To Die On the Cross for My Sins

MondayDecember 25, 2017John 12:23-28

25aOne night a while ago, my mind began singing the old country music song, “Just When I needed You Most” by Randy VanWarmer. He sings of his wife who just packed up one morning and walked out, not even saying “Good-bye!” The desolation he feels really comes through as he states that she left just when he needed her most. I began to think, “How sad to be deserted in your hour of need!” How would you recover from that? And why would someone do that?! I quickly examined myself and wondered if I had ever known someone who had done such a thing. The answer was quick: Jesus’ disciples deserted Him in Gethsemane when He needed them to pray for strength to go to the Cross. They deserted Him as His fake trial dragged on through the night. They deserted Him when25s the verdict was pronounced and He endured the abuse and the long trip to Golgotha’s Hill. They watched as He was crucified, and then they failed to believe when told He had risen from the dead! I think they truly left Him, just when He needed them most! But would I do that? What about those times when I was too weak to do His will when He made it known to me, or when I was presented with a clear opportunity to share my story with someone and I chickened out? Maybe we have all been guilty at one time or another, but I do know that His forgiveness and His understanding are available when we realize our betrayal. Though “we left Him just when he needed us most,” His response that first Christmas was to “Come, just when we needed Him most.”

And furthermore, He has never left us! He came the first time long ago, He is with us in the Holy Spirit now, and He will come again to make all things new and to take us to be with Him! Forever!

This Christmas I am singing new words to that old song, and I hope you’ll join me in witness of His great love:

“Now I love you more than I

loved you before, and now

where I’ll find comfort, God knows

‘Cause He came to me

just when I needed Him most!”

Lord Jesus, You showed us all through your days on this earth that You will never leave us nor forsake us. Thank you – and help me to stand true for you among the trials of this life until you come again and take me to be home with you forevermore. Amen.

25b

 

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That We Might Live

SundayDecember 10, 20171 John 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

So Send I You - Logo - Cover LargeThere is a greater authority in my house that sometimes sends me out on tasks. Maybe it’s to pick up lunch or supper. Maybe a good dose of medicine or ice cream is needed (sometimes they are the same thing). Either way, if my wife sends me on a task, I go. Do I do it because I have to? I could probably say “no” or kindly suggest she do it herself but, to be honest, that doesn’t really sound like a good idea. The reality is that I’m willing to do pretty much whatever she asks because I love her. It’s that simple. It offers me an opportunity to show her that love in a tangible way.

Jesus was sent into this world by the Father on a special mission: to save the world. It wasn’t an easy task – it involved him paying the debt we owed for our sin. He came to die10s on the cross that we might live through Him. It must have taken a lot of love to go on such a mission. At least when I head off to get ice cream for my wife, I get to have ice cream, too! Why would Jesus choose to go on such a mission? I’ll tell you why, it’s because of a crazy little thing called “Love.”

This Advent season we’ve been looking at many of the scriptures that talk about why God sent Jesus as we focus on what Jesus means when he says, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” This morning we read where John said that God “sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” A verse later he says he “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

In Romans 5:6-8 Paul says, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

John says something similar to these verses from Romans when he refers to Jesus as an “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” He means that Christ died on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins. This is a concept with deep roots in the Old Testament. We could start much earlier but, for the sake of brevity, we will start in Exodus 25:17-22 where God says to Moses: 17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”

Israel still celebrates Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, initiated in Leviticus 16. There it was Aaron, the High Priest, who took two goats and cast lots to choose one to be a scapegoat and one to be sacrificed as a sin offering. The blood of the sacrificed goat is mixed with the bull’s blood, from an earlier sacrifice, and sprinkled seven times on the horns of the altar (previously sprinkled on the atonement cover of the ark). The remaining goat, the scapegoat, has the sins of the people conferred upon its head and is then released into the wilderness to carry those sins. The process of this yearly event is fascinating and meaningful right down to the complete and utter removal of sin from their midst as all sin is removed from the camp and all involved must wash their clothes and bathe before coming back into the camp. Our verse in 1 John, along with others like Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2, name Jesus as the sacrifice that atones for our sin – completely and utterly.

There are two reasons that Jesus was sent: that we might live through him and that He would be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Really they are the same reason. But, throughout our passage, the reason given for the sending ultimately comes down to God’s love for us. Why did God send his Son to be a sacrifice and give us life through Him? He did it to show his love. So this act of love towards us, from God, is to completely remove our sins through the death of Jesus, thus paying the penalty of our sin, which is death, so that we may have life. This, then, is the reason God sent His only Son.

In the beginning I asked why Jesus would choose to go on such a mission, one that involved his death on the Cross? “It’s because of a crazy little thing called love,” I said. Jesus said “yes” to the Father because of Love and a singular Godly will. The Father sent the Son because God is love. We know why God sent Jesus but do you know why we say “yes” to Jesus when He sends us to continue His mission in this world? We say “yes” because we love Him. It’s a love that exists inside of us because God lives inside of us and we live through Him.

 

So Send I You

SundayDecember 3, 2017

 

So Send I You - Logo - Cover Large

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”   ~ John 20:19-23

 

Our elected officials and the members of our military have a common commission they accept and declare by oath since its initiation in Congress back in 1789. The oath taken by a commissioned officer says, “I, _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.” Other oaths, all the way up to the President, are similar to this one. These oaths are important and done with at least some semblance of ceremony. These commissions come with the authority of something greater behind them – the Constitution and the People of the United States of America.

Today is the start of the Season of Advent and, this year, we are looking at why God sent Jesus and what it means when Jesus sends you and me. What does it mean to be sent? Jesus came on a mission from God and with the full authority that entails. You and I have a commission that also comes from a greater authority. John 20:19-23 is the story of Jesus meeting with his disciples the evening of the day of His Resurrection. It was at that meeting that Jesus turned his disciples into apostles. They were followers of Jesus and students of the Rabbi before were commissioned and sent into the world by Jesus. That commissioning flows through the apostles to you and me. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

That morning, Mary Magdalene headed to the tomb of Jesus along with John and Peter. The tomb was empty. The disciples went in and checked it out before heading home wondering what happened. Mary stuck around for a bit and Jesus showed up, alive and well, quite to the surprise of Mary. He sends her off to tell the disciples. In John’s account we jump straight to the disciples holed up in a locked home fearing for their lives. It was only natural to assume that the Pharisees would target them next after killing Jesus a few days earlier. That’s when Jesus pops up in the middle of them – I guess the locks didn’t apply to him. He spends a few minutes proving that they are, indeed, looking at the real Jesus – really alive and really resurrected. Then he gives them a commissioning. He sends them out into the world to continue the ministry He personally started. The commissioning comes from His greater authority as God, equal with the Father. He breathes on them and tells them to wait for the Holy Spirit and then go tell the World about how they can be forgiven of their sins through Jesus.

Do you realize this commissioning has been passed on to you? In Romans 10:14-15 Paul writes, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”

How beautiful are the feet? I don’t know about you but I don’t usually think of feet as beautiful. In fact, I had a friend, growing up, who had the stinkiest feet I have ever had the displeasure of smelling. Did you know that your feet have roughly 250,000 sweat glands!? That’s why they’re so stinky! Madeline Albrecht knows all about stinky feet. Madeline knew she was destined for greatness when she was hired by the Hill Top Research Laboratories, a testing lab for Dr. Scholl’s. Her job was to sniff feet, which she did for 15 years. During her pungent career, Madeline set the world record for sniffing approximately 5,600 feet. Still think your job stinks?

Jesus has a job for you that will make your feet beautiful no matter how your sweat glands are working. There are so many yet to receive the forgiveness of God but how can they hear it unless you are sent to tell them? So slip a good pair of Oder Eaters in to your shoes and get out there. You’ve got the keys to the Kingdom of God and He wants you to share His forgiveness with the World. Jesus has a message for you: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

 

2017 Advent Devotional Series

So Send I You - Logo - Cover LargeEach year we like to put out a new devotional book during special seasons in the Church. This series is for the Season of Advent leading to Christmas. Our hope is that we can move in one direction together, as we follow God’s leading during this time. We’ve also noticed that spending devotional time with God every day is a good habit to form. A new habit can be formed in a just a few weeks if you’re diligent, then it will become like second nature. Consider this a great time of the year to establish that habit in your life. Reading the Word of God and spending time with Him in prayer and study can have a tremendous and positive effect on your life!

This year our theme is “So Send I You.” In John 20:21 Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Our Advent devotional series, this year, delves into many scriptural statements about why the Father sent the Son into this world. Jesus came on a mission and, before his ascension, He passed that mission on to all Christians. As the Father has sent Jesus, so Jesus sends you and me.

The devotionals have been written by Pastor Dan, Pastor Rowland and Marj.  Benedict. See if you can guess who the author of each devotional is!

The Advent of Christ is the most remarkable moment in our history. He came and, someday, He will come again. He came because He was sent. Christmas is a time to contemplate that sending but it is also important to contemplate the mission Jesus has given us.

Pastor Dan

RCW Christmas Logo

 

At the Cross

April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday
At the Cross - Logo
Read: Luke 23:39-43
Focus: vs. 43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In Luke 7:36-50 we find the story of Mary, the woman who was forgiven of so much that she comes in off the street and disrupts a gathering to shed her tears on the feet of Jesus, wipe them away with her hair and anoint his feet with ointment. When Simon, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his home, recoiled at the thought of this sinner touching Jesus he was given a lesson he would never forget. Jesus tells the story, in verses 41-43, of two debtors who owed a debt they couldn’t pay. One owed 500 and the other 50. Is the amount important? Neither of them could pay the debt so it might as well have been a million. Both had their debt forgiven but Jesus makes the point that the one who owed more than the other would love the forgiver of their debts more. How much have you been forgiven for and how do you show your love to the Forgiver of your debt?

“At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled way. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day!” This is the chorus that was added to the song “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed!” that was written by Isaac Watts in 1707. An evangelist named Ralph Hudson added these words in 1885 and they speak to us this morning. Easter is the holiest day of the year on the Christian calendar. This is the day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior even as we live our lives every day in celebration of that event. This is an amazing day but I want to remind you that we don’t arrive at this bright morning without going through the dark death of Jesus on the Cross. The Resurrection marks the defeat of death. It’s the victory that makes eternal life possible for you and me. But in order to gain this victory Christ, first, had to die. Everything converges at the Cross.

There was a price that had to be paid. There was the redemption of Mankind to win. There was a debt owed and we couldn’t afford it. The only one with deep enough pockets to pay this debt was God. Everything converges at the Cross because that’s where the debt was paid and you were forgiven. Here is where the Way of the Cross gains and gives life.

For the past 6 weeks we have been talking about the Way of the Cross. You’ve read about it in your daily devotionals, you’ve studied it at your weekly Bible Study and it’s been a journey we’ve taken together. Along the way we’ve learned that the Way of the Cross is one of total sacrifice. It’s a singular principle that we have tried to understand better each week. We know that we are called to give our all to the One who gave His all for us. Jesus is our Living Hope for salvation. Jesus is the message God wants us to share with the world as ambassadors for Him. Jesus is the one through whom the circumcision of our hearts is possible so that we may walk in fellowship with God once again. Jesus is the Dangerous King who, because of the Resurrection we celebrate this morning, is now crowned the King of kings and Lord of lords. And today I want you to know that everything converges at the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Jesus never rises from the Grave unless he is first placed in there. Jesus is never placed in the Grave unless he first dies on the Cross. And Jesus never goes to the Cross if not for our sin. Now let’s think the other direction. The Way of the Cross begins at the Cross where we first meet Jesus. The Way of the Cross ends at Salvation and walks in fellowship with Jesus, our Living Hope in that very promise. The Way of the Cross makes all of us ambassadors for God as we share His message with the world. The Way of the Cross is the way of the circumcised heart where the Holy Spirits dwells within us and guides us along the way. And the Way of the Cross is the way of the Dangerous King who dares to change the world.

Everything converges at the Cross. Our passage for this morning comes from the one of the final moments of Jesus on that Cross. There are two thieves who were crucified with Christ that day, one on either side of him. One hurled insults at Jesus and mocked him. The other knew he had done wrong and came to Christ with a heart full of sorrow. He came seeking forgiveness as he asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Have sweeter words ever been spoken? “Today you will be with me in paradise.” They are words of forgiveness. They are the kind of words that cause a woman to cry at Jesus feet and wipe her tears away with her hair. They are the kind of words that have struck at the core of so many men and women of the faith down through the years. They are the kind of words that have inspired countless acts of obedience to God through loving service to the world and seeking the lost in His name. Imperfect and broken, we have come to the Cross throughout the history of Mankind. Penniless, we have come to the Forgiver of the debt we could never pay. This morning is another point in history. Here we stand at the foot of the Cross. This is where your sins are forgiven. This is where the Way of the Cross begins.

Stone Cold Tomb

April 15, 2017 – Holy Saturday
Sealed Tomb
Read:  Mark 15:42 – 47, NIV
Focus: v. 46, NIV

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

There was no fanfare at the death of Jesus. It was just – over. He was just – dead. What more could be said or done – now.  The Master was gone. But wait . . . there was still something to be done. The body needed to be properly buried. Left to the Romans it would likely have been thrown onto the garbage heap and left there for the carrion eaters. Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple, boldly goes to Pilate and asks for the body. Pilate is surprised that Jesus is already dead. Most lingered on much longer but the work of Jesus was finished – almost. Pilate gets confirmation from the Centurion in charge of the crucifixion and releases Jesus’ body to Joseph. Remember that the Sabbath is about to begin and Joseph has little time so he quickly wraps the body in cloth and places it in a stone tomb, one cut out of rock, and then rolls a large stone in front of the entrance. We are also told that Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joseph saw where they laid Jesus’ body. All have gone now. The only ones to remain would be the soldiers ordered to make the tomb site secure that no one could steal the body away and make spurious claims about it. All who cared are gone. Gone because of the Sabbath but they planned to return when the Sabbath was over.

What about Jesus now? Was everything he did and said for nothing? It sure seems to be the case. His body now lies in a stone tomb – stone cold tomb! It is the end of everything he stood for. It is the end of all His wonderful ministry of compassion. It was the end of three wonderful years of fellowship with the disciple band. It was the end of opportunities for the women who followed Him to minister to His needs. That will have to wait for Sunday when they can come to anoint His body with spices.

This stone-cold tomb holds now all that is left of a once vibrant, loving, compassionate person who spoke clearly against the “establishment” and its tightly held grip on the spiritual needs of the people. All is now quiet as the rest of the world solemnly goes to their homes and their beds and preparations for the Sabbath. The disciples are gone now, scattered in fear. Others speak quietly in the night about the events of that terrible day.

All Jesus has now is a borrowed STONE-COLD TOMB! It is Friday and Sunday is coming when . . .

Greater Love

April 14, 2017 – Good Friday
greater love
Read:  John 15:9 – 17, NIV
Focus:  v. 13, NIV

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

In the midst of preparing these devotionals for this Lenten season, I remarked to our pastor that these devotionals are getting deeper and deeper theologically. He agreed with me. The one I was thinking of was this particular portion of Scripture where Jesus is directly speaking to the soon to be enacted events that took place during the Passover. This is so pointed and poignant; filled with meaning and pathos. I love Christmas and the stories from the Bible about it because that is sort of where it all started but Easter and the event leading up to it are at the top of my list because this is the culmination of why Jesus came as that tiny infant.

Love, real love, is at the center of this. This is love that is totally based on the Source of love – even more than that, it is based on LOVE, Itself! I did not use the word “Itself” lightly. Love is a person, a being. This is the Being – God – who created us and who has interacted with us down through the ages to show His love, His being, to us. Love, and the proof of that love, is preeminent throughout this portion. In here Jesus speaks of His relationship with His Father – God and His Father’s relationship with Him as being that of love. He brings it home to each of His disciples, including us, just how much that love is really at the center of everything we are and do and of who he is and what He does.

Twice in this short passage Jesus emphasizes what our relationship with each other is to be (see vv. 12 and 17). He even puts it as a command to emphasize its tremendous importance. I wonder sometimes how well we fulfill that command. I suspect you wonder also. This is of such importance that the beloved disciple, John, also reiterates it in his short letters. Is it any wonder that John’s writings are so beloved by most believers? I am struggling not to write a complete series of sermons right here and right now! Isn’t love at the center of God’s Word to us? John 3:16 puts it quite succinctly for all of us. So much so, that I don’t even have the need to quote it here. You are already remembering that verse in your own heart and mind.

It is time now to focus on our focus verse, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13, NIV). Jesus is making a statement here that he reiterates in succeeding verses about friendship rather than servanthood. Friends are privy to much more of the personal life of another friend. Things are shared back and forth between friends that would not be shared with a co-worker or servant or employee. They have their function or place in our life but do not have the same privileges with us that a friend has. Jesus appears to be inviting them into His inner circle, a place previously reserved only for His relationship with His Father, God. The statement made is indicating the importance of His relationship with them. He is willing, and will, die for them. They really do not understand this yet but later on they will grasp the depth of this whole conversation. John is writing this after nearly 60 years of pondering under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. The depth here is amazing.

Even more for us is the fact that this is not meant just for the initial group of disciples but is applicable to all who believe and thus become not servants but Friends of Jesus. My landlord, while attending Roberts Wesleyan College, was a Free Methodist evangelist who ministered for many years in Kansas and throughout the Midwest. His name was Rev. Warren Chase, and he had tremendous impact on my life during the almost 3 years I had the privilege of being around him. His favorite hymn was, “Friendship with Jesus.” It is an old one that is not often found in hymnals of today. Some lines from the chorus are: “Friendship with Jesus, Fellowship divine; O what wondrous sweet communion, Jesus is a Friend of Mine!” Aren’t you glad that Jesus is a Friend to you? If you do not yet know Him as your friend then it is my prayer that you would have that relationship with Him.

The Crucifixion – Wine, Part 2

April 13, 2017 – Maundy Thursday
crucifixion
Read: Mark 15:33 – 40
Focus: v. 36

One man ran and filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

We enter now into the final verses of Jesus’ life. No longer are we talking about a final chapter. Time is getting very short. Jesus is still on the cross at this point and it follows a very long time of Jesus being awake. Nowhere is there any indication that, from sometime Thursday morning (likely at sunrise near 6:00 AM when He would have risen for a day which included partaking  of a Passover Feast with His disciples and ended with His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane), Jesus had an opportunity to sleep. From then on He was in the hands of the Temple guards and dragged from place to place for His trials and beaten severely. This became so bad that he could not even carry his cross to the place of crucifixion. It is unlikely that all this time after the Passover Feast that Jesus has had anything to eat or drink. We wrote in an earlier devotional that he was offered wine mixed with myrrh to deaden the pain of crucifixion and enable Him to live longer and therefore suffer longer. Jesus, we are told, refused that wine so that He would experience the full impact of His act of redemption on behalf of all mankind.

The crucifixion was at 9:00 AM and in our scripture reading for today it has reached about 3:00 PM. Jesus has been on that cross for six hours of excruciating pain throughout His body. He has suffered from loss of sleep, beatings and the continued bleeding from the crucifixion wounds as well as the wounds from His beatings. All this means tremendous pain. He is thirsty but receives nothing, according to Mark, until after He makes His final cry from the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”  (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) After this, to mock Him, those standing by offer him “sour wine” (nearly vinegar) so they can hear if He says anything else. They thought he was calling to Elijah and wanted to see if Elijah came to take Him from the cross. Did Jesus accept the “sour wine”? Once again He refuses. Why? Because it was His responsibility to bear the full amount of pain and suffering from the crucifixion so that our sins would be paid for in full. He took no shortcuts to accomplish our redemption! Shortly after being offered the “sour wine” Jesus calls out loudly once more and “breathed His last.”

Salvation was now accomplished and Jesus was freed from this earthly life. Never again would He be bound by earthly things but after His resurrection would be free to return to His Father. Twice wine was offered to give some succor to the Savior and twice he refused. No one would be able to say He took any shortcuts to do the work the Father sent Him to do. In this respect also He is our example as believers. Do we take shortcuts while doing the Lord’s bidding?

The Crucifixion – Wine, Part 1

April 12, 2017 – Wednesday
Myrrh
Read: Mark 15:21 – 32
Focus: v. 23

Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

There are two instances found in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is offered wine to drink at the Crucifixion. This is the first instance and takes place at the beginning of the Crucifixion itself. It appears that nothing was offered to Jesus during the long night before the Crucifixion took place.  Why now? The soldiers in charge of the crucifixion of these unfortunates were not trying to be humane. Rather, they were endeavoring to make this hateful thing last as long as they could. Apparently to them and others watching, it was likened to a sport. We do know that certain things could be done to hasten the deaths of those being crucified. At the end of this long day for Jesus, and the two criminals, they decided to break their legs so the suffocation would take place faster since they could not support themselves and lift up to breathe when their legs were broken. This hastened their death.  This did take place for the two thieves but not for Jesus as He was already dead when they decided to do this at the request of the Jewish religious leaders. Those leaders did not want those men to be still hanging there when the Sabbath began.

Why give them wine mixed with myrrh? Because the myrrh added to the wine worked as a painkiller so they would last longer on the cross. It was not to be humane but rather so their agony could be dragged out as far as possible. Jesus had already been beaten so badly he could hardly stand and needed help carrying his cross to the place of crucifixion. Crucifixion was a very cruel Roman practice for executions and was well-known throughout the Roman Empire for its excruciating pain. I can well imagine the two thieves gratefully drinking this mixture since they knew what was ahead for them. We are told by Mark, however, that Jesus refused this elixir. Why would He do this? It seems Jesus was determined to drink this cup of bitterness to the full so that no one could say He took the easy road. Jesus bore ALL the pain with none of it deadened by any drug, neither the alcohol nor the myrrh. He bore it all! Jesus didn’t go halfway in any manner for our redemption!

Overcoming with Jesus

April 11, 2017 – Tuesday
Overcoming
Read:  John 16:16 – 33, NIV
Focus:  v. 33, NIV

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Isn’t it just amazing how the Holy Spirit uses the different personalities of the various writers found in the Bible? Each has specific tasks to perform for the presentation of the Good News about Jesus Christ. I think that John, the Beloved resonates with me better than most of the other writers in either the Old or New Testaments. That being the case then I need to pay closer attention to the others for they also have something I need to know and understand about my God. But, I do get to read some more in John’s Gospel for this devotional. Whoopee!

This portion of John apparently comes not long before the events of what we now call Holy Week containing what led to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This particular segment emphasizes that their grief will turn into joy. Now, I would rather talk about joy anytime and talk about grief – maybe never!  This interesting passage brings the disciples face to face with something Jesus has been trying to warn them about and prepare them for. Jesus is speaking about “in a little while” this and “in a little while” that and the disciples got confused. They did not catch His “drift” – as some of us would say. Verse 18 says they “Kept” asking each other about what Jesus meant by “in a little while.”

Jesus, however, knew that they were confused about what He was saying. He plainly asked them, “Are you asking one another what I meant . . . ?” Then He went on to explain what He meant by the words “in a little while” and other things He had spoken of. Then they seem to “get it” and thought He was finally speaking clearly. He told them that He had been speaking figuratively but the time was coming when He would speak “plainly about My Father.” See verses 28 and 29 which make it appear that now they understood what He was saying to them. The truth is they did understand some of what He was saying but not all of it. In the first place the time of the “in a little while” was coming closer each day and was almost upon them. I guess they understood the substance but not the total essence of Jesus’ remarks. This is obvious in the events that unfolded. It became something immediate very quickly and they did not adjust well to it. And did many of the things He said they would do.

There is an important section in here that we do not have time to enlarge upon for this devotional. It has to do with something that is often misunderstood by believers and misquoted because of it. That is the latter part of verse 23. Read it for yourselves and see if you can figure out what He meant. Hint: Pay special attention to the words “in my name.”

This whole section is about the special relationship His disciples (we are also disciples) can have with Jesus. Joy is the hallmark of the Christian. Troubles may come and troubles may go but our joy is made complete through Jesus Christ. Peace, brothers and sisters, is because in the end Jesus won it for us. Jesus never sugarcoats anything. He tells it like it is. Someone asked me about my medical clinic experience recently and I told them I greatly appreciated my caregiver. She didn’t sugarcoat anything but gave me the options straight up. That is what Jesus will do and even more. Real peace is ours even when there are troubles all around us. Peace is found in our relationship with Jesus. He is real and He really loves us. In John 14:27 Jesus tells us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”