April 5, 2012

Matthew 27:32-46

32 As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. 33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 They crucified with him two outlaws, one on his right side and one on his left.
 39 Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.”
 41 In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. 43 He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” 44 The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way. 45 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 46 At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?" (CEB)

Even in Jesus' death He was associated with the least and the lost. Crucified between two convicted criminals hung the Savior of the world. This act of humble obedience serves as the in-breaking of God's kingdom for without Christ's death, we would still be slaves to sin.

What does the death of Christ mean for you? How does it challenge your own obedience to God's will? 

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?

Matthew 26:57-68

57 Those who arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest. The legal experts and the elders had gathered there. 58 Peter followed him from a distance until he came to the high priest’s courtyard. He entered that area and sat outside with the officers to see how it would turn out.
 59 The chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 They didn’t find anything they could use from the many false witnesses who were willing to come forward. But finally they found two 61 who said, “This man said, ‘I can destroy God’s temple and rebuild it in three days.’”
 62 Then the high priest stood and said to Jesus, “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?”
 63 But Jesus was silent.
   The high priest said, “By the living God, I demand that you tell us whether you are the Christ, God’s Son.”
 64 “You said it,” Jesus replied. “But I say to you that from now on you’ll see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.”
 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He’s insulting God! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, you’ve heard his insult against God. 66 What do you think?”
   And they answered, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spit in his face and beat him. They hit him 68 and said, “Prophesy for us, Christ! Who hit you?" (CEB)

I have never been spit on but imagine it is one of the more degradable things one human could do to another. I would think one of my first reactions would be to respond with violence if someone spit in my face and here we see Jesus, in complete humility, stand and take it.

It seems to me that in this difficult moment, the life and actions of Jesus speak quite profoundly, even in His silence. How do you use your silence? When do you find it appropriate to speak-up or remain silent? Even in the face of accusations or inaccuracies?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?

April 3, 2012

Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
 40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”
 43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. 44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. 45 Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.” (CEB)

Sometimes we try so hard and still fall short. These three disciples must have felt awful for falling asleep as their friend Jesus was feeling so much sadness and pain. Jesus must have felt so alone.

Good intentions are nice but not enough. Even in Jesus' prayer we see the need for active obedience, not simply an intention to obey. How might you move from intention to action? Has Lent challenged you in this way?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?

Matthew 26:17-30

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?”
 18 He replied, “Go into the city, to a certain man, and say, ‘The teacher says, “My time is near. I’m going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.” ’” 19 The disciples did just as Jesus instructed them. They prepared the Passover.
 20 That evening he took his place at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating he said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me.”
 22 Deeply saddened, each one said to him, “I’m not the one, am I, Lord?”
 23 He replied, “The one who will betray me is the one who dips his hand with me into this bowl. 24 The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.”
 25 Now Judas, who would betray him, replied, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?”
   Jesus answered, “You said it.” (CEB)

It was not as if Jesus had no idea Judas was about to betray Him and yet He still invited Judas to the table. We cannot afford to miss the weight of this act. Jesus chooses to share with one He knows will hurt Him.

Scratch out Judas' name and put yours or mine and the invitation from Jesus reads the same: "I know that you already have, and will likely again, hurt, betray, ignore me but your seat at the table is always open and ready for you. Come not because you deserve it, but because you're invited."

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage? 

Romans 12:14-21

14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.
 18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good." (CEB)

Think of the last time you shared in the emotions of another. What sort of impact did it have on you? What about the other person? Paul challenges us to do just that, enter into the emotions of others, not in a way that is unhealthy or self-serving but rather as a means of support.

One of the other things this does is level the playing field. Paul says, "Consider everyone as equal," which emotions give us the chance to do. Rich or poor, anger is anger. PhD or GED, sorrow is sorrow. Black or white, loneliness is loneliness. Sharing the emotions of another puts us face to face and heart to heart. Seems like a great picture of what it means to follow Jesus.

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?