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Jesus Restores, #109

15 “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time,” 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.'”

John 21:15-17, (context vv. 15-19)

Peter’s denial was public one, and it was important that his restoration be public as well. It may come as a shock, but Peter needed to do this–even though it was a grief to him (verse 17.) It was necessary for him to heal. It was also a clear testimony to the others that Peter was completely restored.

Repeatedly in this passage, love gets linked to service. (Can you see this, it’s important that you do.) The Lord asks Peter if he really loved him, and most likely it was solemn affair, not something trivial or casual. The word used is ἀγαπάω, agape–this is the type of love that God has for people. It’s a love that gives 110%.

The third time the word for love is different though, the word used is φιλέω, philo–this is a type of love that a man has for others, a brotherly kind of love. Something good, but less than agape.

And each time Peter responds, he uses the brotherly type of love. I don’t mean to be confusing here, but every time Jesus uses agape to Peter, Peter responds with philo. It’s as if Peter is struggling with loving Jesus wholeheartedly. Perhaps Peter was ashamed of his denial.

Love is linked with service.

Love can’t be seen unless it has a physical aspect. Love can’t be abstract, a vague feeling, or a hazy concept–it has to be seen by others. Jesus’ sheep (and lambs) must be fed, and watched over. This is now Peter’s call to ministry.

This is Jesus’ ministry as well.

Apparently there is plenty of this kind of work to go around! Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ work in Isa. 40:11. This is now becomes Peter’s work as well.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”

Whether or not Peter was the first “pope” is debatable. But it’s clear that Jesus focused on Peter. And isn’t it just like him to turn our failings into victories. Peter’s denial was now his ministry to others. It dealt with the pride issue, which often disrupts true ministry to his flock.

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Jeremiah 3:15

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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

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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.)

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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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Just a Kernel, #90

A Kernel Becomes Bread

23 “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

John 12:23-24, (context vv. 23-29)

Almost 1/2 of John’s gospel is dedicated to Jesus’ last week. Verse 24 seems to sum up Jesus’ understanding of things, which he now communicates to his disciples. The issue at the center seems to hit on the very core of God’s incredible idea of the Kingdom–death and resurrection.

Perhaps that’s the solid principle behind his way of conducting business. He doesn’t want us to be afraid, and honestly, isn’t the fear of death the most frightening and darkest terror of all? Jesus now turns it around and proceeds to pound it to pieces, and we shouldn’t pick it up and try to glue it back together. Let’s leave it there, and walk away.

Death becomes life. Crazy, huh? And yet he’s explaining how the Father does it. Jesus completely understands this, and it’s his death that will bring life to millions and millions. Oh my, the pain will be real for him. But it’s not really the end of it all. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!”

Grasping this becomes the incredible idea that energizes the obedient disciple. It isn’t a ‘Jesus-only’ concept. It’s not exclusively unique to him. I suppose to a degree it is–but isn’t it really part of the economy of God? Isn’t it his particular way of doing things–to extract life out of dead things? (I think he gets a kick out of doing this?)

Brother, don’t be afraid. Sister, he does see your fear and misgivings about dying. In our natural way of thinking, dying is dark and perhaps it might be painful. IDK. But to the person who was been given ‘spirit-eyes’ it now is the way we are to live and bring life. In a weird sense, we’re all Lazarus, and when we hear his voice calling us–we’ll get up and shake off our grave clothes.

“They, then, who are destined to die, need not be careful to inquire what death they are to die, but into what place death will usher them.”

   Augustine

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Pouring Out Your Oil, #88

“Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”

John 12:7-8, (context vv. 1-8)

She came and poured perfumed oil on Jesus feet. She massaged it in with her hair. What she did was out of love, and maybe concern? She knew and understood. Many of us deeply understand with what she did–Mary has become a person that we identify and engage. She is doing what we would have done. (At least we hope.)

That perfume was a concentrate–it was the source for smaller vials. The oil Mary used was undiluted and not weakened in any way. It was not diminished or thinned, it was powerful stuff. What she did was an extremely costly act. Notice that it was a whole pound–and the text states that the entire house was filled with the scent.

When Jesus was being scourged and crucified, the odor of that perfume would’ve been present. That smell was still there, and most likely it sustained, and even encouraged him. Perhaps our acts of love–of sacrifice, of deep worship mean far more than we realize?

But there will always the ones who are practical.

All they see is the incredible waste. Judas had a pragmatic, reasonable and more sensible position. The other 11 felt the same. As they analyzed Mary’s actions all they could see was the terrible waste. There came a point when Judas, who controlled the finances, just had to speak:

“Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (vv. 4-5).

“He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.” (v. 6).

So dear one, who was right? The other Gospel accounts tell us that the disciples also felt this way, (Matthew 26:6-13). The general consensus was that Mary was far too excessive. After all, 300 denarii was a lot of money–a denarii was a day’s wage. It was probably more money they had ever seen!

It’s interesting that Mary unbound her hair. That was anathema in Jewish culture. It was the clear evidence of an immoral woman, a prostitute. But yet she did it. Mary did not stop to calculate public reaction. She knew deep down that it was the only thing she could do for him.

What exactly is worship? What part of it do we not understand yet? Does it matter what is in our heart?

It is interesting that was immediately afterward this that Judas Iscariot left, and set up an agreement to betray Jesus.

“Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him.”

C.H. Spurgeon

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To Seek and to Save, #87

9 “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:9-10 (context, vv. 1-10)

The Jewish people regarded salvation simply as being a child of Abraham. Faith was not necessary, but being saved was simply genealogical. It was the exclusive privilege of every Jewish man and woman. It was the sole position of anyone who was descended from Abraham.

There were exceptions however. If an Israelite lived outside of the Law, they forfeited their salvation. If they cooperated with the Gentiles, or if they committed some heinous crime, they couldn’t be a true Israelite. You were saved, just because you had descended from Abraham.

Zacchaeus couldn’t be saved. He had essentially had renounced his salvation when he cooperated with the Romans as a tax-collector. He had made the choice of a living his life outside of what was acceptable to the religious norms. In short he chose to be damned. He had decided to walk the highway to hell, but that was his decision.

When Jesus called up the tree to Zacchaeus, and invited himself to dinner, Jesus was committing a forbidden act. You must understand that Zacchaeus was unclean, a sinner, and any contact with was regarded as a grossly evil action. In short, Jesus had allied himself with an unclean man. Thus Jesus must be unclean as well.

The “righteous” Jew would never ever have anything to do with Zacchaeus. That is why they had such an issue with Jesus’ decision to eat with him. And that’s why Zacchaeus was thrilled to have such an eminent teacher as his guest.

Jesus was seeking to save the lost.

Zacchaeus invited all of his “evil” friends to come and come to join in the feast. It’s funny, when it came to “evangelism,” he did all the work!

Zacchaeus would prove himself as a “child of Abraham” by his amazing repentance. The presence of Jesus in his home sparked life in his heart. Zachaeus’ repentance was remarkable and truly spontaneous. And probably more astonishing was Jesus declaring that Zacchaeus was now a true child of Abraham.

When we finally decide we can mingle with the lost, just like Jesus did, we can expect to see miraculous things. We won’t contaminate ourselves–it doesn’t work that way. When we reach out, we can count on the “Jesus” who now lives inside of us to touch the outcast. He wants to, and all he needs is for us to find the lost, and be with them.

I must implore you to “seek and save” those who are outside the norm. Ask Jesus to lead you to them–and quit worrying about what other Christians might say and think.

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”

   James H. Aughey

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Being Short of Stature, #86

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.”

Luke 19:5-6, (context, vv. 1-9)

I see no problem with assigning this story to a Sunday school lesson. It’s imaginative, witty and seriously funny. Kids enjoy the story, especially when the teacher decides to use flannelgraphs. If the teacher is any good at all it can verge on the hilarious. I must admit I enjoy it far more than Leviticus or Numbers.

Just moments before, Jesus–who was travelling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, had just healed a blind man (Luke 18:35-43), who was wildly enthusiastic about receiving his sight–a crowd had stopped to watch and wonder. The road was a busy one to begin with, so the clog of people was definitely unusual.

Then there was Zacchaeus, “a head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.” (Luke 19:2-4, Message).

There something funny here. First–he’s so short that he looks for a way to see Jesus. That tells me that he’s a true seeker, and he’s resourceful. Second–he climbs the tree in a robe, which is a bit challenging I suppose. It does seem he’s lacking in the dignity department. But he really doesn’t care what others think of him.

For years I’ve thought about this story. I’ve come to see some things that have blessed me, and I hope they will somehow help you to climb the tree of discipleship.

There are many branches on a sycamore tree, which made it easy to climb. I would suggest something to you. I’d like to think of these as the ways we see Jesus. The different disciplines are attached to a singular trunk, perhaps that’s obvious.

Perhaps that trunk is our prayer life. It seems that each of the list below will have that in common. In all of these branches that make-up our discipleship, prayer is truly our definite beginning point. Below are the branches we can climb out on, but remember, they’re all attached to prayer:

  • Meditation
  • Fasting
  • Fellowship
  • Chastity
  • Submission/Obedience
  • Evangelism
  • Solitude
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence

Let’s be very clear. Zacchaeus climbed the tree only to see Jesus. These disciplines are not the Christian’s life. Zacc. only climbed to see Jesus; he didn’t get attached, or find a comfortable spot up there. He didn’t build a tree fort. He only used the branches to see Jesus.

Fasting, or prayer or meditation are incredibly useful. But they’re only ways that we can see him. There comes a point where we come down to be with Jesus, and have a feast with our Lord. When he calls our name, it’s time to climb down. (Luke 19:5-6).

“I wish there were more of us who did not mind being laughed at if only what we did helped us to see Jesus.”

(Maclaren’s comments)

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Blind and Desperate, #85

Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861

“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

42 “Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

Luke 18:40-43

Tradition tells us that his name is Bartimaeus. This man, led by others, plopped on a mat by a curb, that’s where he will hold out a basket to collect coins. Hopefully, he would do well, and if not–well there will always be tomorrow–another black and meaningless day. Is this is as good as it’ll ever get?

The crowd around him starts to get more and more excited, and this man, who is very much attuned to the noise of the things around him, tries to pick out conversations, he wants to understand. He keeps listening, and the voices get louder and louder, and he finally pieces together what’s happening.

He finally hears one of them shout out, “It’s the Messiah! It’s him–he has come!” At that moment he too stands up, and begins to shout himself. But his shouting gets louder, and it turns into screams. Within seconds he’s out-of-control, and wild and insane. He releases years of pent up anger and frustration.

The crowd, who was once preoccupied by Jesus’ interesting entourage, now tries hard to quiet this wild dervish down. But he quite mad by now, completely out-of-control. His deranged screams are those of man pushed totally beyond reason.

The original Greek text describes two different words in the New Testament.

The first word used by the crowd is used as a cry for assistance, and deliverance. It’s basically a “respectable” kind of a shout for help. Loud, but still within reason. Earsplitting maybe, but still aware of itself and yet somewhat respectable.

But the second kind of scream, isn’t the regular ‘run-of-the-mill’ kind, rather it’s the scream of someone extremely disturbed. It is wild, primal–something animalistic, shrieking, unearthly, something that’s very disturbing. It’s the cry when an animal goes berserk and in pain, chews off its leg that’s caught in a steel trap. It’s much more than loud, it’s a scream from someone that’s completely out of control.

Dear friend, this is not a human scream. He’s far, far past that point.

Jesus is completely in control. He’s not disturbed, shocked or offended–he’s not fazed by this awful darkness of this desperate man. He orders that he be brought to him. At that moment, all eyes are glued to Jesus and this blind man. I have to believe a hush fell over everyone, quiet enough for them to hear the conversation.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks that question, and it seems an unreal thing to ask. And yet Jesus speaks it into this man’s wild, raving, out-of-control pain. It was Jesus who calmed the turbulent seas; he is now reaching into this man’s incredible darkness. “What do you want?” It’s a question that must be asked.

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

Jesus calmly announces to the man that his faith has saved him. At that instant Bartimaeus sees. That’s all that was needed.

I really need to ask you this–How far will you go, how loud will you get? How many people will you ignore to reach your Savior and your Healer? How insistent will you become? How outrageous will you get to see Jesus reach in and touch your need?

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”

Joni Eareckson Tada

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A Crooked Back, #74

Jesus and the Bent Over Woman

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”

Luke 13:12-13, (context, vv. 10-17)

Doctors call it spondylitis ankylopoetica, which produces the fusion of the spinal bones. Sometimes physical issues have spiritual reasons, and many times crippling diseases leave their marks on our hearts. They damage us inside.

Eighteen years is an awful long time.

The response to this astounding miracle was less then ideal. Quite often “religion” responds out of foolishness, and anger at what God wants to do:

“But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 

(verse 14)

Jesus is angry. He rebukes the hypocrisy of the synagogues leaders. Their livestock get better treatment.

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

    C.S. Lewis

“As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

(verse 17)

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

    James H. Aughey

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