pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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King

Reading: Mark 15: 1-15

Verse Five: “But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed”.

In our passage today, Jesus stands trial before Pilate. The religious leaders bind Jesus and bring Him to Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus a simple question: “Are you the king of the Jews”? Jesus gives a simple answer: “Yes, it is as you say”. Then the chief priests pile on the charges against Jesus. He remains silent in the face of all the accusations. They do not matter. Who and what He is has been established. What He came to do clearly lies ahead. All is going according to plan. So Jesus just stands there. Verse five reports, “But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed”.

In the same situation I think we would defend ourselves right up to the moment the nails we’re driven in. But not Jesus. The work is done. If one looks back over the course of His ministry, this fits the pattern. In all of His teachings, Jesus said what He wanted to say and left His hearers to make their own decision. Sometimes His words were encouraging, sometimes they were challenging. Sometimes they were loving, sometimes they were hard words of truth. But they were said and the rest was left up to the hearer. Jesus did not ever chase after someone who chose to walk away. He did not ever try to reword a parable so someone could understand it better.

So when Jesus stands before His accusers and Pilate, He is silent. The past three years give plenty of evidence as to who Jesus is. In the miracles we see divine power. In the teachings we see incomparable wisdom. In the parables we see the path to living for God. In the words of forgiveness we see what grace and mercy look like. Over all of this we see love. In the silence after we encounter Jesus each time, we too are left to decide. Do we follow closer or do we choose to remain where we are at? Do we engage and become a greater part of Jesus or do we remain on the edge of the crowd? Do we commit or do we wait and see what happens?

Over the cross on which Jesus died Pilate wrote these words: “King of the Jews”. It was one more silent testimony to who Jesus is. He desires to be our king as well. But there is no forcing or coersion. The choice is fully ours. Will we each choose to let Jesus be our King today?

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Sunday Is Coming

Reading: Matthew 27: 57-66

Verse 65: “Take a guard,” Pilate said, “Go, make the tomb secure as you can”.

It has been a busy week.  Palm Sunday got things started with a big, celebratory parade.  There was excitement and energy.  There was also anxiety and nervousness as well.  The religious leaders’ nerves were on edge.  As the week progressed, Jesus has remained front and center, His ministry to the people moving full steam ahead.  The tension with the religious leaders has escalated as the week progressed and culminated Thursday with Jesus’ arrest.  The trials and crucifixion buzzed through Thursday night and Friday.  By mid afternoon Jesus is dead and would soon be laid in a tomb.  The religious leaders must have breathed a huge collective sigh of relief as they sat in their homes on Friday night.

But then the thoughts crept in.  One or two or perhaps many began to recall some of Jesus’ words.  For those that did, they soon realized that the events of the past days have gone just as Jesus said they would.  And even though they thought they were running the show…  Didn’t Jesus say something about three days…

The religious leaders go to Pilate early on Saturday morning, on the Sabbath, to ask for soldiers to guard the tomb.  They call Jesus ‘that deceiver’ as they quote Him saying, “After three days I will rise again”.  The religious leaders then make a statement that is not entirely correct but contains truth.  In reference to the resurrection, they say, “This deception will be worse than the first”.  Yes, the effect will be worse for them.  Rising from the dead will be the ultimate verification that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Just as the recent events unfolded as Jesus said they would, so too will the resurrection.  Pilate has had enough and easily gives them a guard, saying, “Take a guard and make the tomb as secure as you can”.

The entire Roman army could not keep the tomb secure enough to prevent the resurrection.  It is not done by human hands.  No matter what Pilate, the religious authorities, the guard, anyone… tried to do, Sunday was coming.  Yes indeed!  Sunday is coming!


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God’s Plan

Reading: John 18:1 to 19:42

Verse 19:30 – Jesus said, “It is finished”.

Good Friday is here!  Jesus has been arrested and has been brought before Annas and Caiaphas.  Before this parade will move on to Pilate, Peter will deny Jesus three times – just as Jesus said.  Before the high priest Jesus asks, ‘What did I do wrong’?  Jesus reminds them that He taught in the temple and said nothing in private.  Yet early in the morning, Jesus ends up before Pilate, the Roman governor.

It is interesting that Jesus ends up here.  They are asking a political leader to offer a solution to their religious conflict.  On at least a few occasions, these same leaders have picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  It was an option.  It was a practice used by the Jews to punish certain sins.  The blasphemy they accuse Jesus of would qualify.  But the crucifixion fulfilled the words Jesus himself had spoken about His own death.  It was another example of how God was fully in control of what was unfolding.

Peter’s denials also fit into this category.  It seems odd that the one on whom Jesus would build the church would be the same one to deny even knowing Jesus.  God’s plan at work.  In a short time, the risen Jesus will ask Peter three times if he loves Him.  Three times to wash away the three denials.  Jesus restores Peter and now he is ready to be the Rock.  God’s plan even includes Pilate.  Pilate declares Jesus innocent.  His is an important statement.  Yes, an innocent man will die.  Jesus used the word ‘truth’ with Pilate and it must have stuck.  Pilate has a sign prepared and placed on top of Jesus’ cross.  It reads: “Jesus of Nazareth.  King of the Jews”.  It was written in three languages so that all could read it and take in the truth of it’s message.  All in God’s plan.

As death approaches, Jesus offers one last act of love.  He provides for His mother’s care.  It is a beautiful gesture.  Now that all is right in the world and now that all has gone according to God’s plan, Jesus is ready to die.  He says, “It is finished” and breathes His last.  The tomb awaits.  But He won’t be there long!


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Bold as Nicodemus

Reading: John 19: 38-42

Jesus has died and His body hung on the cross.  The other two who had been crucified with Jesus have also died.  The excitement of the crucifixions is over so the jeering crowds, the curious onlookers, and the followers who loved Jesus have all drifted away.  The three bodies hang on the crosses.  It is a desolate image.  It is a hard reality to envision this image.  It seems a time without hope.

It is at this point that Nicodemus steps once again into the story.  He goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body.  This seems an odd choice for a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council.  But it is evidence of Nicodemus’ growing faith and belief in Jesus.  We recall first meeting Nicodemus in John 3 when he went under cover of night to talk with Jesus.  Here he hears the message that he must be born again.  A few chapters later Nicodemus utters a brief and almost half-hearted defense of Jesus as the chief priests and Pharisees debate what to do with this Jesus.  Perhaps Nicodemus was one of those cheering on the parade route a few days earlier and then was among the crowd a few days later that shouted, “Crucify Him”! Through all of this we see Nicodemus’ faith growing, his love deepening, to the point he is willing to go to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.

But perhaps Nicodemus’ story is not so unfamiliar to us.  We can all think back to the first times we really wondered who this Jesus was.  Was He more than the Bible stories?  Could I really have a personal relationship with Jesus?  So we began to question and to seek answers.  As we learned more and came to love Him more, we too came to a point of timidly defending Jesus and our faith in Him.  It may have seemed unimportant at the time, but upon reflection we are it as another turning point on our journey of faith.  And then we get to the point in our faith where we find Nicodemus at in today’s story: willing to stand and be counted as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  This day may we be as bold as Nicodemus, declaring our faith in Jesus Christ to any and all.


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Love

Reading: John 18:1 to 19:42

The Jewish religious authorities are wise.  They know their own laws inside out and use their own interpretation to build a case against Jesus.  It is a flimsy case at best, which Pilate sees right through.  They do not even state the laws Jesus ‘broke’ but instead remain vague.  Pilate is sharp enough to realize that Jesus has not really committed any crimes.  But he is also insecure and the Jewish leaders are well aware of this.  They understand the political game and have seen the consequences of being against Caesar.  So they play Jesus’ claim to be king against Pilate’s fear of Rome to force an execution.

Just as Caiaphas had earlier stated that it would be better for one man to die, Pilate maybe sees the current situation with Jesus this way too.  Better for one man to die rather than the Jews and possibly the whole city to be in an uproar, to draw attention from Rome.  Pilate’s guilt is easily set aside and Jesus helps by not defending Himself.  This is why He came; He will not interfere with God’s plans either.

On this day when we remember the trial and crucifixion, let us also remember the message of the cross.  Jesus, the perfect lamb, was willing to die for our sins.  Nothing says “I love you” more than this. God, through Jesus, is all about love, relationship, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and restoration.  This is the message we need to share with the world.

We must be careful to not be like the Jewish leaders, bending and picking and choosing the Law to meet our own needs.  The Bible is vast and contains a wide array of ideas.  We cannot pick out parts we like and ignore parts we do not like to manipulate others or to justify and rationalize ourselves.  It is a whole story – the story of God’s redeeming love.  It is a love letter from God to us all, inviting us into a deeply committed, loving relationship with Him.  This is good news to share.