Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reflecting on our Reactions...

Matthew 26:51-56 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. 
The hour had come.  Jesus was finally being handed over to the officials for the death march to begin.   He had said it would happen, now it was.  How would His disciples react?  Were they prepared?  Also in view here is the reaction of this mob, this posse'.  They had seen him publicly, in the City, every day for the past several days.  Why arrest Him now, in this way?  We tend to let things simmer, then explode.  We do not prepare properly, and prayerfully, for what He has told us is sure to happen. We miss the big picture; God is in control, at work, and to be trusted.  At this point, none of them were trusting Him: His followers thought they had to protect Jesus or run, as if He could not longer protect them like He had in the storm, as if this small ragamuffin band must be greater than God.  And for all the things they had seen and truths they had heard, the crowds would not believe Who He was or what He had said.  How will we react to life today?  With Him or without Him?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

no surprises to Jesus...

Matthew 26:47-50 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 
Throughout the journey into and around Jerusalem, it has become increasingly clear that there are no surprises to Jesus.  He knew the details about the donkey; getting a place for the Passover at the last minute was not a problem; He knew that Judas would betray him, and even when the moment was approaching.  It cause everyone else by surprise.  What a picture to us.  Nothing that will happen to us takes Him by surprise, only us.  So what should we do? Stay close and listen to Jesus.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Failing to pray is failing our Friend...

Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 
We often think of Peter's coming failure as his "falling away," but he and the other disciples do a fine job of it here, failing to pray with Christ in His hardest hour.  He will come away from this strong enough emotionally for the spiritual battle He is about to win, but it would have been humanly comforting for Him to have his friends stand with Him in prayer.  Even more, He cared about them, and was warning them to be ready for what was to happen next, which they would not be, because they had not spent time in prayer.  Thus, they caused him double anguish - failing to support Him, and adding to that the burden of their failure to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We would do the same...

Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
(Matthew 26:33-35 ESV)
We often remember Peter for this event, especially because it is so prominent in Mark's Gospel, which appears to be primarily from Peter's perspective.  Looking back, he realized how badly he had failed to be faithful to Jesus on that fateful night.  But ALL the disciples did the same.  They were coming off of a spiritual high in the upper room, climaxing with singing Psalms of worship about the greatness of God. How could they every fail? Only if they took their eyes off of Him, and stopped listening to Jesus, believing everything He said. And that is exactly what they did, and we do too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

React and Return...

Matthew 26:30-32 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 
By this time, the disciples are hopefully listening better, having been convinced that Jesus did indeed know what was going to happen; the Father had revealed it to Him.  Again, they did not like the words that they heard - they would fall and fail.  They would react to His capture with fear and run.  But as with each scary detail foretold, there was hope.  They would return.   Is that not a picture of our lives many times?  We fall and we fail, and in repentance return, admitting we failed to listen, obey and trust in Him?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Always looking to the next meal...

Matthew 26:26-29 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” 
One of the things I noticed when my parents retired is how much thought and talk takes place among retirees about the next meal.  As soon as the dishes of one meal are cleaned up, the next words about plans for the next meal.  In this case, however, the next meal is far into the future, but we are to keep looking forward to it - to Christ's return and our being with Him.  The Lord's supper is not just looking to the past and what Christ has done, but it also looks ahead in Hope to His coming again.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What our questions reveal...

Matthew 26:17-25 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” 
When Jesus made this announcement in the upper room with His disciples, all of them answered with the same question: "Is it I?"  There are, however, two distinct differences between the response of Judas and the rest.  First, it was a spontaneous, solemn response of the other 11 - conviction and self-examination wes their first response.  It was not until later that Judas asks.  Secondly, and more obviously, the others ask "is it I, LORD?", a sign of understanding more about who Jesus is, whereas Judas asks, "Is it I, Rabbi?", a much less passionate and convincing response.  Of course, these things went relatively unnoticed by the others that night, because their focus was on self-examination, and Judas' was on self-excusing.  What questions are you asking the LORD? What does the way you are asking reveal about your heart?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

sealing the deal...

Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 
This account records Judas sealing the deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus. But what was it that sealed the deal in his heart? The answer is found in the very first word: "then".  This refers us back to what has just happened - the waste of the precious perfume by the woman.  It was the last straw - resources not within his greedy control, money spent on some "pie-in-the-sky" sentiment, the submission of all things worldly to the eternal.  He could not, would not stand for it.  He wanted out, with severance pay.  What would make you "bail" from following Jesus?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Too busy talking to listen...

Matthew 26:6-13 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” In the previous paragraph, Jesus has just made the fourth and final announcement that He is going to die in a couple of days. If the disciples were really listening, the action of this woman would have made total sense - Jesus was NOT going to be around long! But like us many times, they were too busy talking about this woman and the whacky think she had done to be able to see beyond the extravagance to the signal it gave: she understood His announcement; she believed His words; she was devoted to Him as savior and Lord. Jesus does answer their question "why this waste?" in a sense with "Why not you?"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sealing the Deal...

Matthew 26:1-5 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people. This is the strangest of contracts. The two parties are both signing off on the deal separately from one another. For His part, Jesus had imparted to His discples the warnings and instructions needed to carry on after His departure. For the religious leaders, they had their plan to silence this trouble-maker. They were both moving towards the same goal: His death, but for far different reasons: His was to provide salvation to His own, and to fulfill all the promises made about Him as Messiah. Theirs was to seek to silence the living conviction brought to their souls by His very presence. They got the short end of the deal, for the sought the impossible. But they could not get themselves to meet with Him again face to face and accept His part of the deal: the offer of the salvation we all need.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I didn't see...

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46 ESV) Three times in this chapter Jesus speaks words of judgment, causing us to sit up and take notice; He usually did not talk to His disciples so strongly. The "goats" here are shocked by what is going to happen to them and why. They did not see it. They did not see it coming. They were so wrapped up in themselves, they did not see others. They were so into the things of this world, they could not see the King returning, in judgment. They could not see judgment coming their way. O say... can you see? Can we see clearly as He does? Let's look today.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

when ignorance is bliss...

Matthew 25:31-40 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ They really didn't know. These servants were so into doing what they did for the master that it was no big deal for them. The same is true for us: if we are really into serving The Lord as an act of worshipping Him, we will almost be ignorant of the fact we are doing so. That is a sign we "get it," because serving is following Jesus. This is by no means salvation BY good works, but the good works of salvation - having a changed heart and life that serves others because the love of Christ dwells within and flows through us. May we not be so self-focused that we are always thinking about "what we are doing for God," subconsciously serving Him in love.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Doing nothing with what you've got...

Matthew 25:14-30 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ As Jesus told this parable, it is interesting to note that it was addressed to the Twelve. These were not words about "them" out there, but those who claimed to be His closest followers. So they are indeed serious words. It is important to note that there are two issues brought out. First, is the issue that the servant did nothing with what he was entrusted by the Master. Many people entrusted with the Gospel are doing nothing with it. More pointedly, many American Christians are blessed with material resources and doing nothing with it for the Kingdom of God. Second, and possibly even more important, is why the servant did nothing - he had a faulty view of what God is like. He proclaims to the Master that he knows what He is like, but the Master in essence replies: "so, you think you know what I am like, do you...?" Not only were the servants actions inconsistent with his own thoughts on what the Master is like; his view is skewed. God is not heartless, and He will judge those who claim Him, but do nothing for Him.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Having the Door Shut in Your Face...

Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Jesus is having a serious sit-down with His closest disciples. He is telling them as much as He can about His return. At the end of the last chapter His message was simple: Don't be surprised; be ready; it will happen suddenly. That message continues on here as he uses this parable of the lazy, unsuspecting bridesmaids. They may have claimed to be "friends of the bride(church), but they were not that excited about the Groom's (Christ's) return. But that is exactly what this event was all about: His coming. If we are truly friends of the Bride, we will have a joyful anticipation and preparation for His return. If we do not, we are not true friends, and will have the door shut in our faces.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Be Aware and in Prayer...

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. Paul wanted the Corinthians to stay out of ignorance: many believers were suffering persecution for their faith. The same is still true today. (Just see for examples). They are living in horrible conditions with the threat of death at their door daily. We need to become aware and pray for them, that they will trust in God, have hope, and even be a blessing and testimony in some of the most hostile places in the world. May we not forget them today.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why no one knows...

Matthew 24:36-51 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. After Jesus' "matter-of-fact" statement about the universal ignorance of the time of His return, he tells us why God has done this but introducing the reast of His comments with this word "for". We have seen before what happens when God says He is sending judgment: people continue to carry on as if He does not exist. They will push the limit, until the door is ready to close, and hope they are not late. That is not the perspective we are to have at all. We are to live today and every day as if He may return now. We are to be ready and faithful. If we do not believe that, then we will live every day selfishly, squandering His blessings, ignoring those around us in darkness, acting as if God, His Heaven, and everything having to do with eternity is not a reality. Such a life ends in eternal death.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

For sure...

Matthew 24:32-35 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. As Jesus was speaking, the disciples could look out and see these fig trees around them. They knew what He was saying about them was true. But they were concerned. If the Temple was going to be torn down, what would happen to their people? Would this be their end? Not only would they continue to exist; God's promises would continue to exist. Even when the world seems to be falling apart around us, God is still there, in control, watching over His people.