Monday, April 11, 2011, 09:49 AMApr. 11, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. Mark 15:21-23
We don’t know much about Simon, other than the fact that he was from Cyrene, a country in Northern Africa. There was apparently a community of Jews living in that part of the world, and Simon may well have been a practicing Jew, who took his two sons on a Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship with his fellow Jews. He was pressed into service likely for two reasons: He was probably an African Black man, and stood out from the crowd that way, or he was a large man, and stood out as one capable of carrying this heavy load. Either way, he carried the cross upon which the Messiah would be killed.
Following along, trying to keep up with the crowd and not lose sight of their father were his two, apparently young sons: Alexander and Rufus. Even less is known about them at this stage in the story, and this time in their lives. But what must it have been like for these little boys? Have they heard about Jesus? Did they know of his claims to be the Messiah? Were they just being good little Jewish boys, following along this adventurous journey with their dad? How the course of their day…and lives were changed! Their dad gets “called” to carry out one of the most significant events in Jesus’ life, and they get ring side seats at the most significant event in human history! They get a close up view of the crucifixion of God’s Son, Jesus. Do you wonder if it might have had an impact? Would it for you? How would being in the front row for this most remarkable event change your life?
Well, as you might expect, the story doesn’t end there. We never hear of Simon again, and we don’t know much about Alexander – but in Romans 16:16 we read: Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. Do you suppose this is the same Rufus, who has now become a great leader alongside the great Apostle Paul in the work in Rome? Could this young boy at Calvary be the same one whose mom, become an adopted mom to Paul? Could it possibly be that Jesus, while saving the world, saw two young boys whose dad had been enlisted to carry out the ignoble task of carrying the cross – and Jesus, reached out, spoke too or simply looked upon these 2 innocent boys, and “picked them out to be his very own?” Oh , I think it is very possible. I think he picks me (and you) too!
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Saturday, April 9, 2011, 08:31 AMApr. 9th, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law – the entire high council – met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor…So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.” Mark 15:1 & 15
Two questions emerged for me from this text today. Why were the religious Jewish Leaders so bent on involving the secular Roman government in their obvious “religious” undertaking of doing away with Jesus? Why didn’t they just condemn and kill him themselves? Partly there is a natural answer – the Jewish leaders didn’t have authority to execute anyone in this Roman state, so they must enlist the help of the Roman’s to achieve their purpose. The less natural, but no less obvious was because they wanted to share the blame for their false condemnation, and make themselves look ‘better’, by having the Romans shoulder at least some of their blame and guilt.
The second question is deeper – why are the Jews so threatened by Jesus? Was the fact that he could draw greater crowds then them such a threat they had to do away with him? Was the fact that the common people gladly welcomed and accepted him, such an affront to their own religious ‘failings’ that removing the competition was the best solution? Was the fact that Jesus kept condemning them for their multiple perversions just too much to continue to bear? I’m sure it was all of these; but at least one more.
Jesus threatened the Jewish Leaders, because, though he was their long-awaited Messiah – he was not the kind of Messiah they wanted! He was not the fulfillment of what their religion had become. Jesus’ primary message was to point out how far they have gone in missing the boat – their religion had become nothing more than a personal scam that made them rich, kept them in power, and kept the people under their spell – Jesus would eradicate all that!
I don’t think this is vastly different today. There are way too many Christians who have fallen more in love with their personal doctrines, or preferred traditions, than Jesus! There are Christians who’ve exchanged the challenging adventure of following Jesus, and replaced it with some lifeless, legalistic, law-keeping – not unlike our Jewish ancestors. There are far too many sincere Christians majoring on the minors while neglecting the essentials of the Christian Faith – and I think Jesus would have no more part of that today than he did in Jerusalem. Christians who proudly look down their noses at others who may see or view truth differently would cause Jesus pause. Christians who judge and condemn for no apparent reason would find equal reaction from Jesus. Christians who settle for life-less forms in the name of maintaining some long-dead traditions are in danger of killing Jesus while thinking they are preserving Him! We best be careful. I better quit!
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Monday, April 4, 2011, 08:35 AMApr. 4, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:60-62
As the inevitable march toward Calvary continues, we observe this “mock” trail of Jesus before Caiaphas, the reigning high priest. It is an interesting interplay between the Jewish Religious Leaders who are so threatened by Jesus, and so intent on doing away with him; and the Roman Civic leaders (Pilate) who are continually enlisted by the Jews to share their guilt. It seems that the Jewish leaders are seeking someone else to blame – which reveals exactly how they feel about what they are doing. If they were so convinced that what they were doing was right – then why would they need non-religious cohorts to share and shoulder their crime? (I think many people in the church today are treating the modern day government the exact same way – we know we are not keeping our end of the bargain; so we want to share some blame, and it’s easiest to point at the government.)
The real point of this passage is Jesus’ answer to Caiaphas’ direct question: “Are you the Messiah?” Up to this point, Jesus has remained vaguely silent – but now answers the direct question with an equally direct answer: “I AM” This response seems so innocent on the surface of our minds – but it was laden with a vast theological and historical significance for the Jewish mob gathered in Caiaphas’ garden court yard. Surely it conjured memories of Jesus’ other “I AM” statements scattered throughout his life – especially recorded in John’s gospel. The most impressive of those being; “Before Abraham was – I AM”. John 8:58
This response caused such consternation for Caiaphas, not because of those NT statements of faith; but because of one such related statement from the OT. In the early days of God’s deliverance from Egypt, God tapped Moses on the shoulder to be the leader of the rescue mission in Egypt. Moses objected, repeatedly! When he finally claims that the people will demand an answer to the question: Whose God shall I say sent me – what name shall I tell them has sent me – God tells Moses; Tell them “I AM” sent you. “I AM who I AM” has sent you! So Moses does and as history records, is successful. Well, this little I AM from the OT, now spilled from the lips of Jesus, would illicit this overreaction from Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders – because this is their “line in the sand” issue with this upstart Jesus! The fact that he claims to be God before this august group of Jewish religious giants – who have built their religion and lives on the one basic truth that there is only ONE God – was too much. They could not make room in their lives or belief systems for another GOD – so they had to do away with him.
I’m afraid this is also a line in the sand issue for many still today. We have room in our lives and world for a milk toast Jesus, a warm and fuzzy Jesus, a simple carpenter, a great teacher, even an intriguing prophet – but GOD among us…that might mean we’d have to make some changes in our theology and lives. We might have to take ourselves off the throne of our lives and replace “us” with the real Savior, Messiah and God, who owns us! If Jesus is really God, then we can’t keep running our own lives and expect our ‘good works’ to get us to heaven. If Jesus is really God – then we are defenseless in denying Him, His rightful place in our world, our government, our churches and most importantly, our lives! Maybe it would be easier to just kill Him. How’d that work out the first time? Stay tuned…
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Monday, March 28, 2011, 07:56 AMMar. 28th, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
I am sharing this morning at a funeral for a fellow who died while shoveling snow last week. Part of my thoughts will come from a family favorite passage at times like this; Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews life within me. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
I want to focus on one phrase today: He renews life within me. In many other translations it reads: He renews or restores my strength. I like this wording best, He renews life within me. It seems to me that no matter how ill, or well prepared we are for someone’s death, when death strikes someone we love, a part of us dies too! And after doing these funerals for others and being part of too many of my own, I find myself dying just a bit when someone I love dies. In 30 years of ministry and life I have found no other way for life to be renewed – than in and through this personal, intimate, vital relationship with MY good shepherd! Maybe others have discovered other means to having their lives restored, maybe time heals all wounds, or maybe we never fully recover from a loved one’s death; but for my money nothing restores my life, my faith, my resolve, my passion…like living into the reality that “death has lost its sting”, because my shepherd has conquered death!
Many people have a personal distaste for funerals. My favorite uncle hated going to funerals – and used this excuse: “He’ll never come to mine!” Well, true, but still a poor excuse! I think part of the reason so many people loath, hate, even fear funerals is because they are an “in your face” reminder that all of us will one day pass this way! Death comes for each of us; no matter our status or lack thereof in this life – we’re all going to die. And funerals remind us that no matter how hard we run, or strain to deny, or simply ignore the reality – death calls us all by name. BUT – because one man has overcome death by his own resurrection – the sting and power of death has been stolen from this grave mystery. It then becomes our option, our choice, our responsibility to align ourselves with this death-defying deity, and find our lives renewed NOW, and at those unfortunate times when loved ones leave us; and when we, one inevitable day, will leave them! I hope God will restore my life today. I pray God restores the lives of those family and friends who will gather to celebrate Tom’s life later this morning. I pray that you will choose today to walk with our good shepherd.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011, 08:38 AMMar. 24th, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out of this shirt and ran away naked . Mark 14:50-51
This is an interesting postscript to Judas’ betrayal story. We begin the story with Jesus telling the disciples to just go ahead and sleep after their third failure to stay awake and pray with him. I take some solace that they too had trouble staying awake! I often find myself drifting off to sleep while praying.
Jesus is just telling them to go ahead and sleep, when they are all startled to hear the ruckus of the mob coming to arrest Jesus. Judas approaches Jesus and with a kiss signals the guards that he is the one to be arrested. Judas has fulfilled his predetermined purpose. One of the disciples, who is unnamed in this account, (identified as Peter in another) cuts off a soldiers ear. No mention is made of Jesus healing it, but he does in Mel Gibson’s movie: The Passion of the Christ. It is a vivid moment, and the man stares at Jesus with believing eyes. Jesus again recounts that all this must be done to fulfill scripture.
The next part is what I find fascinating, even funny. All the disciples run away – not totally unexpected! But then, it is recorded that a young man who must have been watching from the weeds of the garden is accosted by the guards, he sheds his skimpy nightshirt, and runs into the darkness naked.
Who is this shadow lurking figure? Who is this pajama wearing observer? And why is this story mentioned in this pivotal place in the gospel, and in none of the others? Some folks have speculated, and most agree this may have been Mark, the author of the gospel! It’s almost like he is signing his masterpiece with his signature in the bottom right hand corner! But why is this most embarrassing moment the one used to identify him as the author? Don’t really know, but find it funny that he does. What other purpose does this one line story play? So some kid runs away like the rest of the disciples, so what? I believe this was Mark, and it gives me some hope.
I’m sure in my 2000 years removed, greater than the disciples, overhyped confidence in my own faith – I feel my response would be different than the disciples. But when I stop and think about it, I’m afraid mine would have more likely resembled the naked teenager running home to mommy. I want some recognition that I was with Jesus, but most of the time, I find myself cowering in the corner if not flat out running scared away. I want to sign the portrait of my faithful and productive life with some elegant and imposing signature – but all I got is an escape by the skin of my teeth, naked as a jaybird, got away with my life, encounter with Jesus. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful for the life I have with Jesus – but please be clear…it is 99% because of Him, and probably even less than 1% because of anything I’ve done. I think the kid would understand, and I wish my naked in the night experience might write a gospel so compelling as did he. To that end I’ll live today.
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