EASTER AFTER-THOUGHTS (Part one)

EASTER AFTERTHOUGHTS
(This is part of a series, The focus for my thinking has been Matthew, Mark, Luke, John’s account of the Resurrection, plus Paul’s thoughts, which are recorded in the letters he wrote to young Churches. ~don)

The accounts of events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are NOT meant to be scholarly, detailed, well-organized displays of intellectual acumen. Nor are they intended to serve as a camera, giving accurate, precise, logical or chronological photographic accuracy one might expect from a news crew on assignment for the Six o’clock Evening News.

In studying Scripture, I feel I should deal carefully always. Therefore, I seldom dash into a matter, whip off a couple hundred words, swipe my hands and slap myself on the back and congratulate me for a completely superficial piece of drivel.

In thinking about the Resurrection, I’ve been comparing what each of the writers of the Gospels saw and said. Things were happening so suddenly and at such a dizzying pace, so much was going on! Think about it: In a matter of moments, the little band went from being broken hearted, disappointed, and defeated to deliriously, joyfully realizing an entirely new order was now in place. In one moment they were singing sad songs (almost silently) mourning their loss so they wouldn’t give away their location! The next thing you see is that frightened little group shouting gloriously, victoriously. You can almost hear them full throttle singing Handel’s Messiah and the Hallelujah chorus. As the events unfolded so suddenly and unexpectedly, I almost wondered how they didn’t strip their mental gears over such a reversal of thinking .

Hold that thought for a moment if you will.

Think of the saddest songs you ever heard. Imagine them playing in the background. All doors are locked, the lights are out and all curtains pulled, In one scene the friends and followers of Christ are weeping, forlorn, defeated, robbed of hope. In the next scene you can almost see and hear the conductor commanding baton leading with the skill and enthusiasm of an accomplished artist. The choir is full, standing, singing at the tops of their voices doing John Phillip Sousa’s “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and

At a precisely appropriate moment, someone throws a switch. The choir, conductor, the orchestra are in a spotlight. The Washington Monument is in full view with lights as the background accented wondrously by a trained team of explosives experts

Is there any wonder that the reporting of the incidents reflects their emotions of fear, surprise, excitement, and pur joy! Can’t we cut those writer a bit of slack? Come on now, they weren’t reading from an encyclopedia, preparing to write a term paper and get it in before the deadline. This is not a bunch of intellectuals preparing to deliver a lecture in Sweden, in Latin no less. They were very simple, honest people, hard-working folks who were witnesses to one of the grandest events of all time. It was an explosion of joy!

Explosive, unexpected things happened in rapid succession. Understandably, in such a situation you might get varying accounts as different writers give their own account of events they observed and recorded. I see no evidence of contradictions

If you study the Bible, there are several approaches you can take. You may read the events skeptically, trying to dissect and examine them as you dissected the first frog in your high school biology class. Put them under a microscope, take them apart, then try to make sense of all this. You can read these accounts in that way and they’ll be as dead to you as the formaldehyde soaked stinking frogs you used to study in science lab. It becomes what I call “antics with semantics;” “verbal gymnastics.” Sometimes literary critics can become so obsessed with nits, that’s all they can pick up. And in doing so, they may miss the important points entirely.

Another way you can read the Bible as it was intended. Not just a collection of data about which you could discuss and debate endlessly and purposelessly. If you aren’t a committed follower of Christ, you may at least consider it to be simple, honest accounts by simple, honest people who never changed their story. Men and women who believed what they said, tried to share the incredible “Good News,” and spent the remainder of their lives as committed to that truth on the day they died as they were when the reality of the Resurrection first burst through their grief and sorrow and unbelief.

I’m convinced that something happened there in those days that had never happened before. And only the convinced can be convincing. I can confidently repeat what the Angel told the first-comers: ‘HE IS NOT HERE. HE IS RISEN.” Just as He said he would. Now we know, so let’s go and tell others, “Tell it on the mountains and everywhere.” He’s Alive! Christ rose from the grave, just as he said he would!

EASTER AFTERTHOUGHTS

During the last several weeks, while I’ve been focused on the Resurrection of Christ (and events surrounding that), some facts emerged which I’d not really thought about seriously before. They seem to deserve closer attention, so, here goes:

 1.  Almost all the men (Peter and the respected Apostles, the “pillars” of the Church,) waffled.  They crumpled under pressure.

Joseph of Arimathea  was an exception, and perhaps the reason he was not captured and punished may have been because he was a respected member of the leaders of the Jewish community.  It seems also that Nicodemus (Remember him from chapter 3 of the Gospel of John?), also emerged from the shadows, even if only briefly. For a long time, I’ve felt that God doesn’t have any secret, undercover agents.  Sooner or later, their identity will be known.

The Biblical story does not flatter this ‘Band of Brothers:’ “The disciples forsook him and fled.  A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; but he escaped naked, leaving the linen behind.”  (See Mark 14:50 & 51). Then he took off in the dark, dodging trees and bushes looking for a place to hide.   Many scholars believe this young man was Mark.**   With Peter’s help, he’s also considered to be the writer of the book bearing his name.  It seems, perhaps because of modesty or embarrassment, Mark chose not to identify himself in this scene, although the incident certainly lends creditility to his record of the events.  He was there.  Even if he failed to measure up, he knew what he’d seen and heard and reported it accurately.  I’d have been embarrassed, too!  Wouldn’t you?  It’s bad enough to feel like a coward, but to be caught sneaking around and streaking under those circumstances!?

What if one of the police had turned on a searchlight at that precise moment?  And there was no fig leaf for cover and no rock to crawl under!

While this was happening, Peter tagged along behind the ‘respected’ religious and civil authorites, but at a safe distance. (“Then took they him (Jesus), and led him, and brought him unto the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.” Luke 22:54). After the arresting soldiers and brave officials arrived at their destination, Peter tried unsuccessfully to blend in with the crowd outside the place where a mock trial was being conducted.  He stuck out like a sore thumb! When he was recognized, he denied being a follower of Christ.  Emphatically!  Three times he did that, the third underscored with convincing profanity. Most sailors and fishermen I’ve known can cuss proficiently!

An Afterthought:  For the most part, the record clearly shows the men disappeared into the shadows. In spite of their boasts, they vanished. They kept a safe distance, or retreated to an apartment essentially hiding, waiting for the footfalls of the Roman soldiers coming to arrest them. John appears to be the only exception, as one of the accounts reported he stood with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, as they watched her Son die.

Not much of a record for bravery.  Not exactly an example of macho masculinity.

Given that kind of record, what could be expected of these men. . . all of them. . . in the future?  So strong, and young.  So lean and idealistic…and suddenly their best instincts are in shambles.  Instead of heroes, to the last man they appear to be cowards, rendered useless by fear.

How could you ever expect them to become the fearless leaders we now know and respect?

Please consider this: Under pressure, have you ever crumpled or compromised your principles and your faith?  Were you too embarrassed to stand strong during a test?  Have you been too proud or embarrassed to admit that mistake and correct it?  If I understand anything about the Bible, it’s NEVER too late to do that.

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student,   ><>  donkimrey  ><>

**This appears to be the same “Mark,” who had jumped ship on the first missionary journey and was the reason for the split between Paul and Barnabas. Mark had become discouraged or disillusioned during his first venture of faith and been written off by The Apostle Paul (How would you feel if Billy Graham had decided you weren’t worth the effort required to give you a ‘second chance?). Was it just a coincidence that the same Barnabas who ‘took a chance’ on the rabid Christian-killer named Saul was also the same man who was convinced young Mark was worth another try? Peter also followed suit and is considered the ‘silent partner’ in the record most feel was written by Mark.  And even later Paul had second thoughts and admitted the young man who’d deserted the mission earlier was a worthy follower of Christ.

WHOM DO YOU REALLY KNOW?

As Easter approaches, my thoughts return to the Scriptural accounts of the “Great Getting’ Up Morning.” The Resurrection! Chances are that most who read my blog have some idea about how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give their accounts of how the Resurrection occurred. On the other hand, few of us have probably paid much  attention to the Apostle Paul’s view. It’s quite different from the Gospel writers’ approaches.

As an example of what I’m considering, Paul speaks of the Incarnation in a completely different way than the accounts recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In his letter to the young Church at Philippi (Philippians 2:5-22), he writes about what I call “The Great Descent.” No mention is made of Mary, Joseph, the over-crowded inn in Bethlehem, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, or the foolish religious and political leaders who completely mis-read the Message God sent.

It sort of follows Paul’s pattern of reasoning that he would handle the Resurrection in a different way. Accepting it as a fact, Paul just says “above all else, I want to know this Christ, this power, and I want to experience it in my life, personally.”

So, as honestly, thoughtfully and carefully as I am capable of being, I’ve been pondering his statement. I’ve tried to weigh each word. The first thing I tried to do is grasp the terms Paul is using. At the risk of sounding like a “nit-picker,” I wanted to be sure I had an understanding of what he meant by what he said.

So, the first thing I did was try to define “KNOW.” It seems very clear to me that Paul is not speaking here of the act of simply accumulating factual information. He’s not trying to educate. He’s speaking obviously about having a relationship. It sounds more to me like he’s attempting to become intimately acquainted with someone and understand the importance and implication of facts.  Flowing naturally from that search is the complete dedication of Paul to introduce his Friend to anyone who’d read or listen to his words! Knowing Christ and introducing Him to others was the driving force behind his life and his death.

I “know” a lot of people. But have had little contact with them. Once I shook hands with Gerald Ford. But he never contacted me after that moment. I know a lot about Billy Graham, but he hasn’t the remotest idea of who donkimrey is. Somehow, I would not feel quite comfortable walking up the hill to his house, ringing his doorbell and sitting out on his front porch, sipping tea, looking at the scenery and discussing theology or world politics or chatting about the NCAA finals. I’m not even on his Christmas card mailing list. I know about him. But I don’t know him.

And he sure doesn’t know me.

How can you know Christ? One of the best ways is by reading about Him (the best source for that is in the Bible.). The Old Testament has a great deal to say about a “Messiah” (a Divinely chosen, or appointed leader.) who would come from God to heal and liberate His people. That is usually referred to as messianic prophecy. The New Testament speaks of the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth. The only source I have for such information is the Bible. So, if I really want to know about Jesus…and eventually hope to know Him better…it follows logically that I’ll become familiar with the primary source of information about Him.

Think about the things He said. And what He did. Consider how he treated people, even His enemies. And especially little children. In a world which viewed women as possessions, who has done as much as He to establish and respect their worth and identity? What has Jesus contributed to this and other important issues? What kind of influence has he exercised over his close associates, and anyone else?

In one of Paul’s references to Jesus and His exit from the borrowed tomb, he declared that his objective his life’s most important assignment, was: “That I may KNOW Him, and THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION.” In another place I write about what I believe “power” is. In this case, Paul speaks of the Resurrection as being one of the greatest displays of God’s power. The word Paul uses in his letter to the Philippian Church is the same word Jesus used when He told the Disciples they’d receive “power” after the Holy Spirit came upon them.

That I may know THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERING That sounds painful. Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t even try to hide the high cost of discipleship. Once, when he was inviting some folks to join Him, He cautioned: If you really do that, you’d better consider the consequences. If you’re serious, you must be prepared to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow.” At that very time He was heading toward the Cross.

As we celebrate Easter, I believe it’s important that we thoughtfully consider the significance of that eternal event. The facts about Jesus’ life and great love have been reported and recorded by more credible witnesses than many historical events which we’ve read about and believed all our lives. We don’t have to defend its impact on the world. It has long been considered almost universally as one of the “hinges of history.” Anyone who writes the date 2012 A.D. is acknowledging the entrance and exit of Jesus and the continuing influence His birth, life, teaching, death, burial and resurrection have on mankind.

The evidence is clear that the Jesus has entered human history and changed it forever. That is a universally accepted fact.

If that’s the case, Paul was correct in his decision to really know what that meant for him, personally. Universal is one thing. Personal is quite another.

The questions I ask myself in this kind of situation is also the question you may ask:  “Whom do I really know?  What effort or sacrifice am I ready to make so that I may personally, intimately know Christ?”

POWER TO SPARE!

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

(I’ve dropped anchor in the third Chapter of Paul’s letter to the young Church he’d begun at Philippi. (3:10).There’s so much here, and I feel awed, humbled, and challenged to come to a much better understanding of what so captured the Evangelist’s attention. If you’ve come to a “ho-hum” attitude about the Resurrection, I hope you’ll take a fresh look during this season. It is central to the Christian faith.  It is either the greatest event in human history, or the most hideous, cruel hoax ever to occupy the world’s attention. ~donkimrey)

In this chapter it seems to me that Paul is taking a personal inventory his life and establishing priorities.  There’s a pretty long list of impressive contributions and achievements. It seems they would be grounds for boasting, or at least some self-satisfaction.

Instead, he says: “while someone may think these are merely, or very, important, I’m focusing all my energy on what is MOST important.”  And, very tersely, wasting no words, he mentions these as his primary objective:

  • Know Christ
  • Know the Power of His Resurrection
  • Know the Fellowship of His Suffering
  • Become conformed to the image of Christ.

Consider the “power” of the Resurrection.  The word “power” or its equivalent is used a lot in Scripture. When Paul was writing his letters, he was writing and speaking the Greek language.  Before the KJV translated his letters to English, the word for “power” in that language is dunamis (of course, they used a different alphabet then, too.).  That’s the word which evolved into the English word “dynamite.”  Since Alfred Nobel invented that  highly volatile explosive, we sort of assumed that kind of “power” was highly explosive and very destructive, killing or maiming anything in it’s path.

But, considered in another way, “power” can be for constructive purposes. There is “power,” for instance, in the quiet, unnoticed growth beneath the surface makes the flowers bursts fort in glory with the coming of spring.

Christianity is a very muscular faith.  Very virile. While recognizing  (in our humanity) we may be weak, we gain strength and power through admission of our weakness. For instance, one New Testament writer said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  He provides power. The ability to do what is required of us.  The same word (dunamis, or power) is used when Jesus promised Hs followers “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”(Ref. ).   In that instance, the blessing of power is bestowed specifically upon the Christ followers. And this kind of power isn’t given so we can strut before others or admire ourselves in the mirror and just “flex” ourpowerful mew spiritual muscle.  Jesus made the purpose clear: It is the ability and authority to become faithful witnesses to the Gospel He introduced.

The same power which brought Jesus from the land of the dead is the same power which enables a “sinner” to become a “saint.”

Years ago there was a famous Baptist minister, Dr. R. G. Lee, who each year would preach a sermon by the title “Pay Day Someday.” It became an annual event and Dr. Lee delivered that same messages on numerous occasions at conventions, conferences, and other assemblies..  It was recorded and sold widely. From his pulpit in the Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee, he achieved international recognition and preached that sermon 1300 times over the course of his ministry.

Needless to say, he had his imitators.  On one occasion, he happened to be in a Church when one young wannabe Lee delivered his  own version of “Payday Some day” only to learn that Dr. Lee himself was in the audience.

The young fella felt he had no choice but to continue, but afterwards he spoke with Dr. Lee, expressing his embarrassment and apologizing profusely.

Dr. Lee reassured the young minister, observing wryly that “most folks can tell the difference between a cannon and a cap pistol.”

While considering such great concepts (especially the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Christ) I feel so far beneath the subjects. I sense that I’m “on Holy Ground,” and don’t want to diminish your view of these tremendous events. I want badly not to become “as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

I’ll save “That I may know Him, the fellowship of His suffering, & that I may be conformed to his image” for other days. Other studies perhaps.

But right now I’m concentrating on the “power of the resurrection.” When I wrote about the Incarnation I was amazed at how so much Divine energy and personality could be compressed into such a small space.  Deity becoming an infant!  Eternity being compressed into a mere moment of time. It is just too much to be taken with a grain of salt.  Too much infinity for a finite mind to comprehend!

Honestly, there is no ranting of an idiot here.  Certainly no drooling like a religious fanatic or a fool.  These questions arise in my mind: First what IS the Power of His Resurrection?” and Second:  How may I achieve it?

What is the POWER OF THE RESURRECTION? I believe it is the authority or the privilege to become children of God. It is the ability to face and overcome all life’s challenges, including the last and greatest challenge..Death.  If Jesus really conquered the ultimate enemy, He can do anything. That’s the kind of righteousness and power that Jesus spoke about in His famous Sermon on the Mount. We should “Hunger and thirst for it.
“As the hart pants for water” is the word picture the Psalmist used to explain how we should seek God’s presence and His power. That sounds like devoted desperation.  I must have it or I perish.  As inadequate as my attempts are, perhaps you can take it even further. Take this seriously.  Paul made it his top priority.  Other things may be important.  But this is most important.  Ask for it.  Keep on seeking and you shall find.  It contains the possibility of continuous devotion. Devoted adoration.  The ability to live sanely in the midst of insanity.  To be kind, calm, confident, joyful, loving, peaceful, gentle, while exercising goodness, temperance, and self control.  It is the kind of peace that you can claim in all  circumstances.

In my life I’ve probably read, heard,written, and spoken millions of words. Hopefully, some were helpful.  Honestly, though, I have to admit the use of worthless words at times.  Some hurtful, irritating, or boring.

That question, “How may I know the Power of the Resurrection?” intrigues me. Sometimes the answer to such a question is so obvious we overlook it.   The way you “know” anything is that you accept it as fact.  Believe it is true. You spend time meditating.  In this case, you’d spend time considering the words, deeds, and influence of the only One who ever exercised that power.

This idea has captured my thinking and continues to occupy it. That powerful phrase: “The Power of His Resurrection!”  I could never compare myself to brilliant, imaginative scientists, philosophers, and can not imagine what prompted Albert Einstein to launch his quest which became the basis for his famous theory, E=MC2  which led to an atomic bomb and ushered in the nuclear age? When Ben Franklin went flying a kite in a thunderstorm, who ever suggested that he go chasing lightning and bottling it?

You already knew that without my telling you, but just so you know I have no grandiose ideas about my capabilities, I accept the fact that I have no special abilities to probe the depth of the Resurrection. Much less do I claim to be able to understand or explain its significance.   I do, however, believe the importance of the resurrection by far exceeds the importance of these, or any, or all scientific discoveries of all time.

This is another example of God acting suddenly, unexpectedly, in mysterious, marvelous ways, His wonders to perform.

“Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: “a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb.’ Jesus entered our world through a door marked, No Entrance’  and left through a door marked No Exit.”–Peter Larson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S PRIORITY

“That I may know Him and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to His death.” (Philippians 3:10 KJV)

Here’s where I’d like to drop anchor and just think a bit.  In the context surrounding that statement, the Apostle Paul is thinking about things which matter to him most.  He’s “prioritizing,” and in my opinion he has his priorities straight. This single simple sentence gives you his opinion of what matters most to him.  And they are as profound as they are simple.

I admire Paul greatly.  He’s one of the greatest figures in Christian history, perhaps in world history.  When Jesus was here, his closest friends (the Disciples) and perhaps some others wrote down the things Jesus said and did.  They just recorded things as they happened and recorded them for us in what we call “The Gospels.”  It was Paul, above all others, who interpreted the meaning of those acts and deeds and helped formulate a cohesive Christian theology.  He’s the one person who tried to show what Jesus words and deeds meant.  His courageous faith and preaching were vital in the spread of Jesus’ Gospel.  His writing and teaching were perhaps more influential than any Christian thinker who has ever lived. Not just in those exciting early days following the resurrection and the birth of the Church, but even to this very day.  The existence of the Church, it’s contribution in the fields of art, music, educational institutions and missions, are immeasurable and continuing. The Apostle Paul played a very crucial role in Church history.

Stated as succinctly as possible, his was a massive mind and a great spirit.  No one who is objective could dispute or deny the great contributions he made and the continuing impact those contributions have.

One thing which impresses me about the man is his singular, focused statement of his burning obsession, his supreme priority:  ‘That I may know Him, and the Power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformed to His death . . .” (Philippians 3:10 KJV)

That laser focused desire and determination was what drove him and served as his compass.  It was the key to his power.

As we enter the season when we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice and his resurrection, what a great, great objective for us to have as our own compass!  That I may KNOW HIM. . . “

Would I be imposing on our friendship if I asked you to to ponder that thought? Knowing Christ  was Paul’s magnificent obsession.  His driving ambition.  His top priority.

In considering Paul’s desire, I’ve decided that is what I’d like to have as my own goal.

What is yours?

God’s servant, your friend and fellow student,  ~donkimrey   ><>

WHO DID IT?

  • (As Easter approaches, we must first deal with the cruel reality of the Crucifixion.   Once before, I raised the question:  Who’s responsible?  Ultimately, don’t all of us have a share of blame?)

  “When Pontius 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 mock trial and  illegal crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

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. 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 to offer 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  never have real “good” as their objective.  Whether they are religious, political, or any other kind.   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 Rumour, 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, jealousy, 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 common 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 religious 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, almost ungovernable country but dominated, nevertheless, by an invading foreign power. 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.  Looking for, and finally finding, the one weak link in that original Band of Brothers, then bribing Judas to help them ‘take Jesus down.”  Behind the scenes, under cover, they conceived and hatched an evil scheme 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  murdered at the instigation of religious leaders and with the co-operation of an established government which violated their own laws..   They were the jeer leaders.  They, and their plants, worked the crowd very effectively until they were chanting frantically, feverishly frothing  angrily

“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.

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  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 adapt to it or 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, 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 pseudo-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 that 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  isolation and ignorant prejudice.  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~defense or 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 usEvery 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 of “sin” which we commit routinely.

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, Agnostic, 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 situtation differently?

Do we handle challenges differently today?

Really?

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student,     ~donkimrey

GOOD NEWS!!

GOOD NEWS!

The quotation below is attributed directly to Jesus of Nazareth.  It gives His “take” on why He visited us in time gone by.  He was having a conversation with a harried, confused businessman and religious leader who hadn’t a clue about things that really matter. Worried perhaps about how his peers and colleagues might view his visit to consult with a controversial Rabbi, Nicodemus had slipped in under cover of night to “swap some ideas,” perhaps give the young Teacher some of his own counsel and ask a few questions to clear the air.

Always able to look past our subterfuge, Jesus quickly and directly went to the real heart of the matter.

“For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten son, (so) that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”                            (John 3:16)

That’s the almost forgotten reason why there’s such a celebration (more like a sale-a-bration these days) tomorrow.

That’s the Good News! Enough to cause angels to sing or shout (or sing AND shout!)! Glory to God and on earth, peace, good will toward men.  That’s Good news of GREAT JOY for all the people on the planet then and now and forever.

Nothing else now even remotely and strangely associated with that Eternal Event will produce that kind of response.  Not all the flashing neon lights, the gaudily decorated trees, the sleigh bells jing-a-linging, the holly, the ivey, the mistletoe and the hugely obese jolly old fella and his band of dwarves and impossibly agile herd of flying reindeer (one with even a flashing red nose leading the pack and directing the way.).

I’m not trying to be an old curmudgeon like Scrooge snorting “Bah! Humbug!”  Go ahead and enjoy all the great old traditions and make some new ones of your own. Enjoy Der Bingle and dream with him  again of “A White Christmas.” Or the almost angelic voice of Karen Carpenter, silenced too soon by death but kept alive through the genius of our electronics wizards.

Just don’t allow yourself to swallow all the hype, stuff yourself and your children with stuff which will eventually rot or rust or lose their attraction.  At the expense of depriving yourself and them of Joy, Peace, Forgiveness, Hope, Faith, and Eternal Life.

Why don’t you read that report again?  This time with your brain and your heart engaged fully and open?   And before the excited, noisy, joyful squealing and ripping of wrapping paper, consider the real reason why there is even a Christ-mass in the first place!  John 3:16.

God’s  son and servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey

12/24/11