The Interrogation, #100

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“If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I ask a question, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 And they all said, “So You are the Son of God?” And He said to them, “You say correctly that I am.” 71 And then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth!”

Luke 22:67-71, NASB

The Sanhedrin thought they had him. Jesus mounts no defense in this particular trial. He is serene, quiet and very much in control. The interrogators tried 5-6 different questions, each purposefully designed to reveal Jesus’ guilt. We should remember, he was regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

This was regarded as a capital crime–a death penalty could be given. But the Law declares that a trial could only be held in the daylight. It was to be public, open to all Jewish men. And in cases like Jesus’, the evidence was to be offered on one day, and a verdict the following. It couldn’t be a “rush” to judgement.

They got there licks in even before the official arraignment before the high priest. Jesus is blindfolded, mocked and beaten, even before the trial began (Luke 22:63-65). All of this took place as soon as he was brought in from the Garden, even before he was charged with a crime!

The deck was definitely stacked against him. The blindfold seems to be a test of sorts, it was believed that the real Messiah would have the supernatural ability to discern his attackers, even while blindfolded. That explains much if it’s true. The spitting was pretty evil though (Mark 14:65).

In this passage Jesus carefully turns the tables on his interrogators. His reply is perfect–they are forced to examine their own hearts. When you put the Son of God on trial, you can expect to see things like this.

“Jesus warned them that though they sat in judgment of Him now, He would one day sit in judgment of them – and with a far more binding judgment.”

David Guzik’s Biblical Commentary

Jesus reply of “I am” carries significant meaning, and we see the impact it has on his captors. In verse 71, they now have the answer they’re looking for, and we sense that they’ve got the evidence in that response. It’s the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for.

The patience and endurance of Jesus amazes me.

He stands alone in the middle of accusations and after being mocked and beaten. In the Garden he states that at his word he can have “twelve legions of angels” ready to protect him (Matthew 26:53). This is profound–I consider not only his restraint, but also his steadfastness, his ability to press on no matter what.

He doesn’t crack or break under the pressure. He goes the distance. He patiently endures it all, and he did this for you and me. Now dear ones, that’s a very good thing.

“For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.”

Hebrews 12:3

Speaking His Language, #99

Peter Warms Himself

“The girl asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?”

“No,” he said, “I am not!”

“The police and the household servants were standing around a fire they had made, for it was cold. And Peter stood there with them, warming himself.”

John 18:17-18, Living Bible

The Galileans had a distinct accent. Just as we easily identify someone from Boston just by the tone and cadence of their speech, Peter had that distinct drawl that told everyone that he came from that same province as Jesus. It was something he couldn’t hide.

Peter was a very different man in his three years of being with Jesus. And you might say that had transformed him–you might even say that he was now a marked man, the enemy was now quite aware of him. He was no longer a captain of a small fishing boat looking for a catch. He was now the leader of Jesus’ disciples.

The entire text (18:15-18) reveals a confrontation that Peter had with a servant girl, and we hear him making a bold-faced lie. At this very moment Peter was fulfilling the “promise” that Jesus had predicted (Matthew 26:31-32).

What was going through Peter’s head at that moment? She was a simple servant girl, perhaps one who ministered at the gate of the high priest’s home. It’s interesting that she is the first one to question Peter’s duplicity. Most likely she was just doing her job, watching and listening. She was probably quite alert.

It’s easy to point our finger at Peter. He was a coward, and when he was put on the spot he bailed. People hate cowards–we extol those who take a definite stand against evil. But he was frightened, scared of being connected with Jesus–the man on trial. There was much at stake here.

We also speak with an accent. I know it might be a stretch–but being with Jesus has fundamentally changed us. Our lives now have a specific dialect that others hear, we’re not the same people that we once were.

We open our mouths and others hear the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes I try to pretend that I haven’t been with Jesus, and I’m very ashamed of that. Like Peter, I stand with the others and choose to warm myself by their fire, and I try very hard to make myself inconspicuous. But all I have to do is open my mouth, and I betray who I really am.

It’s really funny, but even servant girls know that I belong to him.

“To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.”

Richard Foster

My Kingdom, #98

 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 18:36

Jesus perfectly understood his kingdom. Three times in this one verse, Jesus uses the statement, “My kingdom.” Three times. Perhaps there is something here we should look at closer? Maybe?

First, Jesus tells Pilate that, yes, he was a king. Second, that this kingdom was not a political rival kingdom. Its boundaries were not physical ones–they’re spiritual, and Pilate and the emperor were not in the equation. King Jesus’ kingdom was not “of this world,” which also by the way, is repeated three times in this single verse.

These 40 words declare to Pilate that he shouldn’t be worried.

Those who look to King Jesus have renounced the tenets of this world’s ideas–force, pride, public image and power. The kingdom of God comes to us in the Red Letters of Jesus–the Beatitudes and the parables.

“Romans thought they knew about kingdoms and their might; that armies, navies, swords, and battles measured the strength of kingdoms. What Jesus knew was that His kingdom – though not of this world – was mightier than Rome and would continue to expand and influence when Rome passed away.”

David Guzik

Brokenness, humility, love, servanthood and sacrifice are the ways his kingdom comes to people. The world’s methods of doing things–even religious and “moral” approaches, are never the way things work under his authority. At times even, they may seem very noble and right; but that isn’t the way Jesus’ rule truly comes.

Interesting. I believe the church, especially here in the West, understands Jesus as a Savior, but not as the King. The idea of a king and lord aren’t automatics for us. We have senators and constitutions, media outlets and freedom of speech–but that somehow never prepares us for the rule of a true sovereign.

Jesus is calling us to live out his rule in our lives, and to embrace him as King. He’s much more than our Savior, and we must understand that. If we want to really grow in him, we must understand his lordship.

The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place.

R.C. Sproul

The Gospel According to Judas Iscariot, #97

Matthew 27:3-10

My name is Judas Iscariot, and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed. The money was fine, don’t get me wrong, but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I simply did what they couldn’t. I wanted to force Jesus’ hand, so he had to drive the Romans out of our country. I was mistaken, I see that now.

Jesus loved each of us, including me. But I didn’t see it at the time.

When he knelt to wash my feet, I was deeply disturbed. When he stripped down to his underwear, I admit I had some serious doubts. Behaving like a common slave wasn’t really in my thinking. It would take extra work to shape him, and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end, if only Jesus would cooperate.

In my mind I knew that Jesus only needed the right moment to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I knew that God had called me–this was my purpose. I would be the kingmaker, and Jesus would certainly reward me.

Some have said that Satan was inside me.

But I hardly noticed. Instead, I was filled with excitement. Finally, the other disciples would come to my side, and together we could make it happen. Enough kneeling, no more groveling–we were going to rule Israel and end the wicked Roman occupation. I truly believed this. He was our Messiah, our deliverer.

The tricky part was to convince Jesus, to manipulate him if necessary, to take control.

He had to see the opportunity that was waiting for him. He was already immensely popular among the people. We could quite easily turn all of this enthusiasm into a full-blown insurrection. But we obviously needed him to lead us, and I could help him find his way. I knew we could do it. This was God’s will for me.

My plan was simple–after I met with the Pharisees, I’d lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. They insisted on an armed escort, just in case there was trouble among the disciples. I suppose that was prudent, my part in all of this was simply to give Jesus a kiss on the cheek, to signify that he was the one to the soldiers.

I assumed he would resist and fight. I was very wrong.

Nothing went as planned. Jesus didn’t take charge, and he certainly didn’t overthrow the government. As a matter of fact, you could say that the opposite happened; he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I did hear him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized way too late, that I shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me, and I insisted they take back the silver. They refused. I threw the bag at their feet and left the temple. Ugly thoughts now filled my mind, and I knew without a doubt that I was completely lost.

Please excuse me, but I have a date with a rope.

_____________________

This is a chapter from a book I considered writing a long time ago, “They Saw Jesus.” This was to be chapter 27. (I doubt it will ever happen though. Oh well.)

Jesus is Crushed and Abandoned, #96

The Olive Press in Gethsemane

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”

“He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.””

Matthew 26:36-38, NLT

Gethsemane means “olive press.” It’s there, olives from the grove were crushed for their oil. And it’s here the Son of God would be crushed. Jesus’ trip to the garden was intentional. Located just a short distance from the Temple mount, it was secluded, and yet it enabled Jesus and his disciples a chance to rest. It seems that it was a regular spot for them to regroup and pray.

Incidentally, these olive trees are the oldest ones known to man. DNA tests identified them to be over 800 years old, and even if cut down the trees will grow up out of the roots. It very well could be that these were there when Jesus entered the garden to pray.

Judas Iscariot knew the place where he would be.

He was able to lead the mob right where Jesus was praying. It also seems that there were several groves there, and there was at least one ‘press’ that was used to extract the oil from the olives. As these were crushed they released the oil directly into buckets that were placed there.

Quite aptly, Jesus used this process to describe the things he would endure. All four gospels describe him as being in that place. It’s also when Jesus calls on three of the twelve to join him in prayer. These completely failed to intercede and watch with him. Jesus would have to go it alone.

The loneliness that Jesus faced was quite real.

He had no one to turn to in the hour of his need, He was all alone. He had been deserted by everyone.

Why? Why was he abandoned by those he needed the most? He kneels down, with no one to help him. He had brought those who were his closest, the three he knew would help carry him through this critical moment–and guess what? They fell asleep.

When I weave the four accounts together (and I must), I try very hard to understand all of this. I admit I get angry, (especially in my more lucid spiritual moments.) Why did they leave him at the very moment when he needed them the most? Would’ve I done it differently? IDK.

“Being full of pain, Jesus prayed even harder. His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Luke 22:44

As I try to make sense of this I have no real answers for you. But I somehow realize that the Son of God understands us. He has known loneliness and confusion. He understands what its like to be completely lost, and totally forsaken. I know that he was pressed so hard, that he sweated drops of blood. But he survived God’s oil press.

“It is not darkness you are going to, for God is Light. It is not lonely, for Christ is with you. It is not unknown country, for Christ is there.”

Charles Kingsley

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The Passover Code, #95

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.””

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

Luke 22:19-29

In 1838, the telegraph was invented by Samuel Morse. For the first time messages could be relayed from one place to another quickly and accurately. You didn’t need carrier pigeons, flags or a fast horse anymore, but electric impulses could be sent by trained operators over wires dedicated for that purpose. In its day, it was revolutionary; state-of-the-art stuff.

Jesus encodes spiritual lessons to his followers, and although the analogy isn’t perfect, he communicates what’s spiritual to the physical. He uses images–bread and wine, to explain salvation in ways that would’ve meant something to those who followed.

The lessons come from the feast of the Passover, Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. Jesus reinterpreted them in Himself, and the focus was no longer on the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but on the ‘sin-bearing’ suffering of Jesus on their behalf. He was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29.)

The code is now fulfilled by Jesus.

The elements are tweaked (a great ‘theological” term, btw) and they mesh together quite well between the O.T. and the N.T. This meal was clearly communicated to Jesus’ followers–they knew exactly what he was saying–there would’ve been no ambiguity or confusion.

Jesus shares his imminent crucifixion, in common code–the bread and wine of the supper, to describe what was coming. From that point on, they would never forget that bread was now his “body,” and the wine had now become his “blood,” both broken, and shed respectively.

He explained that he was becoming their sacrifice–what he was going to do in a short span of a few hours was going to open up eternal life. Since then, a lot of theology has been discussed–transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or a memorial. You can toss in the idea of eucharistic prayer too. Books and books of each have been written. My library is loaded with them.

There seem to be merits for each concept, and I know that my own viewpoint won’t satisfy anyone at all. I’m sorry. But the critical issue for me is that the deed has been done. The code has been given, and eternal life has been given to us.

 “What is certain is that Jesus bids us commemorate, not his birth, nor his life, nor his miracles, but his death.”

D.A. Carson

The Rooster of God, #94

 “Lord,” Peter asked, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.

38 Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly I tell you, a rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times.”

John 13:37-38, CSV

He knew. And he still loved him anyway. Can you really quantify the depth of this? Verse 37 claimed Peter’s willingness to follow, and even die if he had to. I believe with all my heart that Peter was sincere. He would follow, and Peter was willing to die.

But Jesus bought none of it, he knew. He poses a question to Peter–the type of question that penetrated Peter’s interior bravado. It’s said that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Perhaps this is true here. Maybe Jesus knew?

What about you? And me? Does he really know us to this degree and depth? When he looks at us, I believe he knows the weakness and faltering steps we take, and yet his love for us is unconditional. It doesn’t hinge on our misplaced zeal or faltering commitment. His love for us overrides our weakness. That comforts and disturbs me, and I don’t really understand how he does it.

Have you heard the rooster? Maybe that’s his way to teach us the depths of his love.

“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

    C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Love Like a Disciple, #93

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

The believers in Jesus must carry the credentials of Jesus. To be authentically his demands evidence–proof that you’re really are real. It never comes by one’s own words, personal declarations, or by affiliations or preferences. Jesus is crystal clear on what is true and what is not. To him, it’s black or it’s white.

“Where’s the beef?”

A few years ago that was the ad line of a particular fast food chain. It was catchy, and soon everyone smiled. The company only did it because it worked. Three old ladies looked at a competitor’s hamburger and made the announcement that something was terribly wrong.

Jesus made it clear that there would be evidence that everyone would see. “Love one another” is used three times in two verses–not only that, but in verse 35 we hear him tell us that “all people will know” what disciples would look like. To follow Jesus you must love like Jesus–to be like him, you must love like him.

We dare not minimize this. It’s now the believer’s credentials, the proof that they were real, and not just posers. We’re called to be more than religious exhibitionists, who somehow have an affinity for nice sounding words that only touch the outward. Jesus states that our love is now the true declaration of something super authentic–and very tangible.

So where’s the love?

The word used is ἀγαπάω, agape. It’s the ultimate kind of love–the love that God himself has for lost people: it’s not the love one has another sexually, that word is eros. It’s not the love we have for our brother, that word is philo. But it is agape, a love that has no limits, and the best and clearest definition is found in 1 Corinthians 13.

Maybe a better grasp of the verses in John 13 can be had by reading the Message translation:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

(vv. 34-35)

“Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays.”

   Andrew Murray

Celebrity Servants? #92

drsunil.com, art by Takla

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:6-8 (context vv. 3-17)

Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, I’m like a fly on-the-wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus, and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?

Jesus made himself a slave (or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it?) Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.

But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments, and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.

He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoy the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other. He showed us a leader in action.

And isn’t making disciples all about loving someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up, when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen; and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.

Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.

There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight?

The Church was never meant to operate like this. That’s what Jesus said. Instead it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege, and the adulation? I know I can’t.

Peter was classic Peter. It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).

Jesus still washes his people. He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.

The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

 John Stott

The Grapes of Wrath, #91

Warning: This is a hard one!

“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.””

Luke 20:18 (context. 9-16)

Who wants to fall? Not me. This very blunt declaration has to be understood by that which immediately proceeds it: the “Parable of the Vineyard Owner.” This isn’t one of your nice ‘run-of-the-mill’ parables either. It’s got some real teeth.

It really is a potent stuff. The authorities–over, and over have rejected God’s prophets–everyone that he has sent. They do this continuously–history really does repeat itself. Finally, God finally sends his Son, and they decide (quite coldly) to kill him, and take the vineyard over for themselves.

Disobeying the voice of the Holy Spirit is a terrible thing.

And I’m afraid it’s done fairly consistently. He speaks over and over to us, but we’ve disobeyed him so often we can’t hear him anymore. His voice is often a quiet one, and we no longer really look or listen for it. Dear one, I’ve been in ministry for over 35 years, I’ve seen it up close, I’ve seen it in myself.

When we repeatedly ignore his voice, we’ll find ourselves in spiritual silence. We’ve now become spiritually deaf.

And guess what, we won’t even know it. We think we’re doing okay spiritually. But we really don’t hear him anymore. And that’s precisely what the leadership of Israel has done. They no longer hear him. Read their response. They don’t believe this parable, (maybe they think it’s funny?)

“When the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders heard this, they said, “May it never be!” 

(verse 16b)

That really should disturb us–and it’s frightening. But you must understand, it’s not confined to them–it’s launched at us as well. His parable travels through the centuries, and nails us. The translation of that particular “promise” in verse 18 might help clarify any ambiguity we might have:

 “Anyone falling over that stone will break every bone in his body; if the stone falls on anyone, he’ll be smashed to smithereens.”

(v. 18, the Message)

It’s a promise. We’ve got this tendency to think of God’s promises as wonderfully positive. But this promise is scary. The price of ignoring Jesus has consequences, and these “chosen” people are about to discover judgement. They have ignored him for the last time.

The nation of Israel will be destroyed by the emperor Titus. The ancient historian Josephus wrote that he killed 1,100,000 Jews and they carried 97,000 as slaves to Rome. 

At this particular moment in time, it’s critical that you learn to hear what the Spirit is speaking to you.

You’ll need to learn to distinguish his voice through the world’s static. But we much rather keep the status quo, and simply ignore this dark moment. We don’t want to listen that close. Maybe we’ll become “weird.”

Perhaps you’re afraid of what he might say. Maybe you’ll need to turn away from something that is causing you to go deaf? But I must tell you, hearing him is a joy. I guarantee it’s worth it. It’s what you were created for!

“One of two things you must do; you must either receive Him or reject Him. You receive Him here and He will receive you there; you reject Him here and He will reject you there.”

    D.L. Moody

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