Jesus May Be Mocked, But He is Always Worthy of Praise

When Jesus was crucified, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, it certainly appeared foolish. Here Jesus is seen as a common criminal, a failure, and powerless. In Mark we read these words of how he is mocked at the crucifixion:

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20

That is our savior. Paul won’t waiver from this painful sight–the Messiah dying on the cross. It seems foolish. But it is our savior. It is love in action.

I thought I’d share a hymn that puts these two concepts together. Each stanza begins with what appears foolish: birth in a manger, a wandering existence with no home, his beating, and finally his crucifixion. But coupled with these scenes is the fact that such humble events do not diminish our Lord. Each stanza asks, “Who is this?” And the answer is always, regardless of circumstance, “our God.” We still praise him. Jesus Christ is the Son of God in these times and judging by the world’s standards, or by the world’s wisdom, does not fully comprehend his real power and glory.

Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless?

Who is this, so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
’Tis the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path has trod;
He is Lord from everlasting,
And to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
Walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping
Over sin and Satan’s sway?
’Tis our God, our glorious Savior,
Who above the starry sky
Is for us a place preparing,
Where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
Drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
Mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
’Tis our God, Who gifts and graces
On His church is pouring down;
Who shall smite in holy vengeance
All His foes beneath His throne.

Who is this that hangs there dying
While the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors,
Torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
’Tis our God Who lives forever
’Mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city,
Reigning everlastingly.

You can also listen to the song here, in a rendition from Indelible Grace, sung by Sandra McCracken (although the video was not made by them):

Exploring the Possibilities

Image of Folio 27v, with the four evangelist symbols from the Book of Kells, a 1200 year old book.

I was in a group tonight that was reading the beginning of Mark. Probably for all of us there it was re-reading this gospel. But even though it is familiar to us, God always can speak. His word is fresh and needs to be approached with the expectation he’ll still meet us there. We’ll never quite have all the answers, rather we are constantly in a place of need. We should be humble and open to the leading of the Spirit.

If that is what God can do in a familiar passage, what do you think can happen with books of the Bible we know very little about? If there can be newness to familiar passages, what is there to learn from the more unfamiliar passages?

We can easily pick up Jeremiah and think, “I don’t know anything about this!” This can lead to our being discouraged. But how much better to respond with an attitude of excitement. If we don’t know much, how much is there to explore? What will God speak to us? How can it be stale if we’ve never passed through these texts before?

We may like familiar. We like what is known. Many really like routine and habit. But we need to have that adventurous spirit that gets excited when we encounter the unknown. Sure, we may feel out of our element with some of these books of the Bible, but that’s how we learn. Look at your Bible’s study notes (if you have them), search the internet for answers, call a friend and discuss, and even–if you’re desperate and grasping for straws–email me.

When you get into these books, like Jeremiah, be excited for a new word from God, be expectant that he will speak, and embrace the perspective of “what can I learn?”.

Quarter Two, Week Three

Is it just me or have the last couple weeks flown by? We’ve already finished up both Joshua and Mark and now we begin Judges and Galatians.

I’ll just make one tip as we get into these readings. Galatians is a letter, and how many letters do you read spread out over a week? Answer: none. We don’t typically read letters in parts, so I’d encourage you to take your time with Judges, but when it comes to Galatians, try to read it in one sitting. It’s not that long, so don’t worry. If you do I think you’ll get a good sense of Paul’s intent and purpose in writing this to the churches in Galatia.

If you have questions throughout this week, send them my way!

Week in Review, Quarter 2, Week 2

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still

The following verses are the most well-known of the book of Joshua:

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:14-15

We’re missing out if we think this statement is only for a past time, a time of Joshua. We still today have foreign gods, idols that seek to take a place in our lives that only God should occupy. To be a disciple of Christ and follow him is a choice that is for God, and by necessity is then a choice against other gods. It is a choice that excludes possibilities from our life. We are to turn from those lesser things in this world, the false gods and idols. We must stop worshiping them or worshiping self and make a stand for God.

Joshua reminds the people before this statement of who their God is and all that he has done. Having read Mark we’ve been reminded of who God is and we see him most clearly in Jesus Christ. We know what he has done for us. God has done it all. Jesus Christ died the death we deserve so that we may be with him. Christ tells us as well what marks the life of a disciple. A life of sacrifice, death to self, service, witness, love of neighbor, and obedience to the will of the Father.

In response to God’s good news and his invitation to follow Christ, will we cast off the false gods of the land in which we dwell serve the Lord?

 

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Even though we’re reminded in Scripture not to hold some spiritual gifts and ministries in higher esteem than others, since we are all part of the same body in need of the unique callings and work of all its parts, we can at times fall into that trap. One area that can be tempting is in regards to the gift of teaching. You may find yourself thinking that the higher up the educational ladder you are, the more spiritually accomplished you are. If I can teach wise, elder members of a congregation that is more impressive than “just” teaching some little kids. You’ve really got to be real spiritual to do the former, and the latter is just glorified child care, right?

But listen to these words of Jesus from Mark 9:33-37:

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

The disciples are wrapped up in who is the greatest. Maybe it is a discussion about who is the most spiritually mature. Jesus’ response is to take a child into his arms, and challenge these bickering disciples to do a great work–to receive a child in his name.

That’s not a work that is leftover for those who can’t do something else. He says this to his twelve disciples, future leaders of the early church. Working with and for children is a great, high calling. It is a wonderful witness that within the church children are valued so much. They are not a nuisance nor are they a distraction of the real work of the church. Receiving a child in the name of Jesus is part of what we are called to do.

We have been gifted by God in different ways, so don’t let the differences lead you into ranking these works or associating some with differing levels of spiritual maturity. All of God’s gifts are needed and valuable to him.

So today I give a special thanks to all who work with children. Know you do a special work of Christ in sharing his love with those little ones.

The Incredibility of the Resurrection

In Mark 12 the Sadducees confront Jesus with questions about resurrection. They create a complicated hypothetical involving seven brothers, no children, and a wife who had been passed along once these brothers die in succession. They ask Jesus whose wife will this woman be? It is a bizarre question, and it is being asked by Sadducees who in fact deny the truth of the resurrection. They either want to trap Jesus or make resurrection out to be a ridiculous belief.

But Jesus replies saying that they really don’t know what they’re talking about. They know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. These deniers of the resurrection do not understand the resurrection at all.

This got me thinking back to an article I read a couple years ago. Christians do not deny the resurrection, we affirm it. But do we understand it any better than the Sadducees? Do we think about what happens after we die? Do we think about the resurrection of the dead? A bodily resurrection like that of Jesus?

Resurrection is a key belief in Christianity, and it is right there in the creeds that we recite. But do we get our understanding from God and his word or from pop-culture and its movies and books?

This article, which I originally read in a Newsweek, waiting at the doctor’s office, can be found here (Daily Beast). It looks at that tension that people have in which they believe in an afterlife, but have trouble with a bodily resurrection. But, as the article ends, “Resurrection may be unbelievable, but belief in a traditional heaven requires it.”

As the title says, the resurrection is incredible. You can read it two ways. The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are not credible nor is the belief that our fate is the same. Or you read it as saying the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, signifying the death of death for all who believe in him, is simply a wonderful truth and cause for great hope.

A Prophet Not Accepted in His Hometown

In Mark 6 Jesus returns to his hometown, Nazareth, teaching in the synagogue, but while some people were astonished, others were more reluctant to accept not only Jesus’ teachings but the man himself. They wonder where he got this teaching, since they didn’t see this in Nazareth. They wonder how this Jesus could perform such mighty works and say, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?”

They know Jesus, but they know him before he had began his ministry and revealed himself as the Christ. The people of Nazareth know Jesus the carpenter, not the Messiah. And because they think they already know him they’ve made their conclusions. Jesus can’t change their assumptions about who he is.

How often do our preconceived notions or past experiences limit our ability to accept something or someone new? If we knew someone years ago and they were a bit of a terror, when they appear reformed do we believe they have changed? Or can we not get beyond our previous conclusions and think it must be a facade? In a similar way, if we know someone as an upstanding citizen and all around “good person,” do we refuse to believe that they could have made some grave mistake? Does the past again inform us more than the facts, and have us say, “Oh, no… they’d never do that. They’re a good person. I don’t believe it.”

We are quick to come to conclusions, even without all the information. Nazareth thought they knew Jesus, but they didn’t know the whole story. They wouldn’t accept that even though he was a carpenter, even though he was a man, that he was also fully God. We should not be so rash to close off ourselves from the continued working of God in and through people. We should not be so prideful as to think we already know the full picture. Like with Jesus going back to his hometown showing himself to be more than they expected, we should know that God is full of surprises and is quick to go beyond our expectations.