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The Great Commission, #111

“Jesus came near and said to them, 

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

Matthew 28:18-20

Well now. Red Letters is now done. We’ve traversed our way through Jesus’ acts and teachings. I’m quite aware that I have overlooked much of it. I just maybe lose some sleep over this.

But I rest in John 21:25–

” And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the book that would be written.”

John 21:25

“Authority” is the key.

The Greek means “freedom of choice,” or having “the power to make decisions.” Jesus alone has that right, if we’re to evangelize the world, it must be under his auspices. We need to remain dependent on him, and serve under his authority.

Very precise instructions are given.

  • Discipleship
  • Baptism
  • teaching them to observe
  • under command
  • his presense–right until the end.

Each of these is under his authority. He’s in full control of each believer, and commissions them to act on his behalf, and under his lordship. In a definite sense we don’t act apart of him–everything we do, all of our actions must reflect that truth.

Someone wiser than I reflected that we’ve essentially changed this to “the great omission.” Perhaps that’s true for many Christians–and churches. It’s easy to do, and often we alter the express command of Jesus into our own personal improvement plan.

“I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou can eat it all to thyself.”

   Charles Spurgeon

The adjustment is terribly subtle, and the enemy has his fingerprints all over it. His work makes perfect sense. Stop the Church at any price. Some suggest that we’ve become a cruise ship now, instead of a battleship. I think that a simple study of the history of the Church would back that up.

“Everything God does is love — even when we do not understand Him.”

   

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It’s the Lord, #108

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

“So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

John 21:4-7 (context, vv. 3-8)

Perhaps this is the way Jesus comes to us. Every time he comes to the 12, it’s unexpectedly. Three times he visits them, and he never comes with a rebuke, or a harsh word of correction. In my mind at least, I certainly wouldn’t have let them off-the-hook that easy. I would’ve pounced on them.

They’re out fishing, following Peter’s decision. Peter again is blowing it. And Jesus, rather than a word of correction, shouts to them that they need to cast their net to the other side of their boat. He tells them, if they do that, they’ll catch more than they can handle.

This has come before, when they were first called to follow. It’s appropriate that what happened at the beginning, has now occurred at the end. Later, when they counted fish, they had a 153. And the nets, had not been torn.

John is the first to recognize Jesus, but Peter will be the first to the shore.

Peter instantly knows that this man is Jesus. He strips down to his underwear and jumps in. He must be with Jesus, the others are pulling in the net, and the boat is moving too slow. (Maybe Peter thought he would walk on water a second time?)

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The passage points out that they worked till morning, and they probably were hungry. The Lord is aware, and he’s built a campfire for them. It’ll be fried fish and bread for breakfast.

There’s a sensitivity here, and a proactive kind of love that is really concerned about others. He’s aware of what others might need, and he finds a way to serve them. That’s precisely the way love works. (1 Cor. 13.)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

The resurrected Jesus is still the humble servant. The disciples could’ve fallen on their faces, and that would’ve been entirely appropriate. This after all, is the risen Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus is more approachable than we think? Perhaps?

 “They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, how he loves you.

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His Amazing Breath, #107

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

John 20:21-23 (19-23)

This is the second “peace be with you” in this passage.) So why the duplication of this peace proclamation? The disciples are sequestered and scared in the upper room (v. 19; and Luke 24:36. Having peace is being emphasized–the disciples were afraid of the Pharisees, but they also were undone by Jesus’ surprise visit.

Peace was definitely a precious commodity for them.

Jesus gives his disciples a mission to do, and they must be as ‘familiar’ with Jesus just as Jesus is with God. The disciples had followed him for three years–seeing incredible miracles, and hearing profound teaching, they’re ready, they just need power.

In track and field, there’s a relay race where a baton is passed from runner to runner, and maybe that’s how it’s working here? We see the same idea in John 17:18.

The baton has now been passed to the disciples.

The breath of the risen Jesus is necessary (and yes, he’s breathing.) What went down here, I don’t know exactly. But Jesus recognizes that his 12 followers will need this to do his work. Also, we might consider Adam in Genesis 2:7 where God’s breath brought him to life, which is pretty awesome when you think of the parallels.

The Holy Spirit is the energizing factor to do this new work.

The disciples were pretty much observers, but now they are to take up the ‘mantle’ of Jesus’ work. This is a definite duplication, which connects with the idea of one seed producing many others (John 12:24.) That’s how the Kingdom will come to people.

Verse 23 intrigues me. It seems that our life comes from the breath of Jesus. And it’s the Holy Spirit gives both power and the authority that’s needed to function like Jesus. We also now have the ability to pronounce forgiveness to the new believer, and yet that doesn’t seem a function of the Church today.

I wonder why this is so?

This entire passage as a doozy. It clearly declares the Churches new role as we follow in his footsteps. Disciples are to do exactly what Jesus does–with his breath and authority–filled with the Holy Spirit. If we neglect these things (it seems anyway) we’re going to fall flat on our face.

“The work of Jesus for His disciples on resurrection Sunday gives an ongoing pattern for His work among His people. Jesus wants to continue this fourfold ministry of assurancemission, the Holy Spirit and authority to His people today.”

From David Guzik’s website

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He is Solid, #106

38 “Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”

Luke 24:38-41, CSB, (context vv. 36-43)

He isn’t a ghost, a hallucination or some sort of fabrication of hopeful desires. He’s real! As real as you or I–solid, flesh and blood, and real bones. That may seem like a small thing, but it reveals to the disciples (and us) so much. When his resurrection happened, it didn’t alter him, or change his physical attributes. The disciples were floored when the solid Jesus showed up to be with them.

It was a late Sunday evening.

The doors were shut tight, and the eleven were hiding out there–scared and wallowing in doubt. That’s a lousy mixture. Jesus doesn’t knock on the door, he just pops right in their gathering. That must of been a bit of a shake-up in itself. I know I would of freaked. (And I would’ve taken a serious look at that door.)

At the core, they couldn’t believe that he was real. Maybe a ghost, or his spirit or something else? I’m fairly certain that even if this “man” was really Jesus, it would, maybe be something mystical or ethereal. He wouldn’t be flesh anyway. That was a real stretch for them–and me too.

If it was really true, it meant that physical things are really spiritual.

What I mean by that earth was now combined with heaven. Jesus, the King of the known universe–the One who sits on the throne–is solidly human. Concrete and quite tangible. He’s not a vague kind of spirit, but he’s just like like us. Finally, something physical!

Let’s not get confused about this; I think it’s a critical point. Eternity will not be a vague and misty reality–nebulous and celestial. It’s now quite relatable. When Jesus walks with you on the golden paths of his heaven, you’ll not be walking with a ghost. He’ll be as you and I are right now. He’ll be real. You’ll be real.

You’ll be able to touch him. And if you really want to you can stick your finger into his wounds (verse 40.) I love what this solid Jesus told Thomas in John 20:27:

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.

This should shatter any misconceptions you might have. Thomas had real doubts, and instead of getting rebuked, Jesus invites Thomas to discover the reality of himself. This is really quite profound when you think of it. I’m so glad that this happened, I needed to hear it for myself.

I maybe a very silly preacher and writer, but that’s the way I see it.

A light shining in this heart of darkness
A new beginning and a miracle
Day by day the integration
Of the concrete and the spiritual

Bob Bennett, “Heart of the Matter

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Go to My Brothers, #105

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

John 20:17-18, (context, vv. 11-18)

Some believe that somehow this ties into the holiness of Jesus and his need to ascend with God. This thought is that somehow Mary would defile him. I don’t believe this for a second. A much better idea is that Mary was so excited to see Jesus alive that she grabbed a hold of him and simply wouldn’t let go.

The risen Jesus was not a ghost, or a spirit.

He was solid, just like you and me. And he wasn’t Mary’s hallucination, delusion or some sort of wish-fulfillment. It was him–it’s Jesus. Yes, he was buried, everyone knew that. But now he was actually standing before her–very much alive.

“Go to my brothers” is quite profound when you think about it. There’s no superiority or condescending attitude to speak of. Rather he’s relating to his cowering and foolish followers who are hiding out as his brothers. They maybe in hiding, but he’s telling them that they needn’t be afraid.

“My Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” is wonderfully aware.

It’s funny, but this is the first time that he refers to them as his brothers, and the resurrection from the dead has changed everything. It’s interesting, but a brother relationship is even closer than a friend relationship. The disciple are now relating to Jesus in a new capacity. They’re now brothers–family.

Mary has been “commissioned” by Jesus.

She is now the first one to carry the Good News that the Lord has risen from the dead. The Jews didn’t recognize the testimony of a woman in their courts, but Jesus chose her. She’s been given the responsibility to carry the news to his followers. This is no small thing.

We see Mary announcing this to the disciples. The word “announcing” means she simply declared to them what she had just experienced. Perhaps that’s the essence of witnessing to others–we simply communicate what Jesus has done for us. Our testimony is a very powerful thing, (Rev. 12:11).

“Christ the Lord is risen today, Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply.”

    Charles Wesley

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Mary Sees Him, #104

Mary Magdalene and an Empty Tomb

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 

“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”

John 20:14-15

Mary Magdalene would’ve been the last one I would have chosen to be the first witness. If it was me, I would have gone straight to Caiaphas, or gave Pilate a good scare–“I told you so.” He didn’t go to the Temple and to show off his resurrection power. He zapped no one.

It fascinates me, but Jesus didn’t show off his power. Instead Mary was chosen, the harlot, and the one who he cast out seven demons. Simple, humble Mary. The one whom he forgave. And he comes quietly, and gently to her.

But he’s alive!

Brutally killed, taken off the cross and carefully laid in a tomb–but Jesus comes to life!

The most powerful testimony of truth of the Gospel rests here in the resurrection. Our faith hinges on this. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ bones still lay in a tomb, and we are still dead in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

There is so much in this passage; the implications are enormous.

“What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.”

     Frederick W. Robertson

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The Skull, #102

“Two criminals were also led out with him for execution, and when they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him with the criminals, one on either side of him.

“But Jesus himself was saying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Then they shared out his clothes by casting lots.”

Luke 23:32-34, Phillips

This is easily the darkest and evil point in human history. The Son of God, (the second person of the Trinity) allows himself to be crucified. Do we have the slightest idea what that means? Is this really something we can grasp?

The word “Calvary” means “place of the Skull.”

When criminals were put to death that’s where it took place. Since Romans liked to execute people, I imagine it was semi-permanent, with vertical poles set in place. The “skull” was visible to all, situated on a main highway. The men who were lifted up would’ve been able to see Jerusalem’s walls, and perhaps even the Temple.

Jonathan Edwards comments about putting people to death like this:

“Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.”

“Maximum pain and suffering.” Doesn’t that bring it into perspective?

Jesus spends his last few hours praying for his enemies. While he was suffering and dying, the soldiers were rolling dice for his robe. But as he was hanging, the nails holding him in place–he was praying. The pain must’ve been beyond belief. (It’s worth noting that we get our English word “excruciating” from the Latin word meaning “from the cross.”)

Jesus took my sin–he took yours too. He absorbed every ounce. And yet taking on all that, he was still innocent. He did not sin, but he carried every single drop of it. Why would he do this?

At that precise moment, the Father turned his back on him.

With all of that sin (my sin, and yours) God turned away, (Isaiah 53:10). He was now totally alone, and the wrath of God was poured out on him. Jesus, at that moment, was in our place–he substituted himself for us. He died, so we might go free, (2 Corinthians 8:9).

What more can I say? The darkest moment for him became the brightest one for us. He hung there, completely horrified–he was now all alone. God left him at that moment.

I now must live differently.

Once I really truly understood this, everything changed. God is now my friend, I’m at peace with him. When Jesus died on “the place of the skull” he substituted his life for mine. He died, and now I live. It was the greatest exchange in all of history, (1 John 4:9-10).

I now choose to turn away from those things that Jesus Christ went to the cross for.

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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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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

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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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