Sunday, March 27, 2016

Jesus Is Risen!!!

Jesus is alive! Thank God He is Risen! This is the crux of His Passion story, If Christ had not risen, His death would mean nothing.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  

 Romans 6: 1-11 NASB

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 1 Corinthians 15: 13-14

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. 1 Corinthians 15: 20 NASB

If Christ had not risen, our faith would be in vain. The power that raised Jesus from the dead gives us the power to live. The death and resurrection is His whole Passion.
What does it mean for us as believers? What did the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ do for us? First, the Bible tells us that because Jesus died we have power over sin and death.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5: 1-2 NASB

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.  Romans 5: 9-11 NASB

Because of the atonement, we have peace with God; Jesus is our advocate to the Father.

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus 1 Timothy 2: 5 NASB

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 NASB

Jesus is all we need, He is the One that died and was raised up from the dead to reconcile us to the Father.

 In the Tabernacle in the wilderness, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and atone for the people of Israel; not a Levite or any other priest.  In the New Testament, the Word tells us,

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2: 17-18 NASB

but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7: 24-25 NASB

Jesus suffered so that we have access to God. Let us not take it in vain by praying to anyone other than Jesus; He is all we need for strength, healing, or any other need we may have. Jesus is now our High Priest and is always interceding on our behalf.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4: 14-16 NASB

When Jesus died on the cross there was a great earthquake, the curtain in the temple between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn in two. This was performed by God to illustrate the veil is gone! There is nothing now that is separating us from the presence of God. Jesus Christ is the sacrifice, He is the mediator, He has now satisfied the debt we owed for our sins. We may now boldly come before the throne of grace, and Jesus will help us with every need.

When Adam and Eve sinned, we became separated from God. The Bible tells the story from the fall to the arrival of the advocate, the Messiah, the Redeemer of all people, Jew and Greek, male and female. He is the only mediator the Bible spoke to us to wait for.

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.  John 10: 14-16 NASB

In this verse we see the meaning of the words know, knew and kneweth are the same Greek word ginosko. It means to know very well but pertains to intimacy. It is the same word used in Luke 1: 34. Mary asks the angel how it can be true that she will conceive, for she has known not a man.  The same word is used in Matthew 1: 25; explaining that Joseph did not know Mary until she had given birth to Jesus; and again it is found in Matthew 7.

Not everyone that saith to me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name? And in thine name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that worketh iniquity. Matthew 7: 21-23 NASB

He wants to know us in an intimate way, and we take His death in vain when we go to anyone other than Jesus Christ. Go to Him and pray; worship Him. He is expecting you.

Thank God He is RISEN!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross XII, XIII and XIV)

Ecce Homo~ here is the man

Stations of the Cross: Station XII Jesus Dies on the Cross.

Therefore, it says, When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4: 8-10 NASB

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12: 40 NASB

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.  Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18   NASB

When Jesus died, His work went beyond the grave. Jesus descended into hell, and took back the keys to death, hell, and the grave. He preached to those in hell, and He set them free! After He defeated the devil, He ascended into heaven.   He ascended to the Father and presented Himself, a perfect sacrifice for sin. The debt for sin was paid and He sat down at the right hand of the Father.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1: 1-4 NASB

This is important for two reasons. 1) His work for our sin is finished. He is the High Priest forever. In the Tabernacle there were no chairs, the high priest could not sit down, because the work of the priest never ended; Jesus finished and fulfilled the works of the law and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 2) Jesus is the only advocate to the Father. The only way to the Father is through Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that anyone who tries to approach the Father by any other way than Jesus is a robber and a thief. (See John 10:1-2).

Therefore, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. Hebrews 7: 25-27

He was the perfect sacrifice for all. Everything He completed on the cross accomplished all that was needed to free us from the power of sin and death. You are free. 

Stations of the Cross: Station XIII— Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross

I often wonder how Mary and the others felt when they held Jesus’ lifeless body. The body that once walked Israel, healing the sick and touching hurting people, is now motionless.

It has been dark since noon, and a major earthquake has caused the dead to rise; literally. It is raining and cold, and they weep over His wet, beaten, and torn body.  Lifeless. Many times it seems that our dreams have died and our destiny with it. Even though Jesus body was dead, we know He was working behind the scenes, defeating the devil and death.  We can rest in Jesus and know even though it looks as if our dreams are dead; Jesus is working for us behind the scenes. Though it looks dim, do not be deceived by circumstance, Jesus is working everything for good. 

Mary His mother and the others must have been devastated; their world turned upside down. Mary knew this would happen, maybe not exactly how it unfolded, but she knew.  This is why Jesus was born; Mary had pondered many things in her heart over the years only to see them come to this end. I imagine Mary’s mind replays all the memories of watching Jesus grow up. After all, she is His mother; I cannot imagine her pain. Nothing will prepare you to lose a child. He is the Messiah, but she birthed and raised Him; nurtured and cared for Him. Everything she has poured into this life—is dead—or so it would seem.

Those that helped remove Jesus body from the Cross do not realize that in three short days, all they believe to be dead is already resurrected. All that seems dead to you has already come to life.  

Stations of the Cross: XIV Jesus Laid in the Tomb

His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Isaiah 53:9 NASB

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.  And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.  Matthew 27: 57-61

 Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus buried Jesus and kept it secret. They both were believers, but not openly for fear of the Sanhedrin. These secret disciples wanted Jesus to receive a proper burial.  Joseph and Nicodemus both risked their lives to secure the body of Jesus; should they be found out, they probably would have paid a heavy price—perhaps losing their position and probably ostracized. This was no small feat.

 What have we done to sacrifice our positions or importance for Jesus? Are we willing to risk our lives for Him? Are we willing to put everything we have on the line for Him? Can we sell all that we have and give it to the poor and follow Him? What is in our lives and hearts that would keep any part of us from Him?  Jesus needs every part. When we give Him our whole heart, we gain so much:

 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross IX, X and XI)

Station #9: Jesus Falls the Third Time.
Jesus falls again…

It is only in our brokenness that we truly realize the only help we have is the Lord.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber Psalm 121:1-3 NASB.  

He is our only refuge and strength. Sometimes, our journey in life breaks us; but God is always with us. Even when we cannot trace Him, we can trust Him.  

It is when we are totally broken before Him, when we are ready to surrender all to Him; ready to surrender to His will, His purpose, and His ways, that He can use us. Breaking is not the end; it is the beginning of something new from the Lord.

Station nine observes Jesus’ third fall. He is tired and weary but receives strength from His Father in heaven.  He knows the only place to go for help. Jesus draws on the Father, and is able to make it to His feet. It does not matter that His enemies are yelling at Him, spitting on Him, and beating Him. They will not hinder Jesus from completing His purpose; we need to follow Jesus’ example. When your enemies have surrounded you, trying to beat you down, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Keep fighting, even when falling down repeatedly; just get up and keep going.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10

We must keep going as Jesus did. It is a hard journey at times, but we have the Lord’s example. He drew strength from the Father, and made it possible for us to draw strength from Him. 

Station #10: Jesus is Stripped

They part my garments among them, and cast lots for my vesture. Psalms 22:18

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seem woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. John 19: 23-24

This is yet one more humiliation Christ had to endure. He was stripped of His clothing; hanging naked on the cross. A robe is always worn as the symbol of office or authority, and dignifies a man for the office he holds. Christ held the office of the Creator of the world.

“A further picture of His Eternal Deity, His divine Personage, and his matchless grace is seen in the fact that this robe was woven in one piece—it was seamless. This indeed was skillful work. It was the work of a craftsman. But no loom on earth could ever have produced the wonderful fabric of the Incarnate God…His life was seamless. It had no beginning, it knows no end.”[1]

El Greco 1541-1614
“Many would like to strip Jesus, or Great High Priest, of His Divinity. But they could not and cannot.”[2]

Jesus laid down His life and was humiliated for us. The Jews didn’t take it from Him, the Romans didn’t take it from Him. He laid down His life no one took it from Him…

This same outer clothing He laid down once before this—

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, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 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. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” John 13:3-7 NASB

We need to live in humility as Jesus did, and we as believers need to follow Christ’s example and lay aside those things that hinder us from running the race.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1 KJV.

This process hurts and humbles us before the Lord. The Lord does not do it to embarrass us. He does it to cleanse us and to make us whole, restoring us through the stripping process. Though we seem naked, waiting for us is a beautiful garment—a robe of righteousness.

Remember today that Jesus laid aside His life today to be a servant. He laid aside His life

To reconcile us to the Father. He laid aside His life to be the perfect sacrifice for sin, to make it possible for us to approach God. Can you lay aside your life for Him?

Station # 11:  Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.  Psalms 22:16 NASB

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10 NASB

And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends’. Zechariah 13:6 NASB

Jesus is nailed to the cross. He is the only sacrifice that we will ever need for our sins. The high priest was required to enter the Holy of Holies every year on the Day of Atonement to present a sacrifice for the people of Israel. Not only is Jesus the final Passover Lamb, He is now our High Priest forever. He went to the Father and sprinkled His blood on the Mercy Seat in heaven before God, removing forever the veil of separation between God and man. How fitting that we remember Jesus, our Passover Lamb, that He was nailed to the cross for our exodus from the power of sin on this day.

It is powerful to me that this year, Purim and Easter coincide in the same week. Though the feast of Esther is not a biblical feast, it meant life and death for the Jews. Yet another hell-sent puppet attempted to wipe out the Jews from the face of the Earth. If Haman had succeeded in annihilating the Jews, the Messiah could not put on the robe of human skin and grace this lost world.

That day, as Christ hung on the cross, people throughout Jerusalem were preparing for the Passover, unaware of the events surrounding the crucifixion:

Up until the instant of its occurring, what a busy three hours had passed on Golgotha! The Crucified Himself was busy, if we may use the word. What interest He showed in what was taking place about Him! He was audibly interceding for His crucifiers, listening to the cry for mercy of the dying thief, and answering him in that sublime assurance of salvation; recognizing the presence of His mother and the beloved disciple and executing His last will and testament concerning her and him. The soldiers were busy watching and mocking Him, dividing His garments among them and casting lots for the seamless coat. The chief priests were busy criticizing Pilate’s inscription on the cross and venting their indignation. The scoffers were busy—priests, rulers, and the multitude passing by, wagging their heads, railing and reviling. All the currents of iniquity surged on unchecked around the cross. —William Nicholson The Six Miracles of Calvary

Following the noise and business is three hours of complete and utter darkness. Bone chilling darkness, as Nicholson says, a miracle, a visible suspension of nature. At noon, after three hours of hanging on the cross—all light was absent…

It will come about in that day, declares the Lord GOD, That I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight.  Amos 8:9 NASB

What a cruel darkness that must have been for Jesus, yet He endured it to overcome it. The darkness of sin will never hang over you or I because of His precious blood.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5 NASB

Darkness knows no power over you, Jesus overcame the darkness….

[1] C.W. Slemming, These are the Garments, (Ft. Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1974), 44-45.
[2] Ibid.

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A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross VII and VIII)

Station # 7: Jesus Falls the Second Time

For many of us, falling down is all too familiar on our road to destiny. Take heart; Jesus has fallen again in the midst of a screaming, mocking crowd. It certainly feels that way to those of us that have fallen, the mocking of those around us drown out all other noise. Jesus knows what we are feeling, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15 NASB

Be encouraged, when we fall, Jesus is there with His Grace and Mercy to pick us back up again, to wipe our face from all the trials and tribulations; nothing matters in the light of His love.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: While we look not at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4: 17-18 NASB

We cannot always see why we suffer certain circumstances; we can be encouraged knowing that as we abide in Jesus we can do all things. We just have to keep getting up no matter how many times we fall. The only perfect person in the Bible is Jesus. We do not need to be perfect; we just need to be obedient.

Station# 8: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23: 28-31 NASB

The Daughters of Jerusalem are a band of anonymous women that follow Jesus on the Via Dolorosa; Veronica may have been with these women. They follow Him from Pilate’s decree all the way to the Golgotha. They are weeping because of the torture, and the injustice of Jesus’ death sentence.

It is amazing that Jesus, in everything He was suffering, stopped to minister to these women. In God’s divine purpose, Jesus was able to stop to talk with these faithful women. They feel helpless; they can do nothing. Though they are faithful to Him, He admonishes them. He tells them not to mourn for Him; He is securing their salvation. By the end of the day, eternity is sealed; mourn for those who will not believe. There will come a day when things are going to get ugly for those who will not accept Christ; pray for them.
These women wept for Christ because they loved Him. Not only did they follow Him from Pilate’s to Golgotha, they had been traveling with Jesus and the disciples for some time. Have we really wept for what Jesus suffered on our behalf? Not because we do not have hope, as the Daughters of Jerusalem, but in worship. Have we meditated on what Jesus endured? As we read in Veronica, Jesus endured horrific physical abuse. He also felt the sting of personal betrayal. Though I mentioned these verses in Veronica, they bear repeating:

Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek. Micah 5:1 NASB

I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. Isaiah 50:6 NASB

Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. Isaiah 52:14

These are just a few Old Testament Scriptures detailing His physical abuse, and then the betrayal:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me. Psalm 41:9 NASB.

For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together
Walked in the house of God in the throng.
Psalm 55:12-14 NASB

I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Zechariah 11:12-13 NASB

Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. Zechariah 13:7 NASB

For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. Psalm 109:2 NASB

Is it any wonder that we have a great High Priest who is familiar with our sufferings (see Hebrews 4:15)? How can we not be moved by what Jesus suffered? I never quite understood how many Christians I know would not watch The Passion of the Christ. The whipping post scene was hard to watch, but I think everyone should have a picture of what Christ really suffered. Gibson’s portrayal was graphic, though it still did not covey the depth of the physical abuse Christ suffered. Through those brutal wounds—we were healed (Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24).

The Daughters of Jerusalem were weeping for Jesus when few cared. They were overtaken with grief at the brutality being inflicted on the Lord. It is hard for us to imagine this side of the cross, the helplessness they must have felt. They did not have the full revelation of why Christ had to die, so in their minds, they were weeping for the seemingly unjust punishment of Jesus. They knew that He would die, and thought they would never see Him again.

Their sense of loss was immense, for they did not realize He would be alive again in three days. We have the gift of being on this side of the cross, knowing full what Jesus did for us, and realizing He had to die, and because of that knowledge, we have hope. These women did not have a shred of hope.

I love the Lord, I love how He always took notice of hurting people, and this occasion was no different. Jesus, in the midst of all the chaos, people shouting and hurling insults at Him from every side, marred and beaten—unrecognizable and probably blinded by the beatings to His face, stopped to minister to these weeping women.

A great and terrible day is on the horizon for the earth, the day when the Lord returns. Jesus is going to the cross to save anyone that will accept Him. For those that do not, that day will be frightening to say the least.

Jesus is saying to these women, not to mourn for Him, for He is going to the cross to redeem them and the world. He is going to secure the future of all who believe in Him. Though he accepts their weeping as worship, He encourages them to shift their prayers from Him, to those who will be left on earth during that horrible time. He is calling them to pray for the nations.

They weep for Him and His suffering, but He calls their attention to those who do not accept Him, and for the destruction that will come on the earth. Somehow, in God’s divine purpose Jesus was able to stop long enough to talk with these faithful women. They had followed Him from Pilate’s fatal decree, to the cross. Following Jesus, no matter what comes, until the very end; a powerful example for us.

Pilate’s decree rings loud, we cannot believe what’s heard;
This is His judgment? We hoped and prayed, this is what we feared.
This Holy Man who saved many, can’t He save Himself from death?
Why must He suffer so, we can hardly catch our breath.
We will follow Him until the end, and pray God intervenes;
Such brutal torture unlike anything we have seen.
What can we do, the Lord is on His way to die?
We cannot stop this injustice, though we weep, wail, and cry.
How can He ask us not to weep? We are filled with awe.
To pray for those that don’t believe, they will one day crawl,
To the feet of the Lord for mercy wishing they had heard;
The decree from Zion, the awesome power of His Word.

©2012 Piper Green
Poem Originally posted in A Life That Sings; Finding Your Song In The Midst Of Brokenness

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross V and VI)

Station # 5: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross

It has been a long journey, a tiresome, dusty excursion to bring a sacrifice for the Passover. As they travel, he teaches his children about the importance of the sacrifice for Passover. He is not aware of the event that awaits him in Jerusalem.  

As Simon and his family enter the city, the noise and commotion of a criminal about to be crucified commands everyone’s attention. The criminal—Jesus has fallen; struggling beneath the cross. Before Simon realizes what is happening, a Roman soldier commands him to help a criminal carry the heavy burden that has sapped all his strength; his body has given into exhaustion. Simon did not want to carry the cross of a condemned man, a criminal; He who hangs on a tree is cursed.  

His corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance. Deut. 21:23

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Gal. 3:13

Simon’s pilgrimage is interrupted. He came to worship God and bring a sacrifice to atone for his sin, but that is the old way of worship according to the Law. God stops Simon in the midst of his “worship” to show him a new and better way. Jesus is now the Passover Lamb, slain before the foundation of world; the only sacrifice needed for sin.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16: 24 NASB

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; Philippians 3:10 NASB

Jesus and Simon bonded and grew close during that grueling journey to Golgotha.  Simon had but a taste of the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. Hebrews 2: 10 NASB

Jesus had to suffer for our salvation and He was obedient even to death; the King of Glory by whom and for whom all things were made, suffered for us. Simon’s experience illustrates for the believer what it means to partake of Christ’s suffering.

But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4: 13-14 NASB

Scripture admonishes believers to rejoice in suffering.  The very thing Simon thought was going to be a reproach on his life, carrying the cross of a criminal, became the very glory of God on his life; Simon knew this by the end of his journey with the Lord. 

This scene also illustrates for believers a picture of ministering to the Lord. We are to take up our cross every day and follow Christ; setting aside our own desires to fulfill the Lord’s will. As we submit ourselves to His dreams, His dreams become our dreams; it is a joy not a burden.

Have you picked up your cross today? Have you totally surrendered to His Lordship?  He wants us to be in relationship with Him. That is why He died, to reconcile us to God so that we can walk with Him and know Him deeper. In the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the priest had to wash in the brazen laver before he could minister to God. The basin was polished brass, a mirror like surface, so the priests were able to see their reflection. 

Lent serves as a time for us to look in the brass mirror, wash in the water of the Word, and set aside anything that would keep us from carrying our cross and walking ahead into the Holy Place to commune with Him.

Just as Simon carried the Cross, pick up your cross and follow Him. 

Station # 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Veronica has intrigued me for some time. Movies and pictures have depicted her; history and tradition have attempted to shape who she was, to no avail. Veronica of course is widely celebrated in the Catholic Church. Catholic traditions vary according to different countries, but most facts concerning her are similar. I love the story of Veronica and what she represents.

Tradition tells us that she wiped the face of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa; in fact, she is the sixth station in the Stations of the Cross.  Veronica offered Jesus a cloth to wipe His face. Tradition holds that when He did, the image of His face miraculously became impressed upon it. History has named the veil, the Sudarium (Latin for sweat-cloth), often called simply "The Veronica" and known in Italian as the Volto Santo or Holy Face. A Biblical account of Veronica does not exist, however, historically she is widely accepted.

Many scholars, some protestant, suggest that she may have been the woman with the issue of blood, whom Jesus healed.  Over many years, many alleged likenesses of our Lord have been presented, but because the one on the cloth was widely received as authentic, it was given the name vera icon, or the true image. This eventually evolved into Veronica and that is how she received her name. Veronica was not her real name, it is more accurately the name of the cloth. She could have been anyone, so it’s not reasonable to discount the story—historically. The story of Veronica claims that she (the woman) took the cloth to Tiberius and he was healed. We do have a biblical example of cloths carrying healing:

“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.” Acts 19: 10-12 NASB

 If cloths that touched Paul could heal the sick, how much more would a cloth that touched Christ. However, it is important to note, if such a cloth exists, there is no power in that cloth, the power came from Jesus Christ, just as in the account with Paul, it was the power of Christ working through points of contact of the faith of the people.  

Who Veronica was we might not know for sure; what she did is of far greater worth.

I can see a picture in my mind of that day; Jesus has been beaten and spit on. He is dripping blood from the wounds of the crown of thorns mercilessly embedded into His brow. The cross He is carrying is heavy and He is tired and weary. He is beaten so horrifically, He is unrecognizable. Though Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, was hailed as too graphic, it did not do justice to how Jesus appeared after the torture He suffered:

Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek. Micah 5:1 NASB

I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. Isaiah 50:6 NASB

Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. Isaiah 52:14

Jesus was beaten so badly that He could not even be recognized as a man. Can you imagine the grotesque figure that walked the streets of Jerusalem that day? This woman knows Him and feels helpless to fight against the injustice served on this Holy Man. He is hurting and tired, and as the Stations of the Cross tradition explains, He falls down, one of many times.

Frantically thoughts start swimming through her mind as to what to do for Him. If this woman was the woman healed from the issue of blood, can you imagine what she is suffering at this moment? Just a short time ago, their roles are switched; she had fallen on the ground, grasping for the hem of His garment. Now He is grasping for His cross so that He would conquer death. She doesn’t have a revelation of this yet, but her heart is broken for Him. As she gazes on His bruised and bleeding face, she removes her veil, walks slowly toward Him—her love for Him drowns out the shouting and the hate, and she offers Him a cloth to wipe the sweat, blood, and the spit of scorn from off His face.

I try to imagine what Jesus must have been going through at this moment. Many of the faces Jesus sees, He looked upon with compassion and love, offering healing and grace, they have now turned against Him, screaming and hurling vileness and hate at Him. Then one woman, longing to give what little she had, back to Him in worship, because of what He delivered her from, came with an offering. One act of kindness in the midst of the chaos, and few friendly faces in sight, the disciples had abandoned Him, and with the exception of a few weeping women, He was alone. If she was not the woman healed from the issue of blood, her one act of kindness toward Jesus is no less powerful.

What does Veronica, a historical figure, represent for us? How does her life sing, when she possibly may not have existed? I believe this story is so beautiful, and her life should be a song for us, and an example of how we can minister to the Lord.

This woman was moved by compassion for Jesus in His suffering. She held no power to stop the events of that day. She did not know it was the will of God, she moved in faith in what she knew. She had to do something—anything to help Jesus. The small act of removing her veil, and wiping the face of Jesus, is a perfect picture, a beautiful example of how we can minister to others in the Lord’s name.

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:35-40 NASB

The smallest acts of kindness do not go unnoticed by the Lord. Maybe you feel as though you have nothing to offer anyone, but the smallest act performed in the name of Jesus, ministers to Jesus. We minister to Jesus when we give of ourselves to others. Veronica is a wonderful example of a servant.

I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor. It was an order. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. Mother Teresa

What has Jesus called you to do? Whatever is your hand—give; if it seems too small, it is big to Jesus if it ministers to one of His.

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A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross III and IV)

Station III: Jesus Falls For The First Time:

The third station memorializes the first fall for Jesus on His long, painful climb to Golgotha; this station is based upon tradition.  The Gospels recite many details concerning the arrest, trial, and death of Jesus, yet these sacred books do not contain an account of Jesus falling. I must contend though, there is no reason to argue that He did not. Jesus carried a heavy burden that day, a heavy cross. In Jesus’ grueling walk, He suffered not only the heavy burden of the old rugged cross etching its image into His shoulder and back; He endured mocking, beating, and whipping. Few could endure that torture without falling once or twice. It is probable that He fell several times; this may explain why the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Him; He most likely needed help to make it the rest of the way.

Jesus suffered not only physical pain; He suffered emotional pain as well. He spent the night of His arrest agonizing in prayer—so much that the capillaries in His head imploded and oozed from His pores. He agonized knowing a friend would betrayed Him, and the pain and torture He would soon endure. 

Orazio Borgianni

As we reflect on this third station, we should remember the pain and suffering Jesus bore on our behalf and tolerated in obedience to the Father. Many times we suffer hurt and betrayal at the hands of those close to us, and the sting of that pain is paralyzing. Jesus remained obedient regardless of the betrayal and the torture He suffered. He pressed through to the place of the skull in spite of the pain.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a  high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore come and boldly enter the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4: 14-16

 Pain and suffering were all too familiar to Jesus; He was tempted but without sin. Tempted to be bitter, tempted to let the anguish of the betrayal harden His heart and rob Him of His joy; tempted to be fed up with the beatings and the mocking and call down legions of angels to annihilate the people abusing Him. When we have been hurt, we feel tired and worn out from the circumstances and are tempted to give up. Jesus knew that feeling well; He was tempted yet without sin. He was exhausted from the burden of the cross. However, love empowered Him to provide salvation for mankind. He had to be the perfect sacrifice for sin; if He walks away from His purpose—He extinguishes ours. He knows what we are going through and what we are feeling. We may go boldly to God through Jesus Christ and obtain the strength we need to persevere despite the hurt, despite the pain.

The Bible accounts two specific occasions that Jesus sought the strengthening of the Father. The first was in the wilderness after the devil tempted Jesus; an angel ministered and strengthened Him. The second, was in the Garden of Gethsemane; He anguished in prayer to let the cup of crucifixion pass.

Have you had a garden experience? Have you anguished in prayer to God—scared and anxious? Jesus experienced it and we will drink of His cup. However, we can learn from Jesus and remain faithful through our trial. Allow the trials to cause you to seek strengthening from God; He is who Jesus sought, relied on, and trusted. He promises that through Jesus Christ we have access to the throne of grace to obtain all we need. Let us reflect on the faithfulness of Christ through this season and tap into the refreshing well of the Father.

Station IV: Jesus meets His Mother

I love Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Mary in The Passion of the Christ. He painted her as a mother beautifully. I love the relationship Gibson created between the two (more creative license I know!). Gibson demonstrated Jesus’ humanity and love for His mother, that I think we overlook when reading the Gospels. 

Mary was a woman and a mother; just like you and me. What torture she must have endured witnessing her son’s trail to the cross.  I don’t know of any mother who can watch her child—no matter how young or old—be whipped, tortured, spit on, mocked and beaten without being heartbroken, and left without breath. I imagine pictures of Jesus as a boy flooding her mind as she watched him suffer:

At times it must have been hard for her to even watch Him as He suffered:
She struggled just like the rest of  us. 

In the Passion, several scenes show Jesus very weak, and then Mary would arrive on the scene, and He was strengthened to go on. I believe Jesus loved His mother.  I believe He respected her. I think when Jesus saw her he did draw strength from her, but only as His mother. She was one of the few friendly faces left in a million faces of a hateful, brutal, and mocking mob. He loved her enough to make sure she was taken care of before He left the earth; leaving her in the care of John the beloved disciple. In the Passion, when she mustered the strength to run to Him to comfort Him when He fell, His words reminded her of His mission—God ordained, from the foundation of the world:

When He returns, He will not be the same—He is not coming back as her son, but her Messiah-King. 

Mary was a very godly woman and highly favored of God; the Scripture is clear on her character and virtue. But it is from God that Jesus drew His strength to see Calvary through.  Mary should be honored, but not worshiped. Our worship belongs to God the Father, Jesus Christ His only Begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit; the Godhead. The Bible does not deify Mary. Mary, as blessed as she is is not to be praised or worshiped. 

This season is a time to reflect on Jesus Christ and Him alone. It is a time to focus on the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us. It is a time to reflect on Christ and His redemptive love. God does not share His glory with anyone.

I Am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another.  Isaiah 42: 8

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. John 17: 5

When we give glory to Mary or any other saint, this is idol worship. It takes our eyes of Jesus and puts in another.  Make Jesus the center of your focus. No one else deserves your praise. The Bible says that Jesus is our mediator—the only mediator between us and the Father; the only acceptable sacrifice. He alone deserves our praise. Christ paid a costly price to bring you into fellowship with the Father—why would we want anyone else? Jesus is inviting us to fellowship with Him and to experience Him in all His fullness. Accept His invitation and experience His abundant life. He is your Redemption. He is your High Priest. His spilt blood cries out to God continually on your behalf (Heb.12:24). He is your Savior and King. His love for you cannot be measured. This is a liturgy worth practicing. 

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