Holy Week Musing: The Dark Sabbath: Resting When All Seems Shattered

The day after Good Friday is a day not much attention is paid. Not many sermons are given on the day in between the cross and resurrection. When we do not spend some time focusing on this day of deep, dark despair we miss part of the picture. See the disciples; those who left all to follow Jesus had nowhere to turn. Jesus was just crucified, now what were they to do? They really didn’t have a clue. The choices basically were less than inspiring. All their hope was nailed to the cross, depression and despair took hold. Fear was great. Peter was so afraid he denied knowing Jesus three times. There has never been a period in time darker. Hope was gone. Some gather together and waited; some went back to what they knew best. Simply put, they were devastated and were just surviving.
Each of us do have moments of time where dreams are shattered, hope seems lost, things do not go according to our expectations, and often to the contrary. We can pull back, shut down, sleep or go back to what we knew. Of course each moment when we engage in those actions in the times of dark despair, we know that our response doesn’t suffice, but we know not what else to do. We do not know what God is actually doing or saying. All we know is we need to follow, hold on to God in spite of all appearances. For none of us knows what tomorrow brings, all we know is what God set before us, even when we cannot see any sign of hope.
But this we can know for certainty. God is at work. God is faithful. He will accomplish all He has set forth. He always keeps His promises and His word. Any period of dark despair is but temporary. Morning will come but does not last, the mourning is turned to dancing as God reveals His will and intent which is always better than anything we devise of our own accord. So in those dark times, God calls us to trust in him, rest in Him. The darkest time, a time where rest truly was needed, happened on a Sabbath, with the focus to be off self and on God. And on the darkest Sabbath, God was acting to secure the Eternal Rest, found in Jesus. Thus a call when times see dark, no where to turn, no where to go, no idea what God is going to go, remember to rest in God, for He is at work and will show the way, you can rest. Morning is coming and soon you will dance. Soon!

Now given these thoughts and musings, take some time to meditate on Psalms 30

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

The Wonderful Cross- Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman

Passion Week Musings: The Garden Betrayal

After the Last Supper the scene moves to the Garden and the eventual betrayal. There are two main reactions to focus on during the time in the garden, Jesus action and that of the disciples. Jesus was under intense emotions and stress. He was about to undergo something that none of us can grasp. He knows he is about to die a horrid death. He knows he is to be sacrificed. He is at a moment of intense anticipation for the events ahead. So what he did was seek the father. He resisted the temptation to run or go another way. He stayed true and let his heart out toward the Father. His emotions and struggle was so intense that his body could not hold up under the emotional distress and he started sweating blood. Take you most intense emotional stress and it will not come close to the agony Jesus was experiencing. Yet, he continued to submit to the will of the father, knowing that there is no other way to redeem mankind for if there was any other way it would have happened.

Now during the period of time that Jesus is undergoing this intense emotional struggle while awaiting the betrayal the disciples were there. Jesus asked them to stand by, watch, and pray. The disciples tried to follow suit but the fell asleep. Jesus did not condemn them for their failures. He was aware that their spirits were willing, they tried to follow suit, but they could not overcome and resist the flesh. They fell asleep. He found them sleeping and the third time he did not even bother to waken them until the betrayer arrived. When the moment arrives, he declares there ongoing status of sleeping and then awakens them to let them know the time has come. As the event unfold, the disciples end up ready for a fight, Peter even gets aggressive. Jesus remains steadfast. So it is clear that in spite the teaching and preparation they did not understand. They were still focused on a conquering messiah in spite of Jesus telling them over and over he would suffer death, this may even been part of their struggle with flesh. They did not really know why they needed to watch and pray. They were confident and had faith in Jesus and were ready to fight with him. They were not ready to see the one they loved so much and put faith in turned over to suffer and die.

Today the church is not really in a different place then the disciples. We know Jesus is coming soon. We are aware of events and signs to watch for. Yet we get caught up in the cares of world. We have our goals and plans and dreams we want to accomplish or experience before His return. These very things cause is to be weak in flesh and ultimately to fall asleep. God directs us to watch, pray, and be sober. Yet, we all fall asleep. Every one of us, for ultimately we fail to fully understand and grasp what is going to happen. In our spirit we long for the return, but in our flesh it is another story, so we fall asleep. It is much better to watch and pray and stand firm, yet it does stretch our limits. Now some fellow believers focus and hope on the “Rapture” of the church, yet know this, we need to be awake. If you rest in a perception of coming safety when the world is already growing darker, it is really a form of slumber. God like the disciples gives us preparation and will direct us what we need to do to stand firm and not falter. Yet, for us often the spirit is willing but the flesh is week so we sleep in the appearance of current and coming safety. Meanwhile there is a roaring lion about looking who he may devour. There is evil going on, sometimes coordinated, sometimes just in synchronicity. If we slumber, we falter and fail to stand firm.

Passion Week Musings: The Olivet Discourse

In terms of Passion Week, after causing great disruption at the temple and driving out moneychangers and merchants the next documented event is that of the Olivet discourse. Jesus took extended time to give last words to the crowd of disciples. The discourse was his last public teaching. He spent time speaking in prophecy and parables. His teaching included the commentary on the ten virgins and the five talents. He also provided warning to remain in truth and warned of deceivers. He prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and the times leading up to His second coming. It is worthwhile to take time to read the varied accounts of the Olivet Discourse found in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and 25, and Luke 21. Jesus is quick clear that there is great difficulty and tribulation coming before His return both in terms of Israel and those in God’s kingdom. He makes it clear that there are signs to attend to and that love can grow cold and people can and will be deceived. Also emphasized in the discourse is the importance of our actions following what we say we believe.Through all of what Jesus talked about, there is one point that catches my attention today.

Jesus summed up his discourse with a call to stay awake. The book of Mark ends the account of the discourse in Mark 13: 34-37 (ESV): “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” So Jesus emphasizes the importance staying awake. The point is further clarified in the way Luke’s account wraps up the discourse in Luke 21:34:36 (ESV): “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” So Jesus does give clear directive that there will be pain, loss of self control, and distractions of life that can draw one away from attending to the Gospel.

There are endless varieties of pain; endless ways to lose self; and unyielding array of life concerns that can take the focus and result in failing asleep and failing to attend to the matters of a servant in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is noteworthy that in many circles within the Body of Christ are calls for revival and suggestions of revival happening in one location or another. In this discourse, Jesus warns not to go chasing from one location or another. He simply directs us to stay awake. Staying awake is actively attending to the matters of the Kingdom of God. It is found in loving others and attending to the various signs as they occur. It is taking focus away from pains, pleasures, or tasks of life and instead seeking to be about the Father’s business. No one else can supply what is needed, rather staying awake involved actively worshipping in spirit in truth. It is depending on the fuel of God and investing what He has given in order to spread God’s kingdom. His Kingdom is not of politics, it is not about relief of suffering, it is not about giving us all we want and reducing the cares of life. Rather, his Kingdom is about loving God and loving others fully and letting others know that there is only one way, one truth, one life, and one gate; JESUS! So stay awake and if caught up in the varied elements of life that lure and entrap like the Siren’s call of myths, WAKE UP! For Jesus return is always and ever SOON! He is the soon and coming King. We have all we need and all that is need for true revival is for each of us to wake up and actively use what God has given.

Passion Week Musings: Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday. It is the first day of what is celebrated as Passion Week, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Grasping the events of the week really starts with this day, know as Palm Sunday. It is interesting to consider the symptoms of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. An interesting article, http://www.answers.com/topic/palm-sunday, indicates palm fronds were a symbol of victory and triumph. The book “Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible” edited by J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney indicated that palms were also symbolic of righteousness. It also is reported that palm fronds serve as the covering during the Biblical feast of booths. This symbolism is important for us when considering the events of Palm Sunday. Jesus was recognized as coming royalty, acknowledged for righteousness, and prophetically pointing to Jesus serving as our covering as that covering was laid before his path. The aforementioned article also referenced the riding in on a donkey as being symbolic of entering in peace versus entering on a horse which would symbolize war. So take some time to think about that symbolism while taking time to read the Luke account of the Palm Sunday story. Feel free to also take time to read the account in Matthew 21: 1 – 17 and Mark 11: 1 – 11. After reading the passage will offer brief commentary on three reactions that occurred during Jesus approach to Jerusalem.

Luke 19:28-44 (ESV): Luke When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

Now let us take a look at three reactions to Jesus entry. First there was the reaction of great expectation. Jesus was recognized as the coming Messiah. The crowd in their response declared Jesus as Messiah, the coming Son of David, with the expectation of deliverance from oppression and living a time of victory and peace. The anticipation and expectations were high. It was seen the time had come for Messiah to act and bring freedom.

The next reaction is that of Jesus. He understood the reactions, and the expectation. He recognized that they did not grasp that for him to become the true covering, to offer true freedom from oppression, to be able to being true peace, he would need to be sacrificed and suffer much. Jesus knew what they were blind from seeing and understanding. Even though the celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they did not grasp the meaning. So Jesus wept for he knew the full extent of what was to come. He knew the consequences that would result. He knew that it was necessary for the bringing of true peace.

The third response was that of the religious elite, those in power in Israel. The saw the reactions, heard the proclamations and acted in fear. The conspiracy to bring about Jesus death took full shape and they were not going to rest until they solved the threat to their power and control. They were comfortable with their position and power, Jesus coming and taking over was the last they wanted. What made it worse is Jesus came not giving the honor for faithfully administrating Torah and the people, but rather challenged them at every turn, yet while remaining righteousness an honor. Jesus actions and words brought the shame; they could not have that, so the only way to remove the threat was to see to Jesus death.

The end result of the responses is what lead up to the ongoing events of Passion Week, the very elements that took place so that all may be brought to peace and free of oppression. For true peace is only found through the sacrifice of the innocent and redemption by the power of blood.


 

Resurrection Sunday Musing: Suffering defeated!

      Today was Resurrection Sunday, the last day of Passion Week and the day we celebrate Jesus not remaining dead, but rising again, making it so that all may be free.  It is the day we set aside to folks on the Resurrection and Jesus making grace available to all.  He, one who was without sin, became sin for us.

     On the day he was crucified, even his closest followers were filled with doubt.   How could Jesus the Messiah die and suffer?  All were looking toward the toppling of evil and the establishing of the Kingdom of God, not realizing that the Kingdom of God is not about politics, not about dominion, not about power.  It was about the shedding of the innocent blood of the Lamb of God to open a way that all may be saved. 

    Today, many cannot see the truth of the sacrifice and resurrection.  They are filled with scorn and mockery for the do not grasp or understand the need for the cross. People are blinded to their own evil and wickedness, for many people do many good things.  However, any good deed falls short, for there is not one person who does not falter. 

    Many that mock and scorn the idea of Jesus as Messiah point to the suffering, the hurt, the pain, and the ill in the world.  How could a truly good and loving God allow all the pain, hurt, suffering, illness, poverty, war, tragedy, catastrophe, and all other aspects of life humanity views as bad is the frequent cry.  They expect a good and loving God would simply wipe away all suffering immediately, with one stroke.  They do not understand that God did just that at the cross. Sure pain and suffering are still ever presence.  Evil done from one man to another is constant.   No way could God have dealt with it all in one quick action. 

     Yet, in one three day span, all that was against God was defeated. The true victory won.  Now, pain and suffering still engulf the earth, but the days are numbered and growing ever shorter.  The reason for this is that the Lamb of God who was slain did not remain in the grave.  He conquered death and sin and provided away that all who accept may be redeemed.  God dealt with pain and suffering his way, in a way that demonstrates perfect love and provides an eventual end to suffering for all who accept the gift of Grace offered.  

The resurrection is the most significant day in humanity.  It is a day that I am most grateful for, because without the Cross and Resurrection I would be lost, with no hope, and no peace.   Yet, now I am truly at peace regardless of whatever is going on, even when I don’t feel at peace.  I know that all suffering is but temporary and the victory has already won.  And for this, I proclaim Hallelujah! Blessed be the Lamb of God who took my sin, so that I may be free.

Darkness to Light

There is a day where darkness fell

This day the Lamb was slain

Evil laughed

Victory declared

Earth shook

Dead walked

Veil torn in two

Then came the day

Darkness turned to light

Stone rolled away

Empty tomb

Lamb that was slain

Alive a new

Light grows

Evil moans

Sins paid

Hallelujah