Archive for the month “October, 2014”

Pondering John 20:19-31

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

2 things that catch my attention from this passage…

1) Three times in a matter of 8 verses Jesus says “Peace be with you!” Sort of makes you think these guys were struggling with experiencing peace with all that was going on. There is still a lot of that going around today. Both believers and unbelievers alike are often overwhelmed by worry and anxiety and have a hard time experiencing the peace of God. The key, I think, to knowing the peace of God in your life is to know the God of peace. God identifies Himself in Judges 6 as Jehovah Shalom. (You can read about this encounter that Gideon had with God by clicking HERE where I blogged about it a few years ago.) Jesus is identified as the Prince of Peace. To know God is to know peace. There used to be a sign that I would see around from time to time that has a lot of truth to it: “No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know peace.” Whenever I am assaulted by worry I try to remind myself that God is in control, that He is with me, and that I can rest in Him and let Him deal with the troubling details of life.

2) Thomas, I think, kind of gets a bad rap by being referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” I’m pretty sure that if I had not been around when Jesus presented himself the first time to the disciples that I would have had my doubts too. The thing that I appreciate about Thomas is that he did not pretend his doubts did not exist. He owned them and confronted them and when they were allayed he was strengthened in his faith and became a powerful ambassador for the gospel. My concern is that we do not do this in the church. We have our doubts but we just sweep them under the spiritual carpet, act like they are not there, and then try to live out our faith the best that we can. Meanwhile, those nagging doubts are still there for us to stumble over. Better to confront them head on and get on about the kingdom’s business with confidence and joy.

Next Week’s Passage: John 21:1-4

Quotes Worth Pondering – G.K. Chesterton

QuotesWorthPondering

“Tolerance is the virtue of those who don’t believe anything.”

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

 

 

Pondering John 20:1-18

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

There comes a point in every believer’s life when he has an “AHA” moment. It is that moment when everything that you have heard and seen finally makes sense and you begin to really believe what you believe. There are two AHA moments recorded in this passage:

1) John’s AHA moment came when he first looked into the tomb, saw that Jesus was not there and noted how the grave clothes had been arranged. The Scripture simply says at this point, “He saw and believed.” (v.8)

2) Mary also had an AHA moment. It was at her 2nd trip to the tomb that morning. She had had an encounter with  2 angels – which I’m pretty sure would have been an AHA moment for me – and then had a conversation with Jesus without knowing it was Him. But when He said her name, “Mary“, it was as if the light went on and all was clear to her. (v.16)

My AHA moment came when I was about 16 years old. After spending my first 14 years without any religious indoctrination at all I began hanging around my best friend’s church in the 9th grade. After about 2 years of exposure to the gospel and to people that loved God everything finally clicked in my mind and my heart responded by crying out to God to rescue me from darkness and bring me into the light of His Son. And my life was never the same.

Do you remember what your AHA moment was like? Today might be a good day to reflect back on how the Lord brought you to your moment of belief and then thank Him for rescuing you and filling you with LIFE!

Next Week’s Passage: John 20:19-31

Quotes Worth Pondering: D.L. Moody

QuotesWorthPondering“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”

“The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

“No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted, and obedient to Him.”

Pondering John 19:28-42

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

The actions of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are interesting to me. So evidently both of these men were followers of Jesus, though “secretly” according to verse 28. And both of these men were influential Jews as they were members of the Sanhedrin. What I find interesting is why they have decided upon Jesus’ death to “come out” so to speak as ardent disciples. Why all of a sudden do they have the courage to do what they do? I could understand their actions if it was post resurrection – at least then they would know that everything Jesus had preached about Himself was true. But this is pre-resurrection. As far as they know, Jesus is dead. They don’t yet know the rest of the story. And yet here they are boldly identifying themselves with this man who was so despised by their colleagues.

Perhaps it was their love for Jesus that prompted them to act. Perhaps it was the injustice that they had witnessed that prompted them to act. Perhaps it was their guilty conscience at not having come out sooner that prompted them to act. Or perhaps it was their faith. Perhaps they decided that if their faith in Jesus was really real then it was now or never to do something about it.

Here are two application questions that I find myself pondering:

1) To what degree am I secretly following Jesus, not letting others know that I am a bona fide disciple?

2) What courageous act can I do this week to demonstrate (both to myself and to the world) that I am indeed a fervent follower of Jesus?

Next Week’s Passage: John 20:1-18

Quotes Worth Pondering – D.A. Carson

QuotesWorthPondering“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

Pondering John 19:17-27

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

I do not take any credit at all for what follows. It is  a portion of an article by a physician (Dr C. Truman Davis) describing in detail the crucifixion. It is long but worth the full read. When we understand what Jesus went through on our behalf, it helps us to better appreciate the price He was willing to pay for our sin.

…In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. You are, of course, familiar with Pilate’s action in attempting to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate.

It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.  There is much disagreement among authorities about the unusual scourging as a prelude to crucifixion. Most Roman writers from this period do not associate the two. Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews. Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes.  The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.

At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.  The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.

The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.

After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed.  In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa.

In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance.  The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650 yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed.  Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed in place.

The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain — the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.

As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.  At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded:

The first, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The second, to the penitent thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

The third, looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John — the beloved Apostle — he said, “Behold thy mother.” Then, looking to His mother Mary, “Woman behold thy son.”

The fourth cry is from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Jesus experienced hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins — a terrible crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.  One remembers again the 22nd Psalm, the 14th verse: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasps His fifth cry, “I thirst.”  One remembers another verse from the prophetic 22nd Psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death.” A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine which is the staple drink of the Roman legionaries, is lifted to His lips. He apparently doesn’t take any of the liquid.

The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth words, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, “It is finished.”  His mission of atonement has completed. Finally He can allow his body to die.

With one last surge of strength, he once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, “Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”

Next Week’s Passage: John 19:28-42

Quotes Worth Pondering: Mark Batterson

QuotesWorthPonderingPeople who live in prayer mode see opportunities that other people don’t notice. People who don’t live in prayer mode are opportunity blind….Prayer has a way of helping us recognize that what we might dismiss as human accidents are really divine appointments.

Pondering John 19:1-16

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

Here is my definition of a coward: Someone who is not willing to do the right thing because other people are egging you on to do the wrong thing.

Pilate was a coward. Clearly he knew what the right thing to do was. He was more concerned about keeping the peace and keeping his job than he was about doing the right thing. I’m sure he had no idea that the fateful decision he made to turn Jesus over to be crucified would still be being talked about 2000 years later. I’m sure that he hoped that the mark he left on history would be as “the best governor the Roman Empire ever had” not the man who had the Savior of the world crucified. I’m sure that he had no idea that his legacy would be defined by one bad, people-pleasing decision.

Admittedly, I am a people pleaser. I like for people to think well of me and to like me. But I hope that does not get in the way of doing the right thing when it goes against the grain. I hope at least part of my legacy will be that I was not afraid to the the right thing. I pray that I will have the courage to stand up for right and not take the easy way out, the coward’s way out, of doing the wrong thing when I clearly know the right thing to do.

Next Week’s Passage: John 19:17-27

Quotes Worth Pondering – Philip Yancey

QuotesWorthPondering“Any discussion of how pain and suffering fit into God’s scheme ultimately leads back to the cross. ”

“Grace is the most perplexing, powerful force in the universe, and, I believe, the only hope for our twisted, violent planet.”

“Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

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