Before the Resurrection

“As many were astonished at you, his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”  Isaiah 52:14

2022-04-16 Jesus On The Cross

Resurrection Sunday came, but not before THIS happened.  Is it any wonder that as a man, Jesus was so strained in the Garden of Gethsemene, that being in agony He prayed more earnestly; His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)  Hematidrosis is a rare medical condition in which one oozes or “sweats” blood from the skin even thought there is no cut or injury.  Though usually not fatal of itself, it has most often occurred in people as they died or in prisoners facing execution.  He knew what was about to happen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=125baeLbGvU

Not just the physical torture He was about to endure, but He knew the spiritual battle that we will never see – the acceptance of sin for which He was not guilty, sin that was none of His doing; all the pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth that you and I have committed; all the hatred, lies, murder, abuse and wickedness that men and women have perpetrated since the beginning of the earth until its end!  He was looking forward to bearing ALL that in a matter of hours.

2022-04-16 Jesus In The TombAnd should we expect God will deliver us from all troubles?  Yet, “God did not keep bad things from happening to God Himself and there is no darkness into which He has not descended.  He knows the texture and taste of everything [we] most fear.”  (Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night)

Western Christians have become so soft and comfortable that the idea of suffering for Christ seems completely foreign.  Anticipating Sunday’s Resurrection, we glide through the pleasant days before with nothing to mark us but a little ash on our foreheads. 

So many “prosperity gospel” preachers have pounded out verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” that we have come to believe any time we have a problem, we can just go to Jesus and He will fix it in a matter of minutes.  They ignore the context of Jeremiah’s encouragement that was in a letter to EXILES“To the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  Note, to the surviving elders!  Many had died; many more were taken into captivity in chains or herded like cattle between soldiers on horses.

Yes, it is a nice plan, but the prophet warned it would be 70 years❗, an average person’s lifetime, before God would start working out His plans for their welfare.  And so Jeremiah warned, Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in My name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.”

Friend, if you want an easy life; if you want to avoid controversy; if you want to skate along with the culture, do not become a follower of Jesus!  If you are looking for prosperity and the “wonderful plan for your life” that some gospel peddlers offer, just take up their pitch and rest easy.  Go with the flow when government orders you to do something; obey every rule and do not make trouble.   Remember that the Nazis loved to quote the Bible in Romans 13:1, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”   But they avoided Peter’s assertion in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”  And after beating the apostles, they let them go.

Stay with me here: the apostles did not go back to their little prayer group or life-affirming friends and say, “Oh, it was so terrible!  Those guys were so mean to us.  Please pray that Jesus will protect us from them and we will never encounter that again!”  On the contrary, they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.”  Then they kept on boldly teaching in the religious government’s headquarters (their Temple) and from house to house.

Are you willing to suffer loss for the sake of following our Lord?  Are you willing to be ostracized as a narrow-minded, anti-science freak?  Are you willing to “Count it all joy,… when you meet trials of various kinds?” (James 1:2) Have you read the Bible, the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  This “cross” is not some illness or natural difficulty you may encounter.  “There is something frustrating that occurs on earth, namely, that there are righteous people to whom things happen as if they were doing wicked deeds; and, again, there are wicked people to whom things happen as if they were doing righteous deeds.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14 CJB)

The cross to which Jesus calls us is a choice to obey Him against what your family will call “common sense.”  Your friends will wag their heads and say, “Well, they went off the deep end!”  Even some religious advisers will warn you not to get too radical.  But for many of us, to follow Jesus will mean just that – a radical commitment to a God who was willing to suffer to redeem us.

Oh, and there is a reward, but we may not see it in this life!  Do not be so hasty for Sunday morning that you miss what happens before the Resurrection.  Are you willing to believe in a God who is willing to die for you?  Are you willing to die for a God who will save you?

Three Days: Then What?

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. 
Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh God is an everlasting rock.”
Isaiah 26:3-4

With an “election” just three days away, listen to the pundits: it will either be a landslide for Joe Biden or Donald Trump; or it will be a razor thin win that will be contested in courts all the way up to the day the Electoral College convenes on December 14 . . . or beyond!

However, what will be our response as Christ-followers to the election? Evangelicals, as a voting group, have put their hat in the ring with Trump; other Evangelicals, such as John Piper and leaders in Christianity Today have questioned the wisdom of voting for a candidate so far removed from a Christ-honoring life-style; as if “Catholic” Joe Biden represented a better option?

Perhaps disciples of Jesus should be less focused on this election, and more concentrated on how our witness is affected by aligning with any political party. That is not to say we should not vote, nor do I mean that we should not participate in the discussions and debates about the directions of our nation. However, those discussions should always bring us back to sharing the preeminent love of Jesus for those with whom we disagree. It should not result in a withdrawal to “our corner” with only those who agree with us.

There is a sovereignty of God that will not yield to Democrat or Republican propaganda; He will determine our next president no matter how hard we pray for a particular outcome. This is not an abdication of faith. I can tell God as forcefully as possible that I want a certain candidate elected, and if that is not God’s will, I will join Peter when Jesus told him to stand down, calling the conspicuous lead disciple a devil! “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)

This is where too many North American “Christians” are today! We want our comfortable middle-class religion that is easy-living and does not disturb us with issues of turning the other cheek, loving the poor, inviting the disenfranchised into our homes, giving more than merely “out of [our] abundance.”

How many of us support missions in Kenya but will not invite a black family to supper; too many of us do not even know a black family to invite! Who among us has befriended a Muslim family that needs more than Mohammad can offer? What about the college students who are living together unwed? Are we so offended by their lifestyle that we cannot show them how much we and Father love them? How much strain do you think an abortion assistant must go through before becoming calloused to the disposed “body parts?” When was the last time you talked to anyone about their eternal soul and what will happen if they have not accepted Jesus?

What really matters to us? Consider how much time do we spend praying for our lifestyle choices and comforts to continue? Compare that to how much time we pray for our president or his successor. Now, let’s get meddlesome: How much time do we spend praying for friends who do not know where they will spend eternity!? Have we inadvertently bought into a “prosperity gospel” that promises we should never have to suffer because God loves us? He will “fix” whatever we find disagreeable?

Jesus went to the cross in God’s will and by Father’s plan. Three days later He came back from the dead; yes, think about that – we believe even death could not destroy Him who is before all things and by whom all things hold together. But He could not have risen from the dead unless He first went to that cursed cross!

And do not think that we will be spared affliction, just as Peter warned those first century followers of Jesus: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

So now with three days till the “election,” if it is even finished then, what will we do with these three days? Hole up in our hidey-holes and pray that God will give us the elected officials we want? Or can we find or make an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with someone who may not even realize they need Him?