This is why He came

Get up, we must go. Look, here comes the man who has turned against Me.

The words were spoken to Judas. But they could have been spoken to anyone. They could have been spoken to John, to Peter, to James. They could have been spoken to Thomas, to Andrew, to Nathanael. They could have been spoken to the Roman soldiers, to the Jewish leaders. They could have been spoken to Pilate, to Herod, to Caiaphas. They could have been spoken to every person who praised Him last Sunday but abandoned Him tonight.

Everyone turned against Jesus that night. Everyone.

Judas did. What was your motive, Judas? Why did you do it? Were you trying to call His hand? Did you want the money? Were you seeking some attention?

And why, dear Judas, why did it have to be a kiss? You could have pointed. You could have just called his name. But you put your lips to his cheek and kissed. A snake kills with his mouth.

The people did. The crowd turned on Jesus. We wonder who was in the crowd. Who were the bystanders? Matthew just says they were people. Regular folks like you and me with bills to pay and kids to raise and jobs to do. Individually they never would have turned on Jesus, but collectively they wanted to kill him. Even the instantaneous healing of an amputated ear didn’t sway them. They suffered from mob blindness. They blocked each other’s vision of Jesus.

The disciples did. “All of Jesus’ followers left him and ran away.”  Matthew must have written those words slowly. He was in that group. All the disciples were. Jesus told them they would scamper. They vowed they wouldn’t. But they did.

When the choice came between their skin and their friend, they chose to run. Oh, they stood for a while. Peter even pulled his sword, went for the neck, and got a lobe. But their courage was as fleeting as their feet. When they saw Jesus was going down, they got out.

The religious leaders did. Not surprising. Disappointing, though. They were the spiritual leaders of the nation. Men entrusted with the dispensing of goodness. Role models for the children. The pastors and Bible teachers of the community. “The leading priests and the whole Jewish council tried to find something false against Jesus so they could kill Him.”  Paint that passage black with injustice. Paint the arrest green with jealousy. Paint that scene red with innocent blood.

And paint Peter in a corner. For that’s where he is. No place to go. Caught in his own mistake. Peter did exactly what he had said he wouldn’t do. He had promised fervently only hours before, “Everyone else may stumble in their faith because of you, but I will not!” I hope Peter was hungry, because he ate those words.

Everyone turned against Jesus. Though the kiss was planted by Judas, the betrayal was committed by all.

Every person took a step, but no one took a stand. As Jesus left the garden, He walked alone. The world had turned against Him.

He was betrayed.

Betray.  The word is an eighth of an inch above betroth in the dictionary, but a world from betroth in life. It’s a weapon found only in the hands of one you love. Your enemy has no such tool, for only a friend can betray. Betrayal is mutiny. It’s a violation of a trust, an inside job.

Would that it were a stranger. Would that it were a random attack. Would that you were a victim of circumstances. But you aren’t. You are a victim of a friend.

A sandpaper kiss is placed on your cheek. A promise is made with fingers crossed. You look to your friends, and your friends don’t look back. You look to the system for justice – the system looks to you as a scapegoat.

You are betrayed. Bitten with a snake’s kiss. It’s more than rejection. Rejection opens a wound; betrayal pours the salt. It’s more than loneliness. Loneliness leaves you in the cold, betrayal closes the door. It’s more than mockery. Mockery plunges the knife; betrayal twists it. It’s more than an insult. An insult attacks your pride; betrayal breaks your heart.

As I search for betrayal’s synonyms, I keep seeing betrayal’s victims. That unsigned letter in yesterday’s mail, “My husband just told me he had an affair two years ago,” she wrote. “I feel so alone.” The phone call at home from the elderly woman whose drug-addicted son had taken her money. My friend in the Midwest who moved his family to take the promised job that never materialized.

The single mother whose ex-husband brings his new girlfriend to her house when he comes to get the kids for the weekend. The seven-year-old girl infected with HIV. “I’m mad at my mother,” were her words.

Betrayal… when your world turns against you.

Betrayal… where there is opportunity for love, there is opportunity for hurt.

When betrayal comes, what do you do? Get out? Get angry? Get even? You have to deal with it some way. Let’s see how Jesus dealt with it.

Begin by noticing how Jesus saw Judas. “Jesus answered, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.’”

Of all the names I would have chosen for Judas, it would not have been “friend.” What Judas did to Jesus was grossly unfair. There is no indication that Jesus ever mistreated Judas. There is no clue that Judas was ever left out or neglected. When, during the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that his betrayer sat at the table, they didn’t turn to one another and whisper, “It’s Judas. Jesus told us he would do this.”

They didn’t whisper it because Jesus never said it. He had known it. He had known what Judas would do, but he treated the betrayer as if he were faithful.

It’s even more unfair when you consider the betrayal was Judas’s idea. The religious leaders didn’t seek him; Judas sought them. “What will you pay me for giving Jesus to you?” he asked. The betrayal would have been more palatable had Judas been propositioned by the leaders, but he wasn’t. He propositioned them.

And Judas’s method… again, why did it have to be a kiss?And why did he have to call him “Teacher”?  That’s a title of respect. The incongruity of his words, deeds, and actions – I wouldn’t have called Judas “friend.” But that is exactly what Jesus called him. Why? Jesus could see something we can’t. Let me explain.

There was once a person in our world who brought Denalyn and me a lot of stress. She would call in the middle of the night. She was demanding and ruthless. She screamed at us in public. When she wanted something, she wanted it immediately, and she wanted it exclusively from us. But we never asked her to leave us alone. We never told her to bug someone else. We never tried to get even. After all, she was only a few months old.

It was easy for us to forgive our infant daughter’s behavior because we knew she didn’t know better.

Now, there is a world of difference between an innocent child and a deliberate Judas. But there is still a point to my story, and it is this: the way to handle a person’s behavior is to understand the cause of it.

One way to deal with a person’s peculiarities is to try to understand why he or she is peculiar.

Jesus knew Judas had been seduced by a powerful foe. He was aware of the wiles of Satan’s whispers (He had just heard them Himself). He knew how hard it was for Judas to do what was right. He didn’t justify what Judas did. He didn’t minimize the deed. Nor did he release Judas from his choice. But He did look eye to eye with His betrayer and try to understand.

As long as you hate your enemy, a jail door is closed and a prisoner is taken. But when you try to understand and release your foe from your hatred, then the prisoner is released, and that prisoner is you.

Perhaps you don’t like that idea. Perhaps the thought of forgiveness is unrealistic. Perhaps the idea of trying to understand the Judases in our world is simply too gracious.

My response to you then is a question.

What do you suggest? Will harboring the anger solve the problem? Will getting even remove the hurt? Does hatred do any good?

Again, I’m not minimizing your hurt or justifying their actions. But I am saying that justice won’t come this side of eternity. And demanding that your enemy get his or her share of pain will, in the process, be most painful to you.

May I gently but firmly remind you of something you know but may have forgotten?

Life is not fair.

That’s not pessimism; it’s fact. That’s not a complaint; it’s just the way things are. I don’t like it. Neither do you. We want life to be fair. Ever since the kid down the block got a bike and we didn’t, we’ve been saying the same thing, “That’s not fair.” But at some point someone needs to say to us, “Who ever told you life was going to be fair?” God didn’t. He didn’t say, “If  you have many kinds of troubles”… he said, “When  you have many kinds of troubles…”

Troubles are part of the package. Betrayals are part of our troubles. Don’t be surprised when betrayals come. Don’t look for fairness here – look instead where Jesus looked.

Jesus looked to the future. Read His words: “In the future you will see the Son of Man coming.”

While going through hell, Jesus kept His eyes on Heaven.

While surrounded by enemies He kept His mind on His Father. While abandoned on earth, He kept His heart on home. “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, the Powerful One, and coming on clouds in the sky.”

I took a snow skiing lesson some time back. My instructor said I had potential but poor perspective. He said I looked at my skis too much. I told him I had to. They kept going where I didn’t want them to go.

“Does it help?” he asked.

“I guess not,” I confessed, “I still fall a lot.”

He gestured toward the splendid mountains on the horizon. “Try looking out there as you ski. Keep your eyes on the mountains and you’ll keep your balance.” He was right. It worked. The best way to keep your balance is to keep your focus on another horizon. That’s what Jesus did.

“My kingdom does not belong to this world,” Jesus told Pilate. “My kingdom is from another place.”

When we lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I learned what it was like to long for home. We loved Brazil. The people were wonderful and the culture warm – but still it wasn’t home.

My office was in downtown Rio, only a few blocks from the American embassy. Occasionally I would take my lunch to the embassy and eat. It was like going home for a few minutes. I would walk in the big door and greet the guards in English. I would go into the lobby and pick up an American newspaper. I’d check the box scores or the football standings. I’d chuckle at the cartoons. I even read the want ads. It felt good to think about home. I would stroll down one of the large corridors and see the portraits of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington. Occasionally a worker would have time to chat, and I’d get caught up on things back in the States. The embassy was a bit of the homeland in a foreign country. Life in a distant land is made easier if you can make an occasional visit to home.

Jesus took a long look into the homeland. Long enough to count His friends. “I could ask my Father and He would give me… twelve armies of angels.”  And seeing them up there gave Him strength down here.

By the way, His friends are your friends. The Father’s loyalty to Jesus is the Father’s loyalty to you. When you feel betrayed, remember that. When you see the torches and feel the betrayer’s kiss, remember His words: “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.”

Answering Jesus’ prayer

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John 17:20-26

Deuteronomy 6:4-9; John 13:31-35; John 3:11-24

Gary couldn’t wait to get to church every week. His pastor’s teacher inspired him, while the friendliness of the people drew him into the life of the church. Although he was just a new believer, Gary understood the importance of gleaning everything possible from his pastor and other spiritually mature people around him. Less than a year later, however, Gary’s spiritual world fell apart. One Sunday the pastor announced his resignation, explaining that he and the church’s leaders couldn’t agree on the direction in which they wanted the church to go. Disillusioned that the men he trusted and admired as spiritual mentors couldn’t get along, Gary never again entered a church.

Sadly, factions, church splits and leadership conflicts can drive a stake into the heart of the body of Christ, the Church. The damage that results from these experiences can sometimes drive people away from both God and the church.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus spent some of His final hours on Earth praying that His remaining followers would be known for their love for each other and that their relationships would resemble the kind of unity he shared with His heavenly Father? God the Father glorified Jesus because He loved the Son. In return, Jesus made the love of the Father known to everyone. Together they enjoyed a mutually loving and self-sacrificing relationship.

Of course, only God can answer prayer. But when it comes to unity in the Church, we can take some practical steps toward being a part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer. We can start by praying for unity in our own churches and among Church leaders. We can also encourage and promote understanding when we see Christians getting caught up in disagreements. Further, we can pursue love and practice self-sacrifice in our own relationships.

When the body of Christ doesn’t work to build unity, the world sees a sick and weakly Church. But when we join together in unity, the world sees the power and glory of Jesus shining through us.

In Other Words

“The only separation the Bible knows is between believers on the one hand and unbelievers on the other. Any other kind of separation, division, disunity is of the devil. It is evil and from sin.” – Desmond Tutu

Your Turn

How does the relationship between Jesus and His heavenly Father provide an example of unity? Jesus said that His disciples would be known by their love for each other. What steps can you take to become a more loving person? What can you do to develop a more loving heart? What immediate steps can you take to encourage unity in your church?

Serve as Jesus served

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Of all the times we see the bowing knees of Jesus, none is so precious as when He kneels before His disciples and washes their feet.

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing… and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. – John 13:1-5

It has been a long day. Jerusalem is packed with Passover guests, most of whom clamor for a glimpse of the Teacher. The spring sun is warm. The streets are dry. And the disciples are a long way from home. A splash of cool water would be refreshing.

The disciples enter, one by one, and take their places around the table. On the wall hangs a towel, and on the floor sit a pitcher and a basin. Any one of the disciples could volunteer for the job, but not one does.

After a few moments Jesus stands and removes His outer garment. He wraps a servant’s girdle around His waist, takes up the basin, and kneels before one of the disciples. He unlaces a sandal and gently lifts the foot, places it in the basin, covers it with water, and begins to bathe it. One by one, one grimy foot after another, Jesus works His way down the row.

In Jesus’ day the washing of feet was a task reserved not just for servants but for the lowest of servants.

Every circle has its pecking order, and the circle of household workers was no exception. The servant at the bottom of the totem pole was expected to be the one on his knees with the towel and basin.

In this case the one with the towel and basin is the King of the universe. Hands that shaped the stars now wash away filth.

Fingers that formed mountains now massage toes. And the One before whom all nations will one day kneel now kneels before His disciples. Hours before His own death, Jesus’ concern is singular. He wants His disciples to know how much He loves them. More than removing dirt, Jesus is removing doubt.

Jesus knows what will happen to His hands at the crucifixion. Within twenty-four hours they will be pierced and lifeless. Of all the times we’d expect Him to ask for the disciples’ attention, this would be one. But He doesn’t.

You can be sure Jesus knows the future of these feet he is washing. These twenty-four feet will not spend the next day following their master, defending His cause. These feet will dash for cover at the flash of a Roman sword. Only one pair of feet won’t abandon Him in the Garden. One disciple won’t desert Him at Gethsemane – Judas won’t even make it that far! He will abandon Jesus that very night at the table. I looked for a Bible translation that reads, “Jesus washed all the disciples’ feet except the feet of Judas,” but I couldn’t find one.

What a passionate moment when Jesus silently lifts the feet of His betrayer and washes them in the basin! Within hours the feet of Judas, cleansed by the kindness of the one He will betray, will stand in Caiaphas’s court.

Behold the gift Jesus gives His followers! He knows what these men are about to do. He knows they are about to perform the vilest act of their lives. By morning they will bury their heads in shame and look down at their feet in disgust. And when they do, He wants them to remember how His knees knelt before them and He washed their feet. He wants them to realize those feet are still clean.

You don’t understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later. – John 13:7

Remarkable. He forgave their sin before they even committed it. He offered mercy before they even sought it.

From the Basin of His Grace

Oh, I could never do that, you object. The hurt is so deep. The wounds are so numerous. Just seeing the person causes me to cringe. Perhaps that is your problem. Perhaps you are seeing the wrong person or at least too much of the wrong person. Remember, the secret of being just like Jesus is “fixing our eyes” on Him. Try shifting your glance away from the one who hurt you and setting your eyes on the one who has saved you.

Note the promise of John,

But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. – 1 John 1:7

Aside from geography and chronology, our story is the same as the disciples’. We weren’t in Jerusalem, and we weren’t alive that night. But what Jesus did for them He has done for us. He has cleansed us. He has cleansed our hearts from sin.

Even more, He is still cleansing us! John tells us, We are being cleansed from every sin by the blood of Jesus. In other words, we are always being cleansed. The cleansing is not a promise for the future but a reality in the present.

Let a speck of dust fall on the soul of a saint, and it is washed away. Let a spot of filth land on the heart of God’s child, and the filth is wiped away. Jesus still cleans His disciples’ feet. Jesus still washes away stains. Jesus still purifies His people.

Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, He reaches out in kindness and says, “I can clean that if you want.” And from the basin of His grace, He scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sin.

But that’s not all He does. Because He lives in us, you and I can do the same. Because He has forgiven us, we can forgive others. Because He has a forgiving heart, we can have a forgiving heart. We can have a heart like His.

If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. I did this as an example so that you should do as I have done for you. – John 13:14-15

Jesus washes our feet for two reasons. The first is to give us mercy; the second is to give us a message, and that message is simply this: Jesus offers unconditional grace; we are to offer unconditional grace.

The mercy of Christ preceded our mistakes; our mercy must precede the mistakes of others. Those in the circle of Christ had no doubt about His love; those in our circles should have no doubts about ours.

What does it mean to have a heart like His? It means to kneel as Jesus knelt, touching the grimy parts of the people we are stuck with and washing away their unkindnesses with kindness. Or as Paul wrote,

Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ. – Ephesians 4:32

“But, Max,” you are saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not the one who cheated. I’m not the one who lied. I’m not the guilty party here.”

Perhaps you aren’t. But neither was Jesus. Of all the men in that room, only One was worthy of having His feet washed. And He was the One who washed the feet. The One worthy of being served, served others. The genius of Jesus’ example is that the burden of bridge building falls on the strong one, not on the weak one. The one who is innocent is the one who makes the gesture.

And you know what happens? More often than not, if the one in the right volunteers to wash the feet of the one in the wrong, both parties get on their knees.

Don’t we all think we are right? Hence we wash each other’s feet.

Please understand: relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful.

The Power of Forgiveness

Recently I shared a meal with some friends. A husband and wife wanted to tell me about a storm they were weathering. Through a series of events, she learned of an act of infidelity that had occurred more than a decade ago. He had made the mistake of thinking it’d be better not to tell her, so he didn’t. But she found out. And as you can imagine, she was deeply hurt.

Through the advice of a counselor, the couple dropped everything and went away for several days. A decision had to be made. Would they flee, fight, or forgive? So they prayed. They talked. They walked. They reflected. In this case the wife was clearly in the right. She could have left. Women have done so for lesser reasons. Or she could have stayed and made his life a living hell. Other women have done that.

But she chose a different response. On the tenth night of their trip, my friend found a card on his pillow. On the card was a printed verse:

“I’d rather do nothing with you than something without you.” Beneath the verse she had written these words:

I forgive you. I love you. Let’s move on.

The card might as well have been a basin. And the pen might as well have been a pitcher of water, for out of it poured pure mercy, and with it she washed her husband’s feet.

Certain conflicts can be resolved only with a basin of water.

Are any relationships in your world thirsty for mercy? Are there any sitting around your table who need to be assured of your grace? Jesus made sure His disciples had no reason to doubt His love. Why don’t you do the same?

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Your Turn

Are you ready with a basin of water? Whose feet do you need to wash? It doesn’t matter if you’re right. It doesn’t matter if other people would do it differently. It doesn’t matter if you have the right to walk away. Whose feet do you need to wash? Come join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear your comments about learning to love as Jesus loved – as a servant. ~ Devotionals Daily

SAVE 30% OFF: Just Like Jesus Devotional by Max Lucado

God wants to give you a heart just like Jesus.

Jesus felt no guilt; God wants you to feel no guilt.

Jesus had no bad habits; God wants to do away with yours.

Jesus had no fears; God wants the same for you.

Jesus had no anxiety about death; you needn’t either.

God’s desire, his plan, his ultimate goal is to make you into the image of Christ.

This is your invitation to spend thirty intimate days with the Savior learning how to become more like Jesus. Can you think of a better offer?

We don’t become sinners by sinning. We are sinners that sin

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Just as a proper diagnosis is essential before treatment is prescribed, a proper diagnosis of human nature is necessary before a remedy can be prescribed.

Our sophisticated age doesn’t like the word sin, but it most perfectly diagnoses our real problem. Sinners are who we are (see Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-11, Romans 3:23). We might grudgingly accept dysfunctional to describe certain behavior, but most people think of themselves as pretty good, or better than others, certainly not sinners.

We don’t become sinners by sinning. We are sinners, and that’s why we sin. It is an internal condition we are born with. We inherited this condition from our first parents. It cannot be educated out of us; it cannot be expunged by any power on earth.

Our individual and national dysfunction isn’t caused by having the wrong person in the White House. (And if you believe what Scripture says about who puts leaders in power – see Romans 13:1 – there is no such thing as the wrong person.) Neither are we “depraved because we’re deprived,” to paraphrase a great line from the musical West Side Story. Rather, our worldview and our subsequent condition in this fallen world are determined by what or whom we follow, whether the false gods of money, power, fame, and position, or the objectively existing God who loves us, has a plan for our lives, and died in our place that we might go to his place.

If one views the world from God’s perspective, as I seek to do, constantly looking to the next election (or the one after that) to improve things is meaningless and dooms us to frustration. Even if we could elect people to our liking, not much would improve. For example, if mankind, which by nature is flawed, has not been able to usher in world peace in all of history, future elections in which we select more flawed men and women to lead us are not likely to get us closer to that noble but impossible objective. We need another remedy.

Reduced to their lowest common denominator, here is a description of the two worldviews: one says we are material and energy shaped by pure chance and random selection in an impersonal universe with no real purpose in life, no power for living, and no destination after we die. In this worldview we might be more biologically complex than a salad, but we are of no greater significance in the cosmos. This is the view held by the physicist Stephen Hawking, the late astronomer Carl Sagan, and the late writer Christopher Hitchens, among many, many others.

The other worldview says we are created in the image and likeness of an objectively existing, infinite, personal God, who loves us and has a plan for our lives, which is activated when we come to Him on His terms through the salvation offered by His Son, Jesus. This worldview says we do have purpose on the earth, a power for living our lives, and a place called Heaven, where we will spend eternity with perfect new bodies and minds.

Embracing the first worldview leads us to fight and war against one another, because that’s our human nature and who we are. We “ask amiss,” as James writes (see James 4:3), and yet even if we acquired all we ever wanted and fulfilled every desire and experienced every pleasure, it wouldn’t be enough, because nothing in this world can bring contentment. The world can offer happiness for a time, but not contentment, which only God can give.

There’s much more, but the point is clear.

Trusting in politicians, think tanks, political parties, and any other “wisdom” of the world is bound to lead to tumult and frustration and a repetition of past mistakes.

Now, if every society of fallen humanity is morally bankrupt, is there no other context where true love and godliness can flourish? Should we just give up?

Absolutely not! Sinners can be transformed. Believers can have a positive influence on society, but it won’t come from the Republican or Democratic parties or from politicians who wear those labels. If this is true, what is the purpose of the state?

The state is ordained by God to restrain sinful men and women who will not be constrained by the power of God within them (see Romans 13:4-6).

However, the modern state acts as if it is God. It has violated its constitutional and biblical boundaries, which is why it is so dysfunctional.

The power of the kingdom of God is limitless, but if believers settle for less, then less is what they will get: less real power, less of Jesus. To demand a return to an alleged Judeo-Christian ethic with the unbiblical expectation that the moral quality of our nation will thereby improve is to waste precious time, energy, and resources that should be channeled instead toward fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20).

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Your Turn

Are you frustrated with the state of our nation? Do you find yourself wanting either the Democratic or Republican Parties to “do something about it”? Or, are you out fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission instead? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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Solutions … not theories. Political progress … not political posturing.

Instead of the constant jockeying for political advantage, in What Works, author and columnist Cal Thomas focuses on what promotes the general welfare, regardless of which party or ideology gets the credit. Thomas probes and provides answers to questions like, Why must we constantly fight the same battles over and over? Why don’t we consult the past and use common sense in order to see that what others discovered long ago still works today? And why does present-day Washington too often look like the film Groundhog Day, with our elected officials waking up each day only to repeat identical talking points from previous days, months, and years?

Without letting politics, or ignorance, get in the way, Thomas urges readers to pay attention so that politicians can no longer pick their pockets – literally or intellectually. What Works is about solutions, not theories. It’s about pressuring political leadership to forget about the next election and start focusing on the needs of the people who work hard to provide for themselves, send their tax dollars to Washington, and want to see the country achieve something of value … like it has always done.

When Jesus saw the crowds

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When He saw the crowds… – Matthew 9:36

If you want to get the attention of a roomful of teenagers, turn something wild loose. A little touch of chaos in the atmosphere periodically is an asset to any youth group.

Years ago when I was a youth pastor, I turned something loose as I got ready to tell the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). After a little searching, I found a modern-day shepherdess, a middle-aged woman, on the outskirts of our town, Rochester, New York. My wife and I went out to visit the shepherdess on her farm, and she agreed to come to the city and talk about what she had come to understand about the nature of sheep and how she tended them.

Just as I started to speak at the youth meeting that Wednesday night, the back door swung open and in ran a little lamb. That cute animal cut back and forth through the rows and legs of students. The place went wild with excitement. Inserting a live animal into the environment brought a livelier view to the Bible story I wanted to tell.

Jesus has a POV altogether different from ours.

POV is a literary and theatrical term used to describe “point of view.” POV is the viewpoint, angle, or perspective through which someone observes settings, situations, or people. But what was Jesus’ POV? The gospel of Matthew tells us the way he viewed the Crowds:

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:36

The word crowd is used more than one hundred times in the Gospels. Crowds frequently surrounded Jesus. Floyd McClung, the international director of All Nations, a church planting and leadership training network, wrote:

[Jesus] was just as intentional about reaching the crowds as He was individuals, but with distinctly different approaches… Jesus saw interaction with the crowds as a way of planting seeds in people’s hearts (Luke 8:4-18), a way of arousing spiritual interest, and a way of finding disciples to be taught. He was looking for those who were hungry for more, so He could invest His time wisely with them.

Looking at the Crowds, Jesus saw that the challenges people faced varied. Even now, he sees that you and I, and also the Crowds among which we find ourselves, struggle with the fact that we have

an enemy (thus, we’re “harassed”);
a hopelessness (thus, we’re “helpless”); and
a lonely lostness (thus, we’re “like sheep without a shepherd”).
I hope you know just how much Jesus loves you. One way to find out is to know just how he sees you.

Characteristics of Sheep

Sheep generally run in flocks, in groups. This is where Christ often finds us first, among the Crowds. Remember, the Crowds represent those who follow Jesus to the places of watching and listening.The Crowds often surrounded Jesus. This experience for Jesus never smacked of a celebrity with his fans; rather he was a Shepherd with his sheep.

The shepherdess who visited our youth group gave us insights into sheep and their behavior. Hearing these was an eye-opener for me. Let’s just say, I could identify. Christ also sees these tendencies within you and me.

Sheep Have No Real Sense of Direction

We know from the Gospels that Christ came to earth to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Sheep have a propensity for getting lost.

Knowing Christ and growing closer to Him begins with a sense of need. For the earliest followers of Jesus who heard about Him and made their way into the Crowds, their focal point at this place was their questions. But because of the vast multitudes, they did not have the opportunity to ask Jesus. We can only imagine the questions they must have asked themselves:

Is Jesus really someone come from God?
Can he really help me with my struggle?
Does he understand how I feel?
Is there some way I can get closer to him in order to gain his help?
Sheep Are Quite Helpless Against Predators

Christ told us, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). When you sense an enemy trying to diminish or harm you, Jesus sees your need and can rescue and protect you.

Sheep Left Alone Will Actually Eat Themselves into a Lost Place

Even in the Old Testament, Isaiah said, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).

Our default mode tends to find us wandering to places that hurt more than help us.

Sheep Are Weak

And often, so are we. Yet the apostle Paul took time in 2 Corinthians to talk about our weaknesses and how even they can make a place for Christ’s strength to be revealed (check out 2 Corinthians 12 for strong points on weakness).

Sheep Get Dirty Easily

Everything seems to stick to their wool, and sheep do not clean or groom themselves. Our lives and souls can get quickly and easily soiled in today’s world. We often struggle to find a lasting sense of holiness and wholeness on our own. We really do need a shepherd to clean us up.

Sheep Are Gregarious, Social Creatures That Do Better in Numbers

We all do better in community than we do alone. We are created for community. We are formed for friendship. Isolation and loneliness tend to wither our souls; community helps grow them.

Sheep Require More Care than Any Other Livestock

They are time-intensive animals to raise, and they require much from their caretakers. So do we. Just ask your pastor (shepherd) or your parent.

Sheep Are Timid and Easily Panicked

They stampede easily and are prey to mob reactions. Is it any wonder Jesus so often said to His followers, “Fear not”?

Pathos

The Bible’s statement that Jesus was “moved with compassion” is a deep expression of soul, one full of pathos, passion, and heart. According to The Message, “His heart broke.”

Since we are “harassed” by an enemy, Jesus alone can overcome Satan’s power in our lives.

Since we are “helpless,” Christ alone is our “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Since we are “like sheep without a shepherd,” Jesus alone is the Shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Jesus sees the challenges, struggles, hurts, and pains of our sheep-ness and sheepishness.

One reason God sent His Son to earth was to make sure we would know just how He, God the Father, feels about us and just how He sees us. He is moved by the needs of your life. He sees you that way. No matter what challenge you face, you are not alone. When it comes to you and me, Jesus has a unique POV. He sees Crowds in a unique way, like “sheep without a shepherd.” And isn’t that the only way a Good Shepherd ever would?

Remember… in the Crowds, we discover how much we need a Shepherd.

* * *

Your Turn

Isn’t it a relief that Jesus’ response to our sheep-ness is compassion? Isn’t it encouraging that His response to our need for a Shepherd is to never leave us alone? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear your comments about our Good Shepherd. ~ Devotionals Daily

SAVE 20% OFF the brand-new book: The One Jesus Loves by Robert Crosby

How close can we get to Jesus? How close do you want to get?

Six circles of relationship formed around Jesus in his time on earth. In the outermost circle, the Crowds who were curious. Next, the Five Thousand who were needy, while the Seventy worked and served in Jesus’ ministry; then came the Twelve who walked with Jesus, the Three who suffered and celebrated with him, and finally the One who sat beside him at the Last Supper. Jesus’ closest follower listened more closely than any other, and recognized the Savior when no one else did.

Scripture promises if you move closer to God, he will move closer to you. Wherever you are in your pursuit of Christ, you can draw closer still. In The One Jesus Loves, you will learn about each of the six circles, and what it takes to move further in, closer and closer to Jesus.

Which circle are you in today? Jesus is calling you closer.

Hosanna ~ Palm Sunday

In June 2002, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 50 years as Great Britain’s monarch. The nation threw a huge party, the Golden Jubilee Festival, with 20,000 performers participating.The royal family and a crowd of a million people watched as varied entries, such as giant food plates, 50 Hell’s Angels, representatives of five decades of London taxis, scantily dressed butterflies and even a dancing Taj Mahal paraded down London’s ceremonial mall.

In comparison, the parade for an earlier king was much more humble. This procession took place in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a week before Jesus died. The King, Jesus, rode into town on a donkey. True, even this celebration required attention to details: a donkey, a colt, cloaks to cover the animals, palm tree branches and crowds. But these elements seem so minor. We’d want Jesus’ entry into the city to be the biggest and best parade ever; we want to proclaim, “Here comes the King!” Yet this episode portrays very little of Christ’s kingly authority and power. We wonder:

Why did Jesus arrive on a donkey? Why did He act so unkingly after the parade and even go on to cause a disturbance in the temple? Why were His most enthusiastic supporters a group of disabled people and a bunch of kids?

Throughout his Gospel Matthew explains that Jesus is God’s promised King. As Jesus’ earthly life and ministry came near their end, Matthew wants to remove all doubts about who this King is and why He came – to rescue us from sin. However, like the religious leaders and crowds on that early Palm Sunday, we can easily misunderstand Jesus. In the craziness of everyday life, we can carelessly forget just how great and powerful our King is. Amid the hustle of family and work, we can quickly grow complacent about all He has done and continues to do for us.

Human emperors and kings come and go. Queen Elizabeth occupied Britain’s throne for more than 50 years. Yet that’s just a wink of time in comparison to eternity. Jesus reigns as King forever! As His royal subjects, we can shout our sincere praise:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest Heaven!
 - Matthew 21:9

Your Turn

Happy Palm Sunday! If you took charge of planning a celebration and parade for Jesus, God’s promised King, what would the event include? Why? Why do you think Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem was actually a humble entrance? As you think of Jesus as King, does this perspective affect how you approach Him with your needs? Does it make a difference in your efforts to follow and obey Him? What can you do to increase His reign in your life?

Scripture

Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; Acts 2:22-24; Acts 4:24-31

When did Jesus of Nazareth really die? #PassoverLamb #GoodFriday

We are approaching Passover as well as Good Friday, and after recently learning about Exodus and the first Passover, I have became extremely interested in the traditions and festivals that Jewish people celebrate as well as holidays Christians celebrate nowadays. As a Christian, I barely know when, and why this all began. After going through Exodus and listening to sermons, I have even searched online for some additional information. I find it extremely interesting that Jesus is referred to as our Passover Lamb by Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. How likely is it? And why don’t Jewish people realize this celebration and tradition all points to Jesus, the Messiah as our Passover Lamb. Even how God laid down the rules for the selection of the lamb in Exodus reveals He is implying and actually applying this to His son. Crazy, right?

 

So, before we celebrate Passover on the 14th day of Nisan for 7 days, and before we come across Good Friday, let us look and the clues and facts that lead us to find out when Jesus was crucified and punished for all of the sins of the world. Once, and for all!

 

The following is not my research, but that of Jimmy Akin. Please be a Berean when it comes to digesting spiritual information. See if it adds up for yourself. Be your own detective. Please let us know what your thoughts and feelings are on the subject. Please note: all hateful and inconsiderate comments will not be shared or posted. Thank you!

 

 

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We all know that this happened in Jerusalem in the first century.

That separates Jesus from mythical pagan deities, who were supposed to live in places or times that none could specify.

Just how specific can we be with the death of Jesus?

Can we determine the exact day?

We can.

And here’s how . . .

 

Clue #1: The High Priesthood of Caiaphas

The gospels indicate that Jesus was crucified at the instigation of the first century high priest named Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3-4John 11:49-53).

We know from other sources that he served as high priest from A.D. 18 to 36, so that puts Jesus’ death in that time frame.

But we can get more specific. Much more.

 

Clue #2: The Governorship of Pontius Pilate

All four gospels agree that Jesus was crucified on the orders of Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:24-26Mark 15:15Luke 23:24John 19:15-16).

We know from other sources when he served as governor of Judea–A.D. 26 to A.D. 36–so we can narrow down the range by several years.

But how are we going to get it down to a specific day and year?

 

Clue #3: After “the Fifteenth Year of Tiberius Caesar”

The Gospel of Luke tells us when the ministry of John the Baptist began:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . . the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness [Luke 3:1-2].

This picks out a specific year: A.D. 29.

Since all four gospels depict the ministry of Christ beginning after that of John the Baptist had begun (Matthew 3Mark 1Luke 3John 1), this means that we can shave a few more years off our range.

The death of Christ had to be in a range of seven years: between A.D. 29 and 36.

 

Clue #4: Crucified on a Friday

All four gospels agree that Jesus was crucified on a Friday (Matt. 27:62Mark 15:42Luke23:54;  John 19:42), just before a Sabbath, which was just before the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1Mark 16:2Luke 24:1John 20:1).

We know that it was a Friday because it is referred to as “the day of preparation”–that is, the day on which Jews made the preparations they needed for the Sabbath, since they could not do any work on that day. Thus thus cooked food in advance and made other necessary preparations.

The Jewish Encyclopedia states:

Friday, as the forerunner of Shabbat, is called “‘Ereb Shabbat” (The Eve of Sabbath). The term “‘ereb” admits of two meanings: “evening” and “admixture” (Ex. xii. 38); and “‘Ereb Shabbat” accordingly denotes the day on the evening of which Sabbath begins, or the day on which food is prepared for both the current and the following days, which latter is Sabbath.

The idea of preparation is expressed by the Greek name paraskeué, given by Josephus (“Ant.” xvi. 6, § 2) to that day (compare Mark xv. 42; Luke xxiii. 54; Matt. xxvii. 62; John xix. 42). In Yer. Pesaḥim iv. 1 the day is called “Yoma da-’Arubta” (Day of Preparation) [Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v., "Calendar"].

That eliminates six of the days of the week, but there were still quite a few Fridays between A.D. 29 and 36.

Can we figure out which one?

 

Clue #5: A Friday at Passover

The gospels also agree that Jesus was crucified in conjunction with the annual feast of Passover (Matthew 26:2Mark 14:1Luke 22:1John 18:39).

Here we encounter a momentary complication, because Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the Last Supper on Holy Thursday as a Passover meal (Matthew 26:19Mark 14:14Luke 22:15). That would suggest that Good Friday was the day after Passover.

However, when describing the morning of Good Friday, John indicates that the Jewish authorities had not yet eaten the Passover meal:

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium [i.e., Pilate's palace]. It was early. They themselves did not enter the Praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. So Pilate went out to them [John 18:28-29a].

That suggests that the Passover would have begun on sundown Friday.

There are a number of ways of resolving this. For example, some have suggested that Jesus and his disciples used a different calendar than the Jewish authorities, and we know that there were different calendars in use in first century Judaism.

It’s also possible that Jesus just advanced the date of the Passover celebration for him and his disciples. I mean, they were already convinced he was the Messiah and the Son of God. If he says, “We’re celebrating Passover today,” and it’s a day earlier than most people, they’d just go with that. (Note that he made other modifications to the ceremony, such as instituting the Eucharist in the midst of it.)

And there are other solutions.

However, regardless of what Jesus’ movement did, we can look to John’s statement about the Jesus’ captors as an indication of what the Jewish authorities or the mainstream Jewish practice was: They were celebrating a Passover beginning on what we would call Friday evening.

That lets us narrow down the range of possible dates to just a few. Here is a complete list of the days between A.D. 29 and 36 on whose evenings Passover began:

  • Monday, April 18, A.D. 29
  • Friday, April 7, A.D. 30
  • Tuesday, March 27, A.D. 31
  • Monday, April 14, A.D. 32
  • Friday, April 3, A.D. 33
  • Wednesday, March 24, A.D. 34
  • Tuesday, April 12, A.D. 35
  • Saturday, March 31, A.D. 36

As you can see, we have just two candidates left: Jesus was either crucified on April 7 of A.D. 30 or April 3 of A.D. 33.

Which was it?

The traditional date is that of A.D. 33. You will find quite a number of people today advocating the A.D. 30 date.

Do the gospels let us decide between the two?

 

Clue #6: John’s Three Passovers

The Gospel of John records three different Passovers during the ministry of Jesus:

  • Passover #1: This is recorded in John 2:13, near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
  • Passover #2: This is recorded in John 6:4, in the middle of Jesus’ ministry.
  • Passover #3: This is recorded in John 11:55 (and frequently mentioned afterwards), at the end of Jesus’ ministry.

That means that the ministry of Jesus had to span something over two years. A fuller treatment would reveal that it spanned about three and a half years, but even if we assume it began immediately before Passover #1, the addition of two more Passovers shows that it lasted more than two years at a bare minimum.

That means the A.D. 30 date is out.

There is not enough time between the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar–A.D. 29–and the next year’s Passover to accomodate a ministry of at least two years.

The numbers don’t add up.

As a result, the traditional date of Jesus’ death–Friday, April 3, A.D. 33–must be regarded as the correct one.

Can we be even more precise?

 

Clue #7: “The Ninth Hour”

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record that Jesus died about “the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45-50Mark 15:34-37Luke 23:44-46).

“The ninth hour” is what we, today, would refer to as 3:00 p.m.

This allows us to narrow down the time of Jesus’ death to a very specific point in history: around 3:00 p.m on Friday, April 3, A.D. 33.

Of course, there are a lot of detailed arguments that I haven’t taken space to deal with here. But this is the thrust of things.

This is when it happened.