Bible Study – In the Garden

Jesus has finished His “Farewell Discourse“, and now it is time for Him and His disciples to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He will be betrayed and arrested. John’s Gospel gives us very little detail about what happened in the Garden, so we will pick up those details from Matthew 26.

The Garden of Gethsemane was a well-known spot which Jesus and His disciples frequented when they were in the area, so it wouldn’t be strange for Judas to know their whereabouts. It was also outside Jerusalem and quite secluded and far away from the crowds. It was the perfect place to arrest Jesus.

Note that even though it is generally-assumed that only Jesus and the Twelve were at the Last Supper because they are the only ones mentioned in the Gospels, it is quite likely that there were several others of His followers and some of His immediate family there also. Since Jesus was “head of household“, and His mother, Mary, watched Him being crucified and was at the tomb on Resurrection morning, she may have been at the Last Supper too. Several of them may have gone to the Garden with Jesus and the Eleven. Could that be why Peter was so “protective” when Jesus was arrested? (John 18:10)

The Garden of Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

Had Jesus taken Peter, James and John along as “emotional-support“?

While Jesus would certainly have been grieved and concerned about His upcoming death, in some ways, His physical-death, as horrible as it was going to be, was the least of His concerns. He knew that he had to die the “second-death“, be banished to Hell. Jesus, the eternal, incarnate Son of God, who had never experienced even a pico-second of separation from the love, care and presence of His Father, was going to have all of that removed from Him. He was going to die, totally-alone, totally abandoned, totally-forsaken. How could He NOT have been grieved and concerned?

I have felt the sting of rejection and abandonment many times, but Jesus’s experience was going to be infinitely-worse. There would be NOlight at the end of the tunnel“.

Was Jesus already staring into the mouth of that horrible abyss? Could He already feel its heat? Was He hearing the screams of those who were already interned in its inky-blackness? Not only was His Father going to “turn out the lights“; He was going to pour out His wrath on His own Son, ALL OF IT.

Those who think that they will be “partying in Hell” had better think again, because Hell will NOT be a “party“.

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

What if there could have been some other way for Jesus to accomplish our redemption? Would He been given that “option“? Was Jesus not aware of what He was going to go through? Of course He was, He was part of the original Plan, and as our Creator-God, He condemned Himself to death when He made that first promise of a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. Revelation 13:8 speaks of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world“. The reality is that there was NO OTHER WAY, and Jesus knew it, so He bowed to the will of His Father.

It had been a very long day for this trio of disciples, because not only had they been on the road for several days, Jesus had sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to prepare their Passover meal, which meant that they had been up since before the crack of dawn. Jerusalem was crowded with worshipers who had come specifically for Passover, so they had to wait in long lines for EVERYTHING. They hadn’t started eating the Passover meal until after sundown, so it may have been after midnight before Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden. The atmosphere in the Garden may also have been dark and oppressive as EVIL was preparing to descend on it. They were bone-weary and had trouble even keeping their eyes open, let alone praying. Human-strength is no match for that kind of evil.

I have experienced that kind of evil, oppressive atmosphere, a couple of times, and it is something I will never forget. The first time, I was with two Sheriff’s Deputies in the mountains east of Albuquerque, in an area well-known for Satanic activity, but the second time, I was alone, on a dark, deserted, country-road in Oklahoma. The evil was oppressive and palpable both times. I don’t even want to experience that again.

42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:36-46)

Could Jesus have rejected His mission, to die on the Cross? No, because He has already made it abundantly-clear that His crucifixion WAS His “prime-mission” on earth. His eternal love was so great that, having made a promise back in the Garden of Eden, He was determined to fulfill that promise. 43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. (Luke 22:43)

As His disciples snoozed, Jesus prayed, fervently and earnestly, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” The clock was ticking, His betrayer was on his way, and He would soon be arrested. It was a “GO“…

He finally roused His sleepy-headed disciples when His betrayer arrived on the scene. It was time to go.

Judas Betrays Jesus
18 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

He said to them, “I am He.”

And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.

6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7 Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?”

And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”

10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.

11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:1-11)

3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Why did the Romans get involved in this boondoggle? What kind of lies did the religious leaders tell the Romans to get them to participate? Couldn’t they have handled this themselves? In reality, the Jewish religious leaders had no authority outside the Temple grounds, which mean that they had no civil authority, and certainly no authority outside Jerusalem. We can only speculate about the lies, but they were probably real WHOPPERS.

Why so many Roman soldiers? Were they expecting resistance, trouble? A Roman cohort was 600+ soldiers, so it is unlikely that there were that many, but certainly more than enough, and headed by a high-ranking commander. Talk about OVERKILL! How about “swatting a fly with the sledgehammer“? There certainly wouldn’t have been anything “subtle” about their arrival in the Garden. It is likely, however, that since Jerusalem was teeming with visitors during Passover, that the Romans had brought in extra troops to help “keep the peace“.

4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” Notice that Jesus didn’t wait for the horde to come to Him; He took charge of the situation and went out to meet them. Jesus remained in control all the way to the Cross, and nobody, not even Pilate, could lay a finger on Him without His permission. Jesus had all of Heaven’s Hosts at His immediate-disposal, or He could have struck that motley-mob with blindness and escaped while they were milling-around. So much for their perceived “authority“…

5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

He said to them, “I am He.”

And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.

6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Did Jesus catch them off-guard? They certainly were shocked that Jesus would present Himself that way. So to add further to their bewilderment…

7 Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?”

And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, so let these go their way,” 9 to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”

Notice His continued-concern for the welfare of His followers; “let these go their way“. As we have seen in previous studies, Jesus ALWAYS put others first. That was why He came to earth, not for His own benefit, but for OUR benefit.

10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malthus. Was Peter trying to be “Mr. Tough-Guy“? Who was he trying to “protect“, Jesus, or the rest of His followers? Either way, it was an ill-conceived piece of “resistance“, because he was no match for the Roman soldiers. In reality, he was fortunate that one of the Roman soldiers didn’t run a sword through him.

11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” Everything Jesus did was in submission to His Father’s will and according to Plan.

Jesus is arrested
12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.

It looks like the Jewish religious leaders were going to finally get their way, but only for a while…

Thus ends the drama in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we will look at the farce of a “trial” and gross miscarriage of “justice” next week.

Blessings,
Steve

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Judas-Kisses…

Have you ever been betrayed? Betrayal comes in many forms, but the common-thread which runs through all of them is the destruction of trust. Whether it is something as “simple” as being tattled-on when you were a child, or as life-shattering as a lover or spouse going to live with someone else, they all have destroyed your trust in that person. I wish that I could say that betrayal is rare, but it is far too common.

What originally brought this topic to mind was reading a post by a young lady whose blog I follow entitled “Blueberry Kisses“. Her little daughter had woken her earlier one morning than she was prepared to face the day, so she gave her little girl a Pop-Tart, a Blueberry Pop-Tart, for breakfast while she settled on the sofa to try to catch a few more winks of sleep. When her little daughter finished eating, she climbed up on the sofa and gave her mom a kiss, a “Blueberry Kiss“. As I thought about that, that image struck me as being one of the most beautiful pictures of pure, innocent love, and how great the privilege is to be able to enjoy that kind of love. As pure and innocent as that child’s love is now, she will grow up to experience far less innocent “love“, and maybe even betrayal.

I have experienced betrayal far too many times, but this isn’t about me. Jesus Christ was betrayed by Judas, with a kiss, hence “Judas-kisses“, and that betrayal resulted in Jesus being tortured and crucified on a cross. A kiss was a common form of greeting at that time, so betraying Jesus with a kiss was the ultimate in betrayal. Even though we know that Judas’s betrayal was part of God’s master-plan, that doesn’t make it any more excusable.

Lest we think that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a “quirk of fate” or an “unfortunate circumstance“, David had foretold this event many centuries before in Psalm 41:9:
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. (Matthew 26:47-50)

Judas greeted Jesus with “Rabbi“, which was a greeting of respect, and then the KISS, the kiss of betrayal, because Judas had arranged that as the signal to point Jesus out as the person to arrest. Maybe Judas had snarled “Rabbi” before the coup de gras, the KISS.

Traitors in the military are tried for treason and hung, but we have no such recourse. We are left to pick up the pieces of our shattered-lives and try to move on, asking “WHY?” Will our traitor ever get their comeuppance? Will they really ever understand the magnitude of the damage they caused? Will they even feel “remorse“?

Even though we may not get “justice” in this life, and they may never acknowledge the hurt they caused, Judas certainly did.

3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

What did Judas think would actually happen after Jesus got arrested? Did he think that he could “force” Jesus’ hand and use this to start a “revolution“? Judas, as had all the other disciples, had been “schooled” in the prevailing-view” of what the Messiah was going to do. Jesus certainly DID become a King; King of kings and Lord of lords, but it was by way of the Cross, not an earthly-revolution.

Betrayal will affect ALL of our lives, sooner or late, even if you haven’t felt the sting of betrayal, it is incumbent on you that YOU do not betray someone else. I have that same obligation, and I take it seriously. We can never “earn” the “right” to betray someone.

May our next kiss NOT be a “Judas-kiss”.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Humility Exemplified

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

This is the beginning of the second section of John’s Gospel; there are no more scenes of Jesus teaching the crowds. The pattern of chapters 2-12 where there is a miracle or sign followed by Jesus giving an explanation are replaced by Jesus explaining the greatest sign of all, his death, burial and resurrection before it happens. These are called the “Farewell” or “Upper Room Discourses”. The scene opens just before the Passover meal on the night that Jesus would be betrayed. Jesus demonstrates an act of humility that would normally be done by a slave; the washing of the feet of the dinner guests.

John uses these verses to set the scene by placing the time at the very beginning of the meal. They had not yet begun to eat, Judas had already been prompted to go astray, and yet Jesus was confident in his destiny and had received all power from God. It is particularly pointed that John mentions this fact: Jesus had received all power, had had everything placed in his control and was about to return to God… when all of the sudden what did He do?

The Lord’s Supper
13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

What was going through the minds of Jesus’ disciples as this scene unfolds? Over the last three-plus years, they had seen Him perform countless miracles, including turning water into wine, feeding multitudes with “sack-lunches“, healing so many people that they had lost track of how many, casting out demons, walking on water, calming a storm with a word, and even raising the dead. It wasn’t like they had never seen Him naked before, because, after all, He was still a “good-Jew” who followed the requirements of the Ceremonial Law, including all the prescribed washings, but they were totally-unprepared for THIS… Why THIS, and why NOW? Passover was the most solemn feast of the year…

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his clothes, grabs a towel and begins washing the feet of the disciples. It is important to note that even though the NIV adds the word “outer” to garments, there is no such indication in the Greek. Commentators rise to this and many describe Jesus as in his “undergarments”. Undergarments for men were invented around the time of George Washington and were not widely worn until the late 19th century; they did not exist in ancient times. If Jesus had indeed removed an outer garment, then it would have been a cloak, comparable to a modern-day coat, and obviously this is not likely. I do not join the NIV in protecting modern-day sensibilities here because it is vital that we get an accurate picture of exactly what was going on in order to get the full value of what Jesus is demonstrating in this act of humility, for it is in total and complete contradiction to what was stated in verse 3, and it actually becomes the whole point of this incident. Jesus was not only washing the feet of men who weren’t qualified to carry his briefcase (so to speak) but he had utterly and totally humbled himself in the process! (Can you imagine yourself doing this?) The NIV also states that he had a towel wrapped around him, while the KJV says he “girded” himself with the towel. Was the towel providing a modesty covering, and at the same time being used to dry their feet after washing? I seriously doubt it, because He was going to be far more “humiliated” when He was crucified.

Peter seems to have understood that he was not worthy to be treated in this way by Jesus who was so much greater than he. Jesus’ reply to him is also understood… sort of. Well, in that case, how about washing my hands and head too. Peter believed Jesus when he told him that he must be “cleaned” by him, but he still didn’t quite grasp the metaphor that was playing out in that room.

Jesus’ comments in verses 10-11 refer to the fact that a person attending a dinner would bathe before leaving their house, so that when they arrived at the dinner, only their feet would have gotten dirty on the walk to the dinner venue; thus the custom of having your feet washed by a slave prior to reclining at table, which their host had failed to provide for this dinner. Was this a “failure” on the part of their host, or was it “planned“? Remember that dinner tables were not like the ones we use today, and the “reclining” was literal. The comment that “not all were clean” gives us a hint that Jesus is not really concerned about hygiene, for he knew what was afoot with Judas; his concern was that they be spiritually clean. (I have yet to see an artist’s rendering of this scene which portrays it accurately.)

12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Jesus gets dressed and resumes his seat; then he explains what he has done. He has set for them an example, a twofold example. First, we as His servants must be willing to humble ourselves in His service. Do we dare humble ourselves as He has done? Second, our service must be to clean the filth of sin from one another, to help one another to obey all that he has commanded us, and to be willing to get our hands dirty in the process. We can never do this by glorifying ourselves; we can only accomplish this mission by humbling ourselves. We are to follow his example!

Jesus had even washed Judas Iscariot’s feet, knowing full-well that Judas had already made his dastardly-deal with the Jewish religious leaders. Talk about adding insult to injury; however it was totally in keeping with Jesus’s character and teachings. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48) The Christian walk and life ARE counterintuitive because we are called to be and live like Christ.

18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ We may wonder WHY Jesus called Judas Iscariot to be one of His disciples, because that also seems to be counterintuitive, however God’s master-plan for redemption required that there be a traitor in their midst. A wise military commander would never knowingly have a traitor in his unit, but Jesus was no ordinary “military-commander“. Talk about counterintuitive, He even picked me.

19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Jesus was giving His disciples fair-warning about the events which were going to occur over the next twenty-four hours or so, but it would take until after Pentecost before many of these events actually “sunk-in“. They were STILL looking to Him to become their “conquering-king“.

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” 22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.

As Jesus sets the stage for sending Judas on his dastardly-errand, there is a battle raging within Him. His Humanity is screaming “DON’T DO IT!“, while His Divinity is whispering “This is why you came to earth. You were born to die.“ He knew that, within twenty-four hours, He would be dead and buried. The full impact of God’s eternal plan for redemption was bearing-down on Him. 21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”

There was murmuring among His disciples, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.

They had been together for over three years, and it was inconceivable that there was a traitor in their midst, but there was. Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” Even after Jesus dismissed Judas, His disciples still didn’t have a clue what was going on, but Judas did. He sold his soul to Satan when he accepted and ate the morsel. The die was cast; his plan was on-track. Judas may have even been thinking “Why did I tolerate Him this long?

While the rest of the disciples were thinking that Judas had gone in some honorable-errand, he had gone to make final-arrangements to betray Jesus.

31 Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

31 Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. This statement seems counterintuitive to us, because we wonder how Jesus dying an ignominious-death can bring glory to God. The answer lies in God’s perfect character. Besides being a God of perfect love, grace and mercy, God is also a God of perfect-justice. His just-requirements are absolute, because He cannot allow anything or anyone unholy in His presence. If He is going to build a family out of sinful-humans, their sin and debt must be paid-in-full. That is what Jesus came to do, to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, to fully-pay the debt of sin that we owe, so that we can be brought into a right-relationship with God.

God’s forgiveness is costly. We owe a debt was cannot pay, so if we are going to be forgiven, the debt must be paid, one way or another. Either we pay it and suffer in Hell forever, which means that we can’t be part of God’s family, or someone else has to pay it, which is what Jesus Christ came to do. By way of example; suppose someone knocks an heirloom lamp off of a table in your home and breaks it, who is going to pay for that lamp? If you hold the person accountable for breaking your lamp, and require them to pay for another one, that isn’t forgiveness, it is justice. However, if you forgive the person for breaking your lamp, and replace it yourself, that is forgiveness, but YOU have to pay to replace the lamp. You are atoning for what they did out of your own pocket. That is what God’s plan for redemption was designed to do. God, through Jesus Christ, fully-paid our debt so that He can forgive us and restore us to a right-relationship with Him. His perfect-justice is fully-satisfied, we are redeemed, and that brings glory to Him.

33 Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus repeats here what he has previously told the Jews, that they cannot come where he is going, referring to the right hand of the Father in heaven. This is a statement that establishes His authority, and is followed by a new commandment: Love one another. As you might expect, the Greek word used here is agape, which is a godly, unselfish love. It is a commitment to serve and value one another with no expectation whatsoever of anything in return. It is just what the unbelieving world will notice, for it is seldom if ever found amongst them. By this sign all will recognize the difference between the Christian and everyone else. This is the most important lesson from today’s text: We must love one another. Imagine what the reaction of the rest of the world would be if they saw this kind of powerful love at work in the lives of millions of Christians! Would you like to ‘change the world’? Love one another!

36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. (John 13)

Simon Peter STILL doesn’t “get-it“, and Jesus’ “New Commandment” goes in one ear and right out the other. Peter is boldly-confident that he will follow Christ even to his death. Jesus knows better, because He knows that Peter’s bold-confidence will turn to denial when the going gets tough. He will deny His Lord, not just once, not just twice, but three times. Peter has to fall, hard, VERY-HARD, which will set the stage for his three-fold restoration after Jesus’ resurrection.

How many of us have fallen hard, “splattered on the pavement” spiritually, before God picked us up and restored us to fellowship with Him. I have been there, done that, too many times, and it is only by God’s grace that I am where I am today.

The ultimate take-away from this lesson is that we are to love one another as He loves us, sacrificially. Jesus has led the way by coming to earth and dying on the Cross. He gave Himself for us so that we may live. Can we, as His followers, do any less?

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Celebrations

What will begin with celebrations will end in infamy. Thus begins “Holy Week” or “Passion Week“, the events which will climax in Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus was rapidly-approaching His “hour“, what He came to earth to do, to die on the cross and accomplish our salvation. The promise, given in Genesis 3:15, was soon going to be fulfilled. The “Seed of the woman” was going to “crush the head of the Serpent“, Satan.

Mary Anoints Jesus
12 Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

This scene is interesting in how it contrasts the differences between the heart of love in one who has been set free and the selfish, self-centered heart of one who is in bondage to Satan. We see the love of self-giving Mary contrasted with the evil and selfishness of Judas Iscariot.

As we saw in John 11, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, so there was great reason to celebrate with a lovely dinner. Jesus and Lazarus were the guests of honor, while Martha, ever the faithful servant, served them. That left Mary to do what she thought was appropriate, anoint Jesus.

The parallel passages, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, place this scene at the home of Simon the leper, but this setting is no less significant than it would have been if it was at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They also mention that Mary poured some of the perfume over Jesus’ head. Nothing else is mentioned in the Gospels about Simon, other than that he had been a leper, but it is probably safe to assume that Jesus had healed him and that he had become one of His closest friends. If Jesus had healed him, that would be even more reason to celebrate.

3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Nard is the fragrant-essence which has been extracted from the roots of a plant which grows only in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India, so it had to be imported and was very valuable and costly. It is one of those spices or perfumes where “a little-bit goes a long way“, but Mary wasn’t sparing when she poured the whole bottle on Jesus’ feet. Imagine being in a home filled with fragrant perfume.

4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Judas showed his true-colors because he had no real concern for the poor, but was really a thief. How much had he stolen so far?

7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

Jesus makes an interesting statement for allowing Mary to anoint Him, “so that she may keep it for the day of My burial“. He has been predicting His death, burial and resurrection for quite a while by now, and He knows that those events are looming-large on His horizon. They are now just a few days away. There will always be poor people among them to help, but Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, will only be on this earth for about eight weeks. Time for honoring Him is growing short.

9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

Raising Lazarus was the most significant miracle Jesus performed, and if there were doubts in anyone’s minds about whom He was, that event should have put them to rest. Who wouldn’t want to see someone who had been raised from the dead?

Raising Lazarus from the dead only fueled the religious leader’s hatred of Jesus, and because of the attention that miracle garnered, they plotted to murder Lazarus also. Murderous-hearts aren’t satisfied with just murdering one man, they would eventually go after all of His disciples.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” (John 12:1-19)

This event, which is commonly called the “Triumphal Entry“, was the official start to Passion Week. Jesus entered Jerusalem making full claim to being the Messiah. Zechariah had prophesied about his event several hundred years earlier when he wrote; “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, l colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

The other Gospels mention Jesus sending two disciples to procure the donkey. The clothes that His disciples placed on the donkey’s back made a “royal-saddle“, while the clothes and palm-branches created a “royal-road” for Him to ride in on. These things symbolized the crowd’s acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, the “King of the Jews“. If Jesus REALLY was the Messiah, there was something missing. Where was His Army? How was He going to drive the Romans out if He had no Army? There was still that false-perception about the Messiah even among His disciples, as is evident in Luke 24:13-27 and Acts 1:6. They were still looking for a “conquering-king“.

Jesus came riding in, not on the mighty-steed of a conquering-king, but on a lowly donkey, a symbol of peace, because He wasn’t going to ascend the Throne by doing battle and throwing the Romans out, but by being nailed to a Roman cross. He was going to be enthroned forever as the King of kings and Lord of lords, by way of the cross. He was going to conquer the world, not with an Army, but with the Gospel, as He continues to do today.

Their joyous shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” were taken from Psalm 118:25 & 26. “Hosanna!” is a Hebrew expression which means “Save, now“.

16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. Things were going at a dizzying-pace, which didn’t leave the disciples much time to “process” what was going on. They also hadn’t yet been filled with the Holy Spirit, so these events would only start making sense after the fact. How many of us have had events in our lives which only began to make sense months, even years, later? I have only recently been able to start putting the pieces together of a puzzle which has been nineteen years in the making. I am here, in this time and place, because of events, both good and bad, which have unfolded over the last nineteen years, without which, I would have never made it here.

17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. The adoring-crowd was growing larger the closer they got to Jerusalem. Was Lazarus in Jesus’s entourage? We aren’t told, but he may have been with Jesus as He entered Jerusalem, which gave the crowd the opportunity to see Lazarus also. The Pharisees didn’t want anything to do with this spectacle.

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” In spite of their best efforts at quelling Jesus’ popularity, they had been steadily losing ground. People could tell that Jesus was “genuine“, just as they could tell that the religious leaders were fakes.

It never ceases to amaze me how joyous shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” quickly gave-way to angry screams of “Crucify Him, crucify Him“. That just goes to show how quickly evil can overcome good.

We will finish up with John 12 next week, because it really is an introduction to the events and discourses which will follow soon thereafter.

In Christ,
Steve

Come and Eat…

When we are hungry, those three words are music to our ears, and when they carry with them a restoration of lost relationships, they are even sweeter. Some of a family’s sweetest and most cherished memories are made while eating together, and nothing says “family” quite like eating a meal together. Eating a meal together carries an even more special significance in the Bible.

David, the psalmist, points us to this special significance in the 23rd Psalm.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)

The prodigal son…
What image comes to mind when a person is described as a “prodigal“? Rebel? Wild-child? Black-sheep? If we are honest with ourselves, there is a bit of “prodigal” in every one of us. No matter how “good” you have been, there is a “prodigal” hidden inside…

11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:11-24)

Can you imagine the father laying awake at night worrying about his son? Can you see the father keeping his eyes peeled, scanning the horizon for a glimpse of his son, day after day, day after day?

What did the son look like when he approached? Was he a “sight for sore eyes“, or an “eyesore“? To his father, he certainly was a “sight for sore eyes“. Otherwise, he smelled like a pig-sty and looked like he hadn’t had a bath in months. He was barefoot, and what little clothing he had on had seen better days. He probably looked very little different than the homeless people who wander the cities of America.

By rights, the father could have had his son stripped and flogged, but he didn’t. He celebrated, but the celebration wasn’t the robe. The celebration wasn’t the ring, or even the sandals. The celebration was a FEAST, a BANQUET, a PARTY!!! He was ALIVE! He was HOME!

Peter…
Loose lips may sink ships, but Peter got caught in his own mouth-trap. It was far more serious than “open mouth and insert foot“. Peter did one of those infamous “I will NEVER…”‘s. Do you relate? I sure do, and if I had a T-shirt for every time I said “I will NEVER…“, and did it anyway, I would have to turn my home into a closet. I must have inherited some of Peter’s bragadocious genes.

Peter already had a well-deserved reputation for being bold, brash, impetuous and even a bit arrogant. He was also the “toughguy” of the gang. Don’t forget that Peter was the one packing “heat” (a sword) when Jesus was arrested. Either his aim was a bit off, or his sword-wielding skills were rusty, because he “only” cut off the guy’s ear. So much for “protecting” Jesus from arrest…

Shortly before this, Peter’s tongue had gone from being “golden“:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

to “talking trash“:
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

What did Peter do that was SO bad?
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Does this all sound familiar? “I WILL NEVER…

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed.

75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

Peter blew it – big-time, and he knew it. He had done what he promised to NEVER do, deny His lord. If this story ended with Peter’s denial, all that would have been left would have been a very despondent Peter, but this story DOESN’T end this way. It is time for another meal, time for another restoration.

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)

Who could blame Peter for going fishing? He had been a commercial fisherman before Jesus called him, so fishing was the one thing that he DID know how to do. How could Jesus ever trust him with carrying on the ministry after He ascended back into heaven, after he made such a horrible blunder?

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

Peter not only was restored to fellowship with His lord, he also received a new commission.

The Last Supper…
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27-29)

This is the meal which we still celebrate, the Lord’s Supper. This is also a meal for restoration. Jesus didn’t say “Drink it when you are perfect“, or “Drink it when you have your stuff together“. He said “Drink from it, all of you“.

We will never be “worthy” to partake in this meal, that is, if we are depending on our own “worthiness“. We will always fall short, but this meal isn’t about us. It is about what Jesus Christ did for us. Only He can restore us to a right relationship with God the Father. I will never understand why He chose me, but He did. All of these meals are truly love-feasts, not because any of us deserves to be restored, but because Someone, who loves us more than we love ourselves, bids us come to His table.

In the presence of my enemies…
No, I didn’t forget that part of Psalm 23:5, although I am not going to touch on the last two phrases of the Psalm. We have an enemy. Satan is our mortal-enemy, and he loves to trip us up, and then make us feel ugly about ourselves after he trips us up.

The prodigal son certainly didn’t feel “worthy” to be taken back into his family, and if his older brother had his way, there wouldn’t have been any restoration, let alone a feast, but he received both. His older brother was the Devil’s advocate, but while the older brother moped, the rest of the family feasted.

Some would say that Peter had committed an unpardonable sin, and I am sure that Satan was having a gay old time reminding him of what he did, but Jesus wasn’t having any part of Satan’s celebration. When Jesus said “Come and eat“, Satan turned tail and ran.

Satan also wants to remind us of how rotten we are. There is just one problem with that. If we are in Christ, we ARE forgiven, and He has given us a permanent invitation to dine at His table. As Jesus dismissed Judas before that special meal, He also has forbidden Satan to interfere with His supper now. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that we can’t fix ourselves, but Satan is also reminded that we no longer belong to him. We can partake because we have been restored.

Come and eat!
Steve