus. It is a day of waiting. We read today of a brave man named Joseph who wanted to care for Jesus’ body at the end of the day Friday. He did not want the body left on the cross on the Sabbath. So Joseph gets permission from Pilate to place Jesus’ body in his own tomb. We read, “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock”. In John’s gospel we are told that Joseph had a helper. In John 19:39 we read that Nicodemus, the one who secretly visited Jesus at night, helps Joseph. A seed planted by Jesus has obviously been at work in Nicodemus.

Also present are two of the women who were regularly in the group that followed and cared for Jesus. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses “were sitting there opposite the tomb”. They are present maybe for a couple of reasons. One is practical. The placing of Jesus’ body in the tomb was quick and temporary. The women intended to return after observing the Sabbath to properly care for Jesus’ body with the usual spices. They were also present to mourn and grieve. To be physically near the one who has just passed is something that can bring some peace and comfort. In these moments, what else can one do?

This day has traditionally been a day of waiting. For Christians, we know what happens tomorrow – the grave is empty! Today we wait with anticipation and excitement. But, for Jesus’ followers, this day is a day of mourning and a lot of “now what” questions. It is a day of stillness and quiet. It is a day of confusion and discomfort. We have all been through the day after losing someonene dear. We all know the emotions and the thoughts that run through our hearts and minds. We know just what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and all of Jesus’ followers felt that day.

Today, may we too enter the stillness and the emotions of what it would be like to not have Jesus’ presence. In the stillness may we connect to the women outside the tomb. In the consideration of not living in His presence may we come to rejoice in the glory of living daily with the power and presence of the risen Christ. Today us a day of quiet and reflection. For us there is no sadness, for we know that Easter is coming. Hallelujah and amen!


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Eyes of Love

Reading: Mark 15: 21-40

Verses 37-38: “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”.

In Mark’s gospel we get a pretty abbreviated telling of the crucifixion and events surrounding it. It goes something like this: man carries cross, Jesus crucified, divided clothes, people mocked Him, got dark, Jesus cried out then died, curtain torn, some women watched. Mark’s story does have a few more words and details, but not a whole lot more.

It is odd to read through the crucifixion story a week before it actually happens. On Good Friday we will wrestle with it a whole lot more. Yet it is good to think of this day as we prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend. The children will parade around with palm branches waving, full of excitement, just like the first Palm Sunday crowd. The contrast with these two events is stark and sobering.

When we step back into our own lives, for most folks life is good. We have our routines and the little things that bring us joy. Then one day suffering comes our way. We cling to God and we get through it. After a time, we look back upon said event and we see it differently. We see how God loved and cared for us in the trial. We see what was pain with eyes of love and gratitude.

I think Jesus saw the cross this way – with eyes of love. He knew why He had come. It was to be this sacrifice. He also knew that resurrection was coming. He saw the other side of the suffering so He viewed this difficult and painful experience with eyes of love. “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last”. A simple end. Across town, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”. The thing that kept people separated from the Holy of Holies, where they thought God dwelled, was torn wide open. All will now be able to enter God’s presence directly and personally. I suppose that was another reason that Jesus saw this event with eyes of love too.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, may we also keep an eye on both the crucifixion and the resurrection. As we do so, we see all of the last days of Jesus with eyes of love. May it be so.


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Are We Willing?

If you set your calendars by the stores, Easter is over.  But the season of Easter lasts 50 days.  We are in the space between resurrection and ascension.  It is a season of life, surprise, delight.  Nature participates too.  I do not think it is coincidence that flowers are blooming and trees are starting to leaf out.

Instead of savoring this season, we allow ourselves to return to everyday life.  We too easily write off encounters with God’s grace and mercy and the Spirit’s activity in the world as odd occurences or coincidences instead of the faith moments they are.  If we are not tuned to the small and quiet workings of God, perhaps we miss them all together.

In Acts 3 the apostles perform an act in God that others cannot miss of ignore.  They heal a man who had been lame for as long as anyone around could remember.  Certainly the man healed was excited.  The religious leaders were confused.  Peter let them know that the man was healed in the power of and in the name of Jesus, the one they killed but God resurrected.  But the apostles deflected all the glory to God – they were just ordinary people serving a risen Christ. An event like this today would draw our attention as well.

Evidences of God’s grace, mercy, and love still abound today.  In our community a high school senior recently lost his life.  Both the faith community and the family of the boy killed gathered around the driver of the car and his family and prayed over them and offered them forgiveness.  It was and is a tremendous example of God being alive and well in our world today.  For us, we need to remember that they are just ordinary people living out the faith that He gives.  We too are ordinary people through whom God wants to do a mighty work.  Our question is: are we willing?

Scripture reference: Acts 3: 12-19