betrayal, broken people, death, decision, desperation, disciples, Jesus Christ, judas, offense, satan, separation from God, unbelief

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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betrayal, compassion, death, decision, disciples, Jesus Christ, offense, Peter, satan, Simon Peter, unbelief

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

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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

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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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The Father, #76

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 10:37-38

The Father is in me.” This is one of the clearest passages Jesus uses to explain his ministry. His listeners are doubters. They have decided that he must be executed for blasphemy. In verse 31 we read of their deep, deep anger–“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.”

It’s crazy how “bad religion” affects people. The Pharisees thought for certain that they were defending God’s honor. They really believed that they were doing exactly what they needed to do. Their religion demanded it.

“I and the Father are one” (v. 30), really disturbed them. Leviticus 24:16 delineated their duty. They must defend God from blasphemers, it was their duty as religious leaders. And Jesus was one of the most egregious offenders that they had ever seen.

This confrontation between them and Jesus was quite intense, and yet Jesus, (instead of backing off) presses the issue. The Father has sent him–Jesus must speak the truth, and there is absolutely no sugarcoating his message. He very clearly states what is real. It has to be believed.

“Believe” is mentioned three times. “Know and understand” are thrown out there for good measure. All explain the necessary components that must be present in a saving faith. And yet, all it did was make them angrier.

I believe that Jesus speaks softly, and with wisdom and compassion–but what is real and true, must be spoken. I really don’t think he “returned” their anger. That would’ve been wrong. And John doesn’t mention it.

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife.”

(Prov. 15:8)

“The Father is in me and I am in the Father” explains his ministry, and Jesus can’t, or won’t, compromise his message, or the truth. It is a fact. It’s something you can hang your hat on.

“He is not ‘making himself God’; he is not ‘making himself’ anything, but in word and work he is showing himself to be what he truly is – the Son sent by the Father to bring life and light to mankind.”

Bruce’s Commentary

When they looked at Jesus–they saw the face of God. The Father was living in him–and he resided in the Father. This is the truth, and it blew out their religious circuits. It was something they simply couldn’t accept.

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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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The World’s Hate, #57

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

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

Forty years of following Jesus has taught me many things. Lumped up in my top-ten is the hard lesson, “people dislike truth.” We are all fallen, and the fig leaves we find don’t cover much–they’re always wilting. And yet we avoid the light, and make up things that are really illusions (or delusions.) We find a mask and wield it to prevent the truth from penetrating our hearts.

Darkness is everywhere it seems. We see it in politics, religion and the media. We see it in our self, and others. It’s grim and sad and proud. And it’s disturbing that it actually turns into a solid hatred. And as believers, and part of the Church, we catch levels of flack from different levels of darkness.

“If you belonged to the world, the world would treat you with affection and would love you as its own. But because you are not of the world [no longer one with it], but I have chosen (selected) you out of the world, the world hates (detests) you.”

John 15:19, Amplified

Jesus knows every heart, He evaluates and can’t find anything good. “The works are evil,” and every place He looks it is night, spiritual darkness. When you’re dark spiritually, you’re in a very bad place–you are still lost in your sins (Luke 19:10.) I’m sorry, but I am telling the truth.

The world system still hates Jesus, and we’re despised by association. We must be aware. As believers, we’ll never fit in. Much of persecution is satanic, the devil originates much of it. There are countries today that blast believers with dark attacks. I’ve read that more Christians have been killed in the last century than all the others, combined.

“Princes, kings, and other rulers of the world have used all their strength and cunning against the Church, yet it continues to endure and hold its own.”

-John Foxe, “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs 

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Jupiter vs. Jesus, #54

Jupiter, Creator: Hulton Archive | Credit: Getty Images

“However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Matthew 17:25 (context vv. 24-27)

Jupiter was the king of the gods in the Roman empire; it was believed that he ruled the sky and thunder, he made the rain to fall. His temple in Rome was built on the highest hill (naturally) in 294 B.C. He was the head honcho of the Roman pantheon, and his cult following could be somewhat fanatical.

A tax was collected from Israel to support his temple, which caused hard issues among the Jewish leaders. They obviously didn’t want to support Jupiter, “no ifs, ands, or buts.” Not only were there spiritual reasons, but they had real patriotic issues too. Rome could be pretty insistent though.

Not completely sure about this. But apparently rabbis and priests were exempt from paying this. This is the setting for “Jesus-Peter-and-the-fish” in Matthew 17. Everyone’s eyes were now on Jesus: “Would He pay the tax, or not?”

Jesus specifically uses the word, “skandelion” for offense. We should know that this is the root word for scandal, or scandalize. That might bring us much needed clarity.

Jesus didn’t seem to bat an eye. There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation. Peter is dispatched to go catch a fish, the very first one, and when he reels it in he’s going to find in it’s mouth a coin, a drachma–that coin will pay the tax. This is a miracle, albeit a strange one.

Why? In the light of the spiritual implications did Jesus, and Peter, find themselves “indirectly” supporting Jupiter’s temple in Rome? Wouldn’t taking a stand against this religious cult be loyalty to God and declare a commitment to the nation of Israel?

Was Jesus ‘selling out’ and compromising His faith?

There’re lot’s of things we should say. First, how do we look at our government and its evil issues? How do we determine the steps we should take to be holy and separate from the world and its anti-christ system? What about the Old Testament stance of Daniel, or “the three Hebrew children” warming themselves in the king’s furnace?

I have lots of questions.

“Everything except God has some natural superior; everything except unformed matter has some natural inferior.”

-C.S. Lewis

   

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Given Very Little Honor, Entry #41

“Jesus told them,

“A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.”

Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all.”

Mark 6:4, the Message

“For some reason, they hate me.” There’s a real pain that we give each other, especially when it’s on the level of friends and our close family. It seems those relationships are vulnerable, and have the most exposure. When somebody close to us has an issue with us, that pain is deep and lasting. Others well, not so much.

Those closest to us have seen our issues. They’ve seen us at our best, and definitely at our worst. Other relationships are briefer, and they see us, and only subjectively. The salacious details never come out into the open, and we certainly won’t reveal them.

Jesus, the sinless one, faces the same problem in His hometown, the village of Nazareth where He was raised. He has already worked incredible miracles, things that absolutely stagger the imagination. He has raised the dead, healed lepers and cured the paralyzed. He has walked in the light of God unlike anyone who preceded him.

And His teaching? Oh my, no one was ever listen to such marvelous words that describe the Father’s kingdom so well. His words do astonish, and bring absolute light into some pretty dark darkness. The things He says, are astonishing. There has never been anyone like Him.

When Jesus returns to His hometown He discovers an insidious resistance to His words and miracles. People think they ‘know’ Him. A few remember Him playing with their own children–kicking the can, or riding around on the neighbor’s donkey. They ‘think’ they know Him. They really do. But they’re very much mistaken.

But what about our own misconceptions?

There are lessons in this passage we need to learn. Does my idea of Jesus limit or restrict His work? Perhaps we should realize that His miracles often stop when our unbelief begins. Since we think we know Him so well, we think we determine what He can, and cannot do. But seriously, do we truly grasp who Jesus really is?

“Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored. It’s sinfulness lies in the fact that it contradicts the word of the one true God and thus attributes falsehood to Him.”

-John Stott

Mark 6:4

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A Definite Drunkard, Entry #34

Please think about this image for a second

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:19, (context, vv. 16-19)

What part does excessive “eating and drinking” don’t we understand? It doesn’t seem entirely ‘religious,’ especially in the thinking of us who observe the life of a pastor or a shepherd. We demand a certain restraint, a standard of separateness from common sinners. That’s seems to be our personal view anyway.

Is gluttony wrong? Is getting a bit tipsy also unacceptable, especially when it comes to “true” religion? Quite often it seems, we have a pious approach toward what we think is ‘true’ faith. We often believe that truth equates to being an ascetic, separate from common sinners. We believe if we are truly holy we will segregate from the ungodly.

It seems that Jesus doesn’t relate to, or accept this viewpoint. He’s single-mindedly serving the Father, in perfect holiness and in true connection with Him. And yet we see Him cavorting with tax-collectors and sinners. We observe Him actually sitting with those we reject as ungodly or unholy.

I must say this before you start looking for rocks to stone me with!

Scripture clearly tells us that we’re to live holy lives. We’re to be wise and have self-control in everything. We should always remember our own ‘black hole’, and begin to see our new life as really incredible. We must allow the “fruits of the Spirit” to grow inside us. And lived rightly, it’s a place of real holiness; and certainly not the ‘pretend’ righteousness of the Pharisee.

Listen very carefully: The Pharisees reject and label those who seem to flaunt the religious norms, but broken believers will truly forgive others, like those who have been radically forgiven themselves. There is a stark difference.

But think about it, aren’t we all a tiny bit ungodly?

Don’t we somehow grade people by their outward appearance and the level of their attainment? It absolutely astounds me that Jesus seems far more comfortable with the outcasts than He does with the Pharisees of His day. He sits with them, and eats and drinks in a fashion that we would regard objectionable.

Jesus loves every person. He loves the unmade, and the unvarnished. He loves being with the ungodly. Yes, He does understand the awful nature of sin; the horrible damage it inflicts on a person’s soul. And yet I’ve come to the conclusion that all my righteous and holy religion is nothing but a very bad smell in God’s nostrils.

Jesus isn’t afraid that we will somehow taint Him by our words, conduct or behavior. He passionately loves those who we deem as outside the norm of our religion. Jesus loves being with ‘nasty’ people. I think He purposefully seeks out the wrong ones!

It fascinates me that Jesus is never afraid that the leper will corrupt or defile Him. He isn’t fearful that somehow He will be contaminated. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought. But instead it’s the reverse with Jesus. He heals us, and it’s always a one-way current. He touches us, but we’ll never ‘poison’ Him!

Just maybe our awful failure in evangelism is due to our inability to really relate with the lost. We withdraw and then wonder why the unsaved don’t understand the things of God. Have we become so religious that sinners don’t feel comfortable with us, or Him? Could it be that we’re a bit off course? Are we really filled with His Spirit?

“The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

-Billy Graham

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