HIS BLOOD BE UPON US. . .
When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this Just person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be upon us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:24–25)
Let’s think for a while about the personalities and the forces driving the events leading to the trial and crucifixion.
From the very beginning, it was the “Establishment” which drove the events. The well-established RELIGIOUS establishment which first viewed Jesus as a nuisance, then a threat. But as their suspicion and fear grew it developed into hatred and when hatred is full grown it frequently leads to murder. The sadness and travesty in this case was horribly multiplied because it was sanctioned and propelled by the “best” civilized society had at that time.
If you see similarities between that “system” and any other ever devised by man, your powers of observation are acute and accurate. The self-seeking, self-serving, greedy, self-preserving motive never has real “good” as its objective. And who’s to say that, given similar circumstances in our power hungry and power-polluted system we would not have arrived at the same conclusions? The same outcome. Who among us can honestly say we’d not have been driven along by the same tidal wave of hatred and evil?
If something big. . . really big. . . were happening downtown right now, would you stay home? Really? If you just ambled in and everyone was screaming something at the top of their voices, would you bravely step forward, calm them down and suggest a more reasoned approach? Even if that same angry crowd turned on you and told you to “Shut up, or Else?”
Don’t kid yourself. If any of us get caught up in the “herd mentality,” any one of us. . . and every one of us . . .can easily become subject to mass hysteria. I read a book some years ago entitled Rumor, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds. The central thesis was that, under the right circumstances, with the “right leader” any crowd is subjected to being manipulated. Whipped into a hysterical, insane frenzy. You don’t have to go far back into history to encounter Adolph Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich. Somehow, I cannot believe every single person who got swept along by that tsunami sized tide of evil was actually evil. Bit by tiny bit, they bought into a huge lie. They fell hook line and sinker for a line vomited from the mouth and mind of maniacal madman.
As you read the stories about Jesus’ life, you will recognize that early on he aroused the suspicion and ire of the religious leaders. “The Common People heard Jesus gladly.” Some of them said: “No (mere) man ever spoke like this Man.” He performed miracles, in addition to being a compelling speaker. He intimidated the “powers that be.” Then, He started saying things pretty clearly that people interpreted as Him saying He was the Son of God. Or even God (“He that has seen me has seen the Father.”). And he messed up one of their “profit centers,” turning over their tables, sending the synagogue profiteers scrambling for cover. The people must have loved it. And I have to confess I’d have been impressed seeing Jesus snortin’ fire and chasing religious thugs from the temple.
Admittedly, the ringleaders in this plot to do Jesus to death were the Jewish leaders. Admittedly, from their standpoint at least, they had reason to be upset. He was “messing” with their way of living. Encroaching on their “turf.” (Believe it or not, ministers can become very territorial!) Upsetting the people in general, and maybe attracting too much attention from the Romans garrisoned there. Israel was, you may recall, an occupied country at the time. An unruly, proud, very stubborn and almost ungovernable country. They hated being under the boot of Roman authority, and also feared that any uprising on their part would be cause for the iron fisted, full fury of Roman wrath to fall upon them. (In 70 A.D., their worst fears were realized.).
As you follow the career of Jesus, you can see these guys (or their spies) stalking Him constantly. Taking notes. Gathering false testimony. Exchanging knowing glances. Finding the one weak link in that original Band of Brothers, then bribing Judas to help them ‘take Jesus down.” Making plans which would find culmination on Golgotha’s brow.
In light of this it is no wonder that Annias and Caiaphas were the architects and engineers of the farce of a trial, under cover of night, and before “normal office hours” on the Friday morning of the day Jesus was legally murdered. They were the jeer leaders. They, and their plants, worked the crowd very effectively until they were chanting feverishly:
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“We will not have this Man rule over us!”
“Barrabbas! Release unto us Barrabbas!”
If you’re inclined toward prejudice, and if your reasoning powers are limited, you might be able to psych yourself into believing this was a “Jewish thing,” Before you seek to place blame, perhaps you should take an honest look in the mirror at the person whose face you wear. When I view the cross, I see very little occasion for pointing an accusing finger at anyone.
In fact, in answer to one of Pilate’s proposals, trying to wriggle himself off the hook the Jewish crowd seemed to have been led in a self-incriminating shout “His blood be upon us. . .and upon our children.” This is one of those statements some people use to judge and condemn Jews. That is not a rational conclusion. Prejudice of any sort is emotional. It is wrong to hate anyone whom God created. Do you remember that later that same day Jesus prayed and said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Now this raises a question. Not simply a rhetorical question. It deserves a carefully considered answer: “If the Person against whom the sin is committed asks forgiveness for the offenders. . . what room is left for anyone else to pass judgment?” Even if we think our claim is valid, what gives us any right to judge and condemn when the injured party says: “I forgive the offenders. They did not realize the gravity of their offense.”
Another unreasonable reason some people offer in attempting to justify anti-Semitism is the way they (the Jews. The entire nation of Israel) “hang together” so tightly. Even a casual observer of history can discover this. My personal opinion is they’ve had to do that for self-preservation. Through millenia no other nation o has ever been able to erase their identity. Not the snide, cutting remarks we make. Nor the Holocaust. Other peoples migrate and assimilate into almost any and every culture. We’ve prided ourselves in calling America the “Great Melting Pot.” While there are pockets of people here from every place on the planet, and while it may take generations for assimilation to fully take place, most are eventually absorbed in our culture and adopt our ways of thinking. The lone exception is the Jews who cling tenaciously to their faith, their distinctive, unmistakable Jewish identity.

Once I worked with the parents of Autistic Children. One of the things which impressed me early about them was that they were their own best and only friends in lots of instances. The enigmatic disorder their children had was so demanding, so cruel, that no one really understood what caused it. Much less could others understand the difficulties the families of autistic children had to face. In addition, a nearly Neanderthal German scientist had concluded the problem of autism was caused and promoted by what he called “Refrigerator mothers.” He was a “scholar.” And he stated his “findings and theories” so emphatically they were accepted by many as absolute fact. So, in addition to the incredible demands placed upon the families by the children, they were now faced with the added burden of feeling the problem was of their own making.
And every consideration they gained required that they fight. Hard. Together. Can you wonder why they drew so closely together, held tightly to that, and seldom allowed “outsiders” to see their pain.
Other minorities have endured the same kind of isolation. Often shut out of mainstream society, they had to find ways to preserve their way of life, as well as their very lives. What we view as arrogance or isolation may, in fact, be their means of self- preservation.
If you think the Jews in this scenario are evil, take a long, good, honest look in the mirror. The “sins” of which they were guilty are the same kinds of things we do every day. Every one of us. Every day. The Bible teaches that sin is what made Jesus’ death necessary. Not Jewish sin. Not White sin, or Black, or American sin. Sin. The same kinds we commit.
Just as Christ died so all may be forgiven, so all of us…and each of us…is culpable in His crucifixion. Why would anyone and everyone need to be “forgiven” if, in fact, they’d committed no offenses? The truth is it was the sinful human nature (Jew, Greek, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc., etc.) which did the Son of God to Death.
I believe it’s important to think about that. The Jews were no more the reason for Jesus’ death than I am. No more than you are. Their “sins” were no more, and no less, sinful than mine. Or yours. The truth of the matter is that He died for all of us because all of us “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Think about the kinds of sins they committed. They were “religious” people. Not a murderer among them probably. Certainly none who’d committed financial thuggery of the AIG and Madoff proportions! They were the very best that their society had to offer. They were preserving their jobs. Their religion, their thought. Their traditions. Their way of life. And they fought the only way they knew how to fight.
If a light shines too brightly and hurts your eyes, you either adjust to it, or put it out. In this case, the Light of the World was simply so bright they had to adjust to the Truth. Or kill it. Being Jewish had little, if anything, to do with it. Being human, and therefore sinful, had everything to do with it.
Would you and I have handled the situation differently?
Do we handle it differently today?
Really?

HIS BLOOD BE UPON US

 

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands and said, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this Just person. You see to it.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be upon us and on our children.’  (Matthew 27:24–25)

Let’s think for a while about the personalities and the forces driving the events leading to the trial and crucifixion.
From the very beginning, it was the “Establishment” which drove the events. The well-established RELIGIOUS establishment which first viewed Jesus as a nuisance, then a threat. But as their suspicion and fear grew it developed into paranoid hatred and when hatred is full grown it frequently leads to murder. The sadness and travesty in this case was horribly multiplied because it was sanctioned and propelled by the “best” civilized society had at that time.
If you see similarities between that “system” and any other ever devised by man, your powers of observation are acute and accurate. The self-seeking, self-serving, greedy, self-preserving motive never has real “good” as its objective. And who’s to say that, given similar circumstances in our power hungry and power-polluted system we would not have arrived at the same conclusions? The same outcome. Who among us can honestly say we’d not have been driven along by the same tidal wave of hatred and evil?
If something big. . . really big. . . were happening downtown right now, would you stay home? Really? If you just ambled in and everyone was screaming something at the top of their voices, would you bravely step forward, calm them down and suggest a more reasoned approach? Even if that same angry crowd turned on you and told you to “Shut up, or Else?”
Don’t kid yourself. If any of us get caught up in the “herd mentality,” any one of us. . . and every one of us . . .can easily become subject to mass hysteria. I read a book some years ago entitled Rumor, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds. The central thesis was that, under the right circumstances, with the “right leader” any crowd is subjected to being manipulated. Whipped into a hysterical, insane frenzy. You don’t have to go far back into history to encounter Adolph Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich. Somehow, I cannot believe every single person who got swept along by that tsunami sized tide of evil was actually evil. Bit by tiny bit, they bought into a huge lie. They fell hook line and sinker for a line vomited from the mouth and mind of maniacal madman.
As you read the stories about Jesus’ life, you will recognize that early on he aroused the suspicion and ire of the religious leaders. “The Common People heard Jesus gladly.” Some of them said: “No (mere) man ever spoke like this Man.” He performed miracles, in addition to being a compelling speaker. He intimidated the “powers that be.” Then, He started saying things pretty clearly that people interpreted as Him saying He was the Son of God. Or even God (“He that has seen me has seen the Father.”). And he messed up one of their “profit centers,” turning over their tables, sending the synagogue profiteers scrambling for cover. The people must have loved it. And I have to confess I’d have been impressed seeing Jesus snortin’ fire and chasing religious thugs from the temple.
Admittedly, the ringleaders in this plot to do Jesus to death were the Jewish leaders. Admittedly, from their standpoint at least, they had reason to be upset. He was “messing” with their way of living. Encroaching on their “turf.” (Believe it or not, ministers can become very territorial!) Upsetting the people in general, and maybe attracting too much attention from the Romans garrisoned there. Israel was, you may recall, an occupied country at the time. An unruly, proud, very stubborn and almost ungovernable country. They hated being under the boot of Roman authority, and also feared that any uprising on their part would be cause for the iron fisted, full fury of Roman wrath to fall upon them. (In 70 A.D., their worst fears were realized.).

As you follow the career of Jesus, you can see these guys (or their spies) stalking Him constantly. Taking notes. Gathering false testimony. Exchanging knowing glances. Finding the one weak link in that original Band of Brothers, then bribing Judas to help them ‘take Jesus down.” Making plans which would find culmination on Golgotha’s brow.
In light of this it is no wonder that Annias and Caiaphas were the architects and engineers of the farce of a trial, under cover of night, and before “normal office hours” on the Friday morning of the day Jesus was legally murdered. They were the jeer leaders. They, and their plants, worked the crowd very effectively until they were chanting feverishly:

“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“We will not have this Man rule over us!”
“Barrabbas! Release unto us Barrabbas!”
If you’re inclined toward prejudice, and if your reasoning powers are limited, you might be able to psych yourself into believing this was a “Jewish thing,” Before you seek to place blame, perhaps you should take an honest look in the mirror at the person whose face you wear. When I view the cross, I see very little occasion for pointing an accusing finger at anyone.
In fact, in answer to one of Pilate’s proposals, trying to wriggle himself off the hook the Jewish crowd seemed to have been led in a self-incriminating shout “His blood be upon us. . .and upon our children.” This is one of those statements some people use to judge and condemn Jews. That is not a rational conclusion. Prejudice of any sort is emotional. It is wrong to hate anyone whom God created. Do you remember that later that same day Jesus prayed and said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Now this raises a question. Not simply a rhetorical question. It deserves a carefully considered answer: “If the Person against whom the sin is committed asks forgiveness for the offenders. . . what room is left for anyone else to pass judgment?” Even if we think our claim is valid, what gives us any right to judge and condemn when the injured party says: “I forgive the offenders. They did not realize the gravity of their offense.”

Another unreasonable reason some people offer in attempting to justify anti-Semitism is the way they (the Jews. The entire nation of Israel) “hang together” so tightly. Even a casual observer of history can discover this. My personal opinion is they’ve had to do that for self-preservation. Through millenia no other nation o has ever been able to erase their identity. Not the snide, cutting remarks we make. Nor the Holocaust. Other peoples migrate and assimilate into almost any and every culture. We’ve prided ourselves in calling America the “Great Melting Pot.” While there are pockets of people here from every place on the planet, and while it may take generations for assimilation to fully take place, most are eventually absorbed in our culture and adopt our ways of thinking. The lone exception is the Jews who cling tenaciously to their faith, their distinctive, unmistakable Jewish identity.

Once I worked with the parents of Autistic Children. One of the things which impressed me early about them was that they were their own best and only friends in lots of instances. The enigmatic disorder their children had was so demanding, so cruel, that no one really understood what caused it. Much less could others understand the difficulties the families of autistic children had to face. In addition, a nearly Neanderthal German scientist had concluded the problem of autism was caused and promoted by what he called “Refrigerator mothers.” He was a “scholar.” And he stated his “findings and theories” so emphatically they were accepted by many as absolute fact. So, in addition to the incredible demands placed upon the families by the children, they were now faced with the added burden of feeling the problem was of their own making.

And every consideration they gained required that they fight. Hard. Together. Can you wonder why they drew so closely together, held tightly to that, and seldom allowed “outsiders” to see their pain.
Other minorities have endured the same kind of isolation. Often shut out of mainstream society, they had to find ways to preserve their way of life, as well as their very lives. What we view as arrogance or isolation may, in fact, be their means of self- preservation.

If you think the Jews in this scenario are evil, take a long, good, honest look in the mirror. The “sins” of which they were guilty are the same kinds of things we do every day. Every one of us. Every day. The Bible teaches that sin is what made Jesus’ death necessary. Not Jewish sin. Not White sin, or Black, or American sin. Sin. The same kinds we commit.
Just as Christ died so all may be forgiven, so all of us…and each of us…is culpable in His crucifixion. Why would anyone and everyone need to be “forgiven” if, in fact, they’d committed no offenses? The truth is it was the sinful human nature (Jew, Greek, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc., etc.) which did the Son of God to Death.

I believe it’s important to think about that. The Jews were no more the reason for Jesus’ death than I am. No more than you are. Their “sins” were no more, and no less, sinful than mine. Or yours. The truth of the matter is that He died for all of us because all of us “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Think about the kinds of sins they committed. They were “religious” people. Not a murderer among them probably. Certainly none who’d committed financial thuggery of the AIG and Madoff proportions! They were the very best that their society had to offer. They were preserving their jobs. Their religion, their thought. Their traditions. Their way of life. And they fought the only way they knew how to fight.

If a light shines too brightly and hurts your eyes, you either adjust to it, or put it out. In this case, the Light of the World was simply so bright they had to adjust to the Truth. Or kill it. Being Jewish had little, if anything, to do with it. Being human, and therefore sinful, had everything to do with it.
Would you and I have handled the situation differently?

Do we handle it differently today?

Really?

DREAM ON . . .

S

Genesis 37: 16 – 20  “And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.  And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.  And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”    (Genesis 37: 16 – 20)

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”  (Joel 2:28)

“Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17]

 

         While hospitalized some time ago, I watched a couple of documentaries on the surprising emergence of Susan Boyle.  Judged by outward appearances, she looked like the deck was stacked against her from the start.

         She was obviously very shy.  Not really very attractive.  Not young.  Unknown and to all appearances out of her element.  Completely and embarrassingly so.  Even I felt uneasy for her, afraid she might humiliate herself or trigger a cruel avalanche of boos and hisses.

         The crowd, including a cynical “judge” gasped in amazement, though, as the first notes of her song were heard. Jaws dropped.  It was that obvious.

         One thing that most of us would have failed to take into account in this kind of situation is that lady, Susan Boyle, had a dream.  In addition to talent which had lain undiscovered, unnoticed for more than four decades, she had a dream.  That was what made the difference.  That was what enabled her to overcome her reluctance.  Overcome her fears. Stand up against the naysayers. That is the extra factor that enabled her to stand strong in the face of almost certain scorn and  humiliating,  brutally embarrassing failure.

         If she had bolted off the stage before the first note, I’d have felt sorry for her.  I could almost see her at the last, weeping, rushing for the exit, hiding her face and nursing her sorrow and embarrassment for perhaps the rest of her days.  But she had a dream.  And she refused to let the dream die!

         Even her song selection, “I dreamed a dream” from the successful production, “Les Miserables,” was a dead giveaway.  She seemed inspired.  Gripped.  Driven.  Confident. Invincible almost.  In a word, she “knocked the audience back on its heels” with the power and haunting beauty of that incredible voice.

         Most folks who’ve read anything I’ve written know the simple single string I’ve strummed is the Scriptural study of people who were considered defeated, useless, human rubbish even.  I’ve focused my attention as intensely as I’m capable on why they failed or were apparently ignored and beaten down by life.  And how they were able to recover and become great leaders. 

         Joseph, for example, had a dream in his youth that was fulfilled in his later life.  He was ridiculed because of the dream, but he held fast to it.  Remember his resentful brothers out on the dessert that afternoon so long ago and so far away:  “Behold, the dreamer comes” they spat his name out on the desert sand with bitter resentment when they saw him coming with their lunch.  Joseph suffered great consequences because of that dream, but when you see him you can ask him yourself if it were worth the cost.  He never forgot that dream, and that was certainly one of the things which sustained him when he could very easily have died in despair and been forgotten by history.

         This is something to which I’ve devoted a great deal of thought.  There’s a statement in Scripture which you could easily overlook if you read casually.  “In the last days, your young men shall see visions, dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28).

         I’ve read a lot of stuff in my life about people who did not stand a ghost of a chance.  It feels as if I’m sort of on a mission now to discover as many of these folks as I can, and LEARN from them. Look at history.  Look at Scripture.  See how many you can find who succeeded mainly because they had a dream and would not be denied. Susan Boyle is just one beautiful example.

         Based on my own experience and observation, I’m guessing that someone somewhere someday will read these words and remember.  You once had a dream. There was a time and a place when it seemed that God was more real to you than than your own existence.  Closer than your heartbeat.  The fact that you couldn’t explain it does not mean it was not real.  If your mind is open, even now you can recover that dream and never let it die!

         Susan Boyle had a dream.  A vision, not of what she was but of what she could do and become.  Joseph did. Edison did. Winston Churchill did.  Steve Jobs did. Martin Luther King did.

         Do you?

” . . . IN THOSE DAYS . . . “

 

 

 

      “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.”         Luke 2:1-

               Do you mind if we take a few minutes and think about THE TIMING of what I’m calling an “Eternal Event?” Luke says the story unfolded “In those days.”  I’ve asked myself what was different or special about those days? 

         Nothing, it appears. Absolutely nothing.

          In those days, for instance, the ‘High’ (Augustus) Caesar issued an order that all those under his rule were to be taxed.  So what’s new or different about that? In our day, we have a saying that: “Nothing’s certain but death and taxes.” There’s nothing new here.  At his own considerable expense and inconvenience, each and every citizen had to go back to his birthplace to register.  We aren’t told what kind of records were kept; or where; or how the details and  totals were collected, calculated and  kept … or what the penalty might be for fraud or default.    This may have been the most convenient, most efficient way to register and pay taxes from the Roman government’s point of view.  Rome was in absolute power; what care had they for poor, miserable, inferior peasants?

         Do you get the picture?  Rome, the much despised, wielded cruel, savage power, used a mailed fist like a sledgehammer to capture and control almost all of the then known world.  The iron toed Roman boot on the necks of the Jews ground down and humiliated an intensely stubborn and proud people.  Those who had considered themselves to be God’s “Chosen People” must have felt they’d been grabbed by the neck like a chicken with taxes wrung out to the last shekel or denarius. And we grumble and complain about “hard times” and bad times and downturns in our economy and a looming bona fide “depression” and deprivation. By comparison, I doubt most of us even know what hardship, destitution, and deprivation really are. 

         In those days, they knew the meaning of suffering ~ economic, mental, physical, and spiritual ~ to the point of tortured exhaustion.  They sighed and trudged wearily along, wondering perhaps if each step and breath would be their last  . . . and not really caring if it were.

         That’s what it was like, in those days.  People were tired.  Weary. Oppressed. Crushed down, hopeless and defeated. The known world labored restlessly under the militarily enforced PAX Romana  (Roman Peace). After centuries of trial and error, failed policies, disappointed philosophical and religious quests, historians tell us a certain taedium vitae   (Latin for “tiredness of life”) hung over the entire population like a heavy pall.  Even those who held onto the Messianic hope did it very tentatively, only half-heartedly. “How long, O Lord, How Long?” they wondered collectively.  “Haven’t we had enough?”

         In THOSE DAYS…I’m REALLY intrigued by some of the words and phrases used in what we consider the “Nativity Narratives.”  Those are two of them.   In my thinking, though, this is how Luke plants this story in human history.  . . in time and on terra firma (Latin for “firm ground.”).  He’s not soaring around in space in some ‘Never-Never Land.’  It is obvious what he’s talking about. And Whom.  And when.  And where.   He isn’t talking here about some lofty, unidentifiable, impersonal deity inhabiting some lofty pinnacle on a distant, mythical. mystical Mount Olympus proportions and hurling lightning bolts from that high point across the universe.  Luke is speaking about a real baby boy.  Born in a REAL place, and in REAL time.   Breathing, crying, nursing, even occasionally wetting his diapers made of swaddling cloths, and sleeping peacefully in His mother’s arms, or there nestling and snuggling on the straw in the makeshift baby bed which had been borrowed from the farm animals and hastily improvised to meet an “emergency.”  Can you imagine what it might have been like to see the animals mulling and pawing around, searching for food.  Wondering where their meal was.  Someone had invaded their turf.  It was THEIR feed trough.  Their manger!

         What a sight!  What a night!!! 

        It all took place in those days.  I’ve kept asking myself: “What was so special about “those days?”  

         Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Nada.  NOTHING!

 

         Until you take into account that on one of them Jesus was born.  Perhaps a day JUST TODAY! 

         In some sense, even those dark days provided the perfect backdrop for a miracle.  The kind of “times that try men’s souls” turned out to be, in fact, the days in which “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory.”  Those were the days, but certainly not the “good ole days!”

         However, on one of those days, a group of angels shouted or sang in harmony, or in unison: “Unto you is born THIS DAY, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.” And, just think about this: That grand announcement and concert was performed by an army of angels before an audience of poor, unlettered, unimportant, unknown, common shepherds,  on an ordinary night, in a field on the backside of nowhere!

 

         The really important question is this:  What effect does this message have upon me IN THESE DAYS?  On THIS DAY?

 

_________________________________

 

         “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes … and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”        

~               Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
German pastor, educator and philosopher (1906-1945). When he wrote GOD IN THE MANGER, Dietrich was in prison, awaiting execution for his involvement in anti-Hitler activity.   Waiting, hoping, for release that never came.  He was executed less than four weeks before Adolph Hitler committed suicide

Let’s begin right here:
THE BIRTH OF JESUS

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.). And everyone went to their own town to register.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
“ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:1-20 New International Version (NIV)

In Those Days

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” Luke 2:1-2

Do you mind if we take a few minutes and think about THE TIMING of what I’m calling an “Eternal Event?” Luke says the story unfolded “In those days.” I’ve asked myself what was different or special about those days?
Nothing, it appears. Absolutely nothing.
In those days, for instance, the ‘High’ (Augustus) Caesar issued an order that all those under his rule were to be taxed. So what’s new or different about that? In our day, we have a saying that: “Nothing’s certain but death and taxes.” There’s nothing new here. At his own considerable expense and inconvenience, each and every citizen had to go back to his birthplace to register. We aren’t told what kind of records were kept; or where; or how the totals were collected, calculated and kept … or what the penalty might be for fraud or default. This may have been the most convenient, most efficient way to register and pay taxes from the Roman government’s point of view. Rome was in absolute power; what care had they for poor, miserable, inferior peasants?
Do you get the picture? Rome, the much despised, wielded cruel, savage power, usied a mailed fist like a sledgehammer to capture and control almost all of the then known world. The iron toed Roman boot on the necks of the Jews ground down and humiliated an intensely stubborn and proud people. Those who had considered themselves to be God’s “Chosen People” must have felt they’d been grabbed by the neck like a chicken with taxes wrung out to the last shekel or denarius. And we grumble and complain about “hard times” and bad times and downturns in our economy and a looming bona fide “depression” and deprivation. By comparison, I doubt most of us even know what hardship, destitution, and deprivation really are.
In those days, they knew the meaning of suffering ~ economic, mental, physical, and spiritual ~ to the point of tortured exhaustion. They sighed and trudged wearily along, wondering perhaps if each step and breath would be their last . . . and not really caring if it were.
That’s what it was like, in those days. People were tired. Weary. Oppressed. Crushed down, hopeless and defeated. The known world labored restlessly under the militarily enforced PAX Romana (Roman Peace). After centuries of trial and error, failed policies, disappointed philosophical and religious quests, historians tell us a certain taedium vitae (Latin for “tiredness of life”) hung over the entire population like a heavy pall. Even those who held onto the Messianic hope did it very tentatively, only half-heartedly. “How long, O Lord, How Long?” they wondered collectively. “Haven’t we had enough?”
In THOSE DAYS…I’m REALLY intrigued by some of the words and phrases used in what we consider the “Nativity Narratives.” Those are two of them. In my thinking, though, this is how Luke plants this story in human history. . . in time and on terra firma (Latin for “firm ground.”) He’s not soaring around in space in some ‘Never-Never Land.’ It is obvious what he’s talking about. And Whom. And when. And where. He isn’t talking here about some lofty, unidentifiable, impersonal deity inhabiting some lofty pinnacle on a distant, mythical. mystical Mount Olympus proportions and hurling lightning bolts from that high point across the universe. Luke is speaking about a real baby boy. Born in a REAL place, and in REAL time. Breathing, crying, nursing, even occasionally wetting his diapers made of swaddling cloths, and sleeping peacefully in His mother’s arms, or there nestling and snuggling on the straw in the makeshift baby bed which had been borrowed from the farm animals and hastily improvised to meet an “emergency.”
What a sight! What a night!!!
It all took place in those days. I’ve kept asking myself: “What was so special about “those days?”
Nothing. Nothing at all.
Until you take into account that on one of them Jesus was born. Perhaps a day JUST TODAY!

In some sense, even those dark days provided the perfect backdrop for a miracle. The kind of “times that try men’s souls” turned out to be, in fact, the days in which “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory,” Those were the days, but certainly not the “good ole days!”
However, on one of those days, a group of angels shouted or sang in hamony, or in unison and said: “Unto you is born THIS DAY, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
The really important question is this: What does this message have upon me IN THESE DAYS? And on THIS DAY?

_________________________________

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes … and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
German pastor and philosopher (1906-1945) imprisoned and executed for his role in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

JOY TO YOU, TOO!

I tried to complete my manuscript for a new Christmas devotional study.  Just ran out of time before I could complete the task.  Instead, my plan is to put the manuscript up in its draft form, inviting you to critique it and make any suggestions or ask any questions that may occur to you.  Here’s the book title, a suggested list of chapters, and the introduction. More will follow.

JOY TO YOU,TOO

A Serious and Joyous Look at an Old Book

By don kimrey

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
1.  In those days
2 . Sorry, no vacancy
3,  Suddenly
4.  Don’t be Afraid
5 , An Army of Angels
6. Joy to You, Too
7.  Generations of Jews
8.  A Strange Visit
9.  Strange Gifts
10. The Word
12.  Ever Looked At It This Way?
13. The Light
14. The Gift
15. The Great Descent
Afterwords
Great Gratitude

DEDICATION

This little book is being written by an ordinary guy who has grown a bit weary of cheesy, clueless, and crassly commercial exploitation of a really sacred day. A day we use in our calendars to mark the most dramatic turning point in human history. In our culture, everything that occurred prior to the Incarnation of Christ is marked B.C. (Before Christ.). The years afterward are dated A.D. (“Anno Domini,” The Year of the Lord).

Christmas is what I call and Eternal Event.
With an accumulation of traditions and folklore, should ask ourselves sometimes what the real significance of Christmas is? Is it just a celebration of a sentimental season? A commercial bonanza? Or is there deeper, more serious meaning which deserves to be explored?
JOY TO YOU, TOO is being written (and is dedicated to) someone like you, if you would like to take a fresh, new look at Jesus of Nazareth’s entrance into human history. It is an invitation to ponder the significance and magnificence of that Event, more from a personal, devotional standpoint than from a merely historical or theological perspective.
Thank you for considering my work. I hope you’ll rediscover some of the true joy of this event.
~donkimrey, North Topsail Island, North Carolina, Winter 2012

THE WEAKER SEX?

In considering the enormity of the Easter event, some things could easily be overlooked. While trying as carefully as I can to examine the Gospel accounts, I couldn’t help but notice how Jesus’ followers conducted themselves in such a crisis.

In an earlier post, I gave a rather unflattering account of the conduct of the Disciples during the ordeal of Jesus’ arrest, mock trial, and illegal execution. The account was accurate. It’s another occasion where all grounds for human pride and boasting are removed.

It was the Women who stepped forth and displayed bravery! So much for the myth about “the weaker sex!”

“And there were also women watching from a distance, among whom were both Mary the Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses; and Salome, they who when he was in Galilee used to follow him and provide for him, plus many others who had come up to Jerusalem with him. (Mark 15:40-41)

These are just a couple of verses, among many more in Mark and the other Gospel records giving account of several ladies who were present and accounted for and the band of brothers who had gone AWOL.

It’s apparent that the ladies possessed a tender and great strength which the men did not have at that time. Their love and adoration of Christ was far greater than their fear of death, or anything else. They loved Christ more than they feared the Roman soldiers.  Or their own safety. In the dark hours before the Resurrection there’s not a single reason given for  boasting among the men.  Not a hero among them!

In this connection, it was almost impossible not to recall these words by John Montgomery:

“In the hour of trial,
Jesus, plead for me;
Lest by base denial
I depart from thee;
When thou seest me waver,
With a look recall,
Nor for fear or favor
Suffer me to fall.”