Point of Contact

Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

Here a chronically ill woman seeks a point of contact with Jesus.

All the efforts of her doctors only made her worse. Then one day she hears about a Man of God who can do astounding things.

In her own way, this woman is amazing too! Her faith in Jesus is so great she thinks touching the clothes He’s wearing will heal her.

Anxiously, she works her way through the massive crowd and reaches out - Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

Jesus turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" His students were baffled by this question because so many people were touching Him. Many with pressing needs of their own!

Yes many, but only one with a faith to match her need!

Jesus says it! There was no magic in His clothes. Her faith was the point of contact with His power!

Today there are many who profess belief in Jesus. But few have the trust in Jesus this woman displayed?

Doesn’t every Christian profess belief in Jesus? Of course, but often this is mere mental assent to the fact of who He is - I believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Faith goes much farther and deeper. It not only believes He is who He claims to be. It is a living trust He will act on our behalf in ways the rest of the crowd misses entirely.

In her encounter with Jesus, this unnamed woman teaches the real meaning of faith. The vast difference between believing Jesus can do something and trusting He will do it! Is doing it!


Something To Tell

Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.

This formerly demon-possessed man begged to go with the One who freed him. But Jesus sends him home to his family to share his personal testimony of God’s mercy.

We suspect this man didn’t need much encouragement to talk about what Jesus did for him. For a long time, he would talk of little else but Jesus! And for the rest of his life recall his liberation in numerous conversations!

So the man went away and began to tell…how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Actually, this man didn’t need to do much talking. The change in his behavior alone would speak volumes to his family and friends.

They knew how bad his life, and consequently their own, had become. What it was to live with a vicious and self-destructive mad man!

Just seeing him in his right mind tells a very dramatic story of transformation. But it is his personal privilege to tell them of Jesus who brought the changes they now see.

A serious student of Jesus has something to tell too. A story of a dramatic liberation and a transformed life!

For students of the Teacher not only come to Him seeking a Savior from sin and ultimate salvation someday. They come seeking to live daily in the transforming presence of the Teacher.

And their changing lives tell a dramatic story to their family and friends also, as they are being re-shaped into the image of the Teacher.

Are we students of Jesus? Do we have something to tell?

So we will tell it! Using words if necessary!


A Man Possessed!

This story of a man possessed by an evil spirit is one of many such encounters in Jesus’ ministry. Frankly, in modern times we are puzzled as we read such accounts.

And we are somewhat surprised by the matter of fact manner in which demon possession is presented in the Bible. It seems that in Jesus’ day, such things were not all that unusual.

As we strain to get a handle on this we may feel like my friend who often says of complex things – I don’t understand all I know about it!

Some have suggested the more visible demon activity during Jesus’ ministry allowed Him to show His power over the forces of evil. Jesus certainly demonstrated absolute authority over demons!

Attempting to explain the relative absence of such things today, others have observed that perhaps the death and resurrection of Jesus inhibited the powers of darkness. This is a comforting thought!

And how did people come to be demon possessed? We are not told.

One thing is certain. However a person came to be demon-possessed, the result was de-humanizing. There was an aspect of enslavement of the person and an aura of helplessness associated with it.

Only Jesus easily released those afflicted, usually with just a simple command – Come out of him!

Those victims perfectly mirror our lack of power to overcome the consequences of sin in our lives. Only with the coming of Jesus are we released from enslavement by the forgiveness and power He brings!

Are people demon-possessed today? Certainly not in the number or to the outwardly observable degree we see in the Bible accounts.

Can forces of evil get a kind of strangle-hold on our lives today? Probably so, if we habitually cooperate! But if we turn to Jesus and trust in Him, we have nothing to fear.

Perhaps this is enough to know…all we really need to know for now.


Peace in the Storm

What faith and peace our Teacher has! He is asleep on a boat in the midst of the storm!

His students are not at all peaceful. They are fearful.

They wake Him – Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?

Oh, those storms of life! How they test our faith and steal our peace!

In fact, extremely stressful situations create a kind of civil war within. A push-pull between our fears and our hopes!

Our fears tell us we will drown in these troubles, but our faith gives us reason to hope for rescue.

Only the presence of Jesus resolves this inner conflict.

Sometimes in our lives - just as He did for His students that day - Jesus speaks to the storm.

Peace, be still.

Then the Teacher turned to His students - Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

With each new experience with their Teacher, these students were learning to trust Him. They respond - Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

What about us?

Jesus doesn’t always calm the storm in our lives. But He always speaks peace to our hearts in the midst of every storm!

One way or the other, Jesus is always there to give His peace. Students of Jesus stay close enough to hear His voice.


Night and Day

This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

Do plants grow at night too? Of course! The Teacher is always right! After all, it’s His design to begin with!

Today even scientists know plants have two distinct cycles for growth. In sunlight, they produce food from light and carbon dioxide. At night, they use what was made during the day to grow.

This is exciting because the Teacher isn’t simply talking about plants. This is the way it is in the kingdom of God! He’s talking about us!

Is it possible that the word of God is growing in our hearts even as we sleep? Are we actually becoming more like the Teacher both night and day?

Don’t doubt it, simply because you can’t explain it! The Teacher said it – night and day!

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

Here is a mysteriously wonderful thought! It isn’t just plants that grow at night from what they absorb during the day!

We spend our day conscious of the presence of the Teacher, paying attention to His words and thinking about becoming more like Him?

Then at night while we lose consciousness in restful sleep, what we absorbed during the day continues to sprout and grow in our hearts!

Sounds like we can be students of Jesus 24 hours a day!

Night and Day!

Why not? Even though as He says - we can’t explain it!


Multiplier Effect

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

In God’s physical creation we observe the inherent multiplier effect in seedtime and harvest. One simple seed is sown into the ground and multiples of that one seed grow into a bountiful harvest!

This is how it works in the spiritual dimension of life also.

Here the Teacher says so. Thirty, sixty or even a hundred times!

The miraculous power of the Jesus’ Words should not surprise us. He said - Let there be light and there was light! He spoke and worlds came into existence.

And when we hear the Teacher’s words and accept them, those seeds germinate in our hearts to produce the abundant fruit of God’s character in our lives.

This is the power of internalizing the Word of God! And why it is vital to become a serious student of the Teacher.

This is how our lives prosper with a plentiful yield of the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And this is how the student becomes more and more like the Teacher!


Are We Listening?

In this parable, the Teacher tells about a farmer scattering seed out in the field. The seeds fall into different soil conditions.

The resulting crop - or lack thereof - depends upon the ground!

Notice, in each case it was the same farmer sowing and the same seed sown. The only difference was what happened to the seed after it came into contact with the soil.

Some seeds never germinated. Some did but didn’t grow. Others grew but were choked by weeds. And still others grew and produced fruit.

When Jesus finished this garden story, He suddenly announced - He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Surprise! This story is about listening, not gardening!

The Teacher is talking about Himself, His message and how people receive it differently.

And He is clearly placing the responsibility for the results of His message on those who hear it!

Because He is always the Teacher!

His message is always the same!

And what He teaches will always produce the fruit of a changed life if it is properly received into our hearts!

Jesus is doing His part. This is the good news. Now the responsibility is all on the hearers!

Are we listening to the voice of the Teacher?


Heavenly Family

Here Jesus gets down to the real purpose behind creation. Why God made us. But it is unexpected and seems implausible when we first hear it.

No, it’s not surprising that in some sense we belong to God. After all, we are His idea. The Mind of God conceived us.

But what surprises is the purpose for which God created us – to be in intimate relationship with Him. Not some passing acquaintance or even distant friendship – but to be an actual part of His Heavenly Family!

Here Jesus plainly announces it!

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus statement begs the question – Why?

Before the earth was formed and prior to our existence, God lived in relationship – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The Perfect Heavenly Family of God!
So why add to this perfection?

The full answer eludes us, but we know there is something in the very nature of God that loves and desires relationship. We first see this is the eternal dance of God.

Each of the Three vitally engaged in this loving and joyful relationship! Within in this Perfect Family flow all of the wonderful attributes of God which they share and enjoy!

The story of Jesus is the story of God bringing us home to live in this Family. Each of us together - with God our Father, Jesus our older Brother and the Holy Spirit completing the enlarging circle of Family.

Jesus says this Family is composed of those who do God’s Will. And the Teacher has come to lead His students into this Heavenly Family.


With Him!

He appointed twelve - designating them apostles - that they might be with him…

Here we see what Christianity is all about! Jesus calls the twelve to be with Him.

Ultimately, this is what God is doing through Jesus – bringing us to be with Him. And it begins by becoming a daily student of the Teacher. Being with Jesus!

For nearly three years these men will be Jesus’ constant companions. They will enter His University. Study at His feet. Go everywhere with Him and gradually throughout their lives become more like Him.

Jesus calls them apostles. This word means - one who is sent. When they are fully trained, the Teacher will send His students out into the world to call others.

Each new student will also learn to be with the Teacher. They too will learn to live life everyday with a sense of His presence! To sit at His feet and to be trained to become more like Him.

And they will have the same mission. As they become more like Jesus, others will want to become serious students of Jesus also.

As Jesus calls these first students we see the beginning of His plan. Where does it all end?

Where it starts! Where it goes every step of the way!

His students will be with Him…forever!


Angry and Distressed

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.

Jesus angry? Distressed? Doesn’t fit the traditional image many have of the Teacher. He shouldn’t have these normal human emotions!

Yet, the Bible only says – Be angry and sin not! So anger itself is not a sin, even though it can go there very quickly.

To be angry can be a perfectly normal human emotional response. To be angry and not say or do something wrong is the difficult part!

To be distressed is also a healthy response. But to be under stress and not make a mistake is another matter altogether.

Jesus could do both. Stubborn hearts both angered and stressed Him, but these normal emotional responses did not cause Him to sin! In fact, here He responds with an act of loving kindness.

You can tell much about a person by what makes them angry and how they handle it. Most of the time selfishness is the cause of anger. Things don’t go our way. We lash out!

Jesus, on the other hand, is angry because these leaders have no love in their hearts. Here is a man who needs healing and they don’t care about him whatever!

This is bad enough, but these are the ones in charge of religion. They’re the leaders who are supposed to care for the people.

Jesus never seems angered by the sinners He meets. But He’s angry here! These self-appointed guardians of the people simply don’t care! Still, Jesus loves them - would change their hearts – but they’re obstinate, immoveable!

After He heals the man, they go out and plot to kill Him. In such a deplorable situation the only reasonable response is anger. In fact, it’s the perfect emotional response!

What makes us angry? And how do we handle it?


Rules or Traditions?

Of course there are rules. Jesus never argues about that! It’s just that not all religious rules are from God.

Many are only traditions. Man-made interpretations, embellishments and sometimes even corruptions of God’s laws!

The Pharisee’s problem - and why they held Jesus in such contempt – was their religion was all about the traditions. And Jesus intentionally didn’t keep them!!!

Jesus scorned their tradition of fasting two days a week. He even condemned them for it, because He saw they only did it to appear religious before others.

Meanwhile, Jesus kept all of God’s laws perfectly. Once He even fasted for forty days! Fasting for the purpose God gave it – to clear the mind for greater focus to do God’s Will.

And it drove the Pharisees crazy when Jesus ignored their nitpicking traditions about the Sabbath Day. He healed people on the Sabbath. His disciples would glean enough grain for a meal as they travelled.

Once again though, Jesus always honored God’s true purpose for Sabbath. God commanded the Sabbath for a restful day of worship, greater contemplation of God and spiritual and physical renewal!

On the other hand, the Pharisee’s Sabbath traditions only served to unnecessarily burden the conscience. And what is more, they used their traditions to create class distinctions - to judge who was in with God and who was out!

Their traditions separated and divided people. But God gave His commands for the very opposite purpose – to bring people into closer relationship with Him and with one another!

So, what do you think? Are we who follow Jesus today using our traditions to elevate ourselves and alienate others? Or have we understood that everything the Teacher asks of us is designed to bring us into deeper relationship?


Need a Doctor?

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Is Jesus saying some people are so righteous – so spiritually healthy -- they don’t need Him?

We know better than that!

The Great Physician is simply conceding the obvious point - only those who know they are sick will seek a doctor’s help. And only those who recognize their unhealthy spiritual condition will listen to Him!

That’s why Jesus is surrounded by a whole bunch of sinners at Levi’s house. They seek the Doctor’s counsel because they know they’re sick. They understand their sinful condition.

On the other hand, the Pharisees mistakenly think they are spiritually healthy. They don’t need the Doctor, thank you very much!

Absurdity is added to irony when they take exception as Jesus ministers to the needs of those who readily admit they are sick. They object - Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?

Unfortunately a self-administered misdiagnosis of righteousness is still the occupational hazard of the religious. They don’t seek spiritual renewal for themselves and they actually object when sinners hang around!

Jesus understands! That’s why He graciously bows to humanity’s freedom to choose and concedes the fact: Only those who know they are sinners will hear His call.

Only those who first acknowledge their sin will ever seek the healing forgiveness of the Great Physician.


Whatever It Takes!

Jesus is in the house, but He’s surrounded by many people. So many, in fact, that no one can even get through the door!

But nothing can stop four very determined men!

They decide to climb up on the housetop! Break through the roof in order to lower their sick friend down into the room with Jesus!

They are willing to do whatever it takes to come into the presence of the Teacher!

Jesus saw it! Their faith! He responded to the paralyzed man - Son, your sins are forgiven.

Some of the teachers of the law were offended by this - Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?

The teachers are right! Only the one who is offended can forgive. So if this man sinned against God, then only God can forgive him.

But what they don’t understand is that Jesus is God!

So Jesus heals the man, but not before He makes the claim directly – The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins!

The message is clear! God is bringing forgiveness to the world in the Person of His Son. This is Jesus’ mission on earth. Eventually, will give up His life on the cross to accomplish it!

Perhaps, that’s why Jesus is so impressed by these four men, because like them, He too will do whatever it takes to bring us into the presence of God.

The faith of these four men cause us to ask: What are we doing to come into the presence of Jesus?


Where's Jesus?

Everyone is looking for you!

That’s what Jesus’ students told Him when they finally found him. The Teacher was looking for some quiet time to pray. Not to be! And it would only become more intense for Him.

The man healed from leprosy spread the news and so even more people began to seek Him.

As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Isn’t it odd that churches who claim to represent this sought-after Jesus, have trouble filling their pews? Something is definitely wrong with this picture!

After elaborate advertising campaigns, special events, popular speakers and all kinds of self-help seminars, most people politely yawn and go about their own business!

Why is the religion of Jesus unattractive, when the Man Himself couldn’t find a moment’s privacy?

Could it be that Christianity has lost its way? Gotten away from the teaching and persona of the Teacher? No longer looks or sounds very much like Jesus?

Isn’t the real business of every Christian and therefore every church to become more like Jesus? If so, a reformation is needed.

A return to focusing on becoming more like the Teacher! When this happens, people won’t be asking – Where’s Jesus? They will become His students and know Him!

What would Jesus say about this? Perhaps what He said to His students that day - Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."

Jesus is the Teacher! Is His Church paying attention?


Authority of Jesus

Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

People went to worship that day, like they always did on the Sabbath. But this day was not like all the others. Because Jesus showed up to teach!

What He said and how He said it was a source of shock to them. So were His miraculous powers.

But Jesus is first and foremost the Teacher! His ministry centered on teaching.

People were amazed by His miracles, but their hearts were captivated by His message. Healing the sick demonstrated He had God’s power and thus God’s approval. But His message revealed the very character of that God!

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”

Jesus’ miracles served to confirm that He was who He claimed to be – The Son of God! But His teaching opened the way for everyone to become children of God.

Jesus is still the Teacher. He is the authority for all our questions about how to have a relationship with God.

That’s why we want to be His students too. Why we follow Him. Why we too are amazed by what we are learning from Him!


Fishers of Men

“Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him.

It’s a play on words. But it’s more than that. The Teacher will, in fact, teach these fishermen how to fish! That’s the reason Jesus calls these first students.

They will enter His school. They will be trained. Then they will cast their nets once more. Not for fish in the Sea of Galilee, but for men in the sea of life.

But before they can call others to Jesus, they must first learn to become good students of the Teacher themselves.

So Peter, Andrew, James, John and the others leave everything behind when Jesus calls them. For nearly three years they are His constant companions.

Every day is a classroom experience with the Teacher. Every moment an opportunity for learning!

They listen to the Teacher. They learn by observing His every action and discerning His motives. Gradually, they will be changed to be more like their Teacher.

Then one day Jesus will announce they are ready. He will entrust His continuing mission on the earth to these students. He will send them out into the world with His message.

And they will be successful. We know, because the process continues today nearly 2,000 years later. People are still enrolling in the University of Jesus.

Every day more people are choosing to become students of Jesus. They too decide to follow Him and live life in His presence. They too are being changed into His likeness.

“The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"


Mark's Good News

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

Mark says it here in the first sentence of his drama. This story is good news about Jesus! And here is no ordinary person. He’s God!

Ok, Mark, you have our attention. What’s the very best of the good news - the first thing you want to announce about Jesus?

Act 1, Scene 1 – The Jordan River. People are confessing their sins and the prophet John is baptizing.

After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus will give the gift of the Holy Spirit – the very presence of God! He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!

Repentance is necessary. Forgiveness is essential. But Jesus does even more: He brings the gift of God Himself! The indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

This gospel of Jesus Christ is certainly about the forgiveness of sin. But forgiveness of sin is the means to a more glorious purpose - God living with us and in us!

We are cleansed from sin to be a holy temple for the presence of God. Thus with God begins a life transformation! To be shaped into the image of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit!

This is not a sporadic or temporary emotional experience of the Holy Spirit. Christian baptism ushers in a continuing life-changing experience together with the Spirit.

Mark wants us to know something from the very beginning. Because of this Jesus - the Holy Spirit - God Himself will live in us and we will be with Him forever!

This is the very best of the good news!


Always the Teacher

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Jesus is always the Teacher! That’s what He indicates, isn’t it?

He sends His students to make new students in all nations. He tells them to baptize those who decide to become His students!

This is first and foremost the heart’s desire of Jesus for everyone in this world. That we all become His students! Obey His teaching! Become more like Him!

Then He adds - Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age!

Here Jesus is ascending to heaven, back to the Father. But there is a sense in which Jesus never left. He’s still with His students every day – always!

Today, we close this reading of the book of Matthew. May we reflect a moment on our relationship with the Teacher? And pray for strength and focus of heart to seek His approval above all else!

It was his first public concert. The crowd cheered wildly as the young pianist walked off the stage. The concert manager said - It’s a standing ovation! Go back out and play an encore.

The young man answered - No, I can’t.

The manager exclaimed - Listen to the crowd. They love you! They want to hear you again.

The young man said - Not everybody is standing. There’s one man in the balcony who remains seated.

So what? The manager responded.

The pianist replied - That man is my teacher.


The Tomb Is Empty

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

The angel did not roll away the stone from the entrance so Jesus could come out, but to show the tomb was already empty!

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Angels heralded the birth of Jesus. Now an angel announces a rebirth - the resurrection of Jesus!

The angel says – Do not be afraid! Angels always say this to humans! They are God’s messengers, so why does God send this message all the time?

He knows our tendency to fear. Yes, all the usual stuff; Will I have enough money to pay the bills? Is my family safe? Is everything going to be ok?

That’s why Jesus always speaks peace to our hearts too.

To the deeper, often unexpressed fears about our guilt He speaks the blood of His cross. Peace with God! You are forgiven!

Now to the nagging fear of our own mortality His resurrection speaks promise of a life after our death.

Joy in place of fear! Though sometimes the fear lingers a little doesn’t it? In such times Jesus comes to us.

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy… Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.


Unlikely Pallbearer

After Jesus died there was no elaborate funeral. The large adoring crowds that once followed Him are gone. In many ways Jesus’ burial is very sad.

Sad not only because He has died, but because with few exceptions, His closest friends deserted Him! Jesus deserved better.

We would reasonably expect His closest disciples to carry His body to the place of burial. They were His chosen ones! Students who lived with Him and followed Him for nearly three years.

Where are they now?

Except for John, to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, they have all run away.

What we have left is an unlikely pallbearer named Joseph and a few faithful women looking on.

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

There is no eulogy. No words in praise of a life well-lived. No flowers or sad songs.

Oh yes, there were some unkind words His enemies spoke to Pilate:
“We remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.’”

"Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.


The Torn Curtain

The moment Jesus’ spirit leaves His body there are amazing signs. Earth shaking! Tombs opening! The veil of the temple ripping in two!

When the soldiers crucifying Jesus saw what happened - they were terrified and exclaimed, “Surely He was the Son of God!”

First there was darkness for three hours and now all this! No wonder they believe! Anyone would lose their skepticism under these circumstances.

It is doubtful; however, these Roman soldiers understood the significance of the torn curtain.

This large thick curtain - 50 feet high and 4 inches thick - hung inside the temple in front of the Holy of Holies. Here was the very presence of God on the earth!

Traditionally, only the high priest was allowed to go past this veil and only one day in each year. The Day of Atonement! On this day the priest would sprinkle the blood of an animal there as a sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Did you notice? The curtain was quickly torn from the top down. Not as a man might have done, only with incredible difficulty from the bottom up. The historian, Josephus, wrote that two horses could not provide sufficient power to rip it. Clearly, God is making a statement!

And there is powerful symbolism here. God is physically removing the barrier between Himself and humanity.

There is now direct access to the presence of God. The death of His Son on the cross has opened a new way for us!

God rips away the veil because this is the final Day of Atonement! Jesus sacrificed His life’s blood for our sins.

He is our new High Priest. It is to Him we now come for cleansing and access to the Father.


Eclipse of the Son

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice…"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Don’t look at it! That’s what my parents told me and my sisters as we anxiously waited to experience our first solar eclipse.

Gradually, as the moon moved between the earth and sun, the light of day turned to eerie darkness. We took turns looking through the welder’s mask dad brought out on the lawn.

This was something most unusual – an eclipse of the sun! It didn’t last long though. Soon the brightness of day returned.

But there was another dark day – three full hours of blackness as Jesus hung on the cross! Was this the Father’s way of saying – Don’t look at this!

There on the cross something moved between Jesus and His Father. We know what it was. The sin of the world Jesus bore that day.

As His Father pulled down the shade of night to cover the scene, the world should have understood the blackness of sin.

In this cover of darkness – this eclipse of the Son - Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

This was not a cry for explanation. Jesus knew why? Rather it was a cry of anguish over the pain and loneliness.

We know the rest of this story. The glad brightness of day would return. And very soon a resurrection Sonrise!


Via Dolorosa

“Way of Grief” or “Way of Suffering.” It's also the name of a street in old Jerusalem – traditionally thought to be the path Jesus took from Pilate’s judgment seat to Golgotha.

Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.

They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said.

They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him.

Then they led him away to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).

There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.

When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.


It's Me! Barabbas

You know me. I’m famous! I’m the guy who was on death row when Jesus stood in judgment before Pilate.

Unfortunately, my appeals were exhausted and a Roman cross had my name written all over it!

That is until Jesus took my place. That’s how I got free.

Yeah, I was guilty. I killed a few Romans. They all say Jesus was innocent though. I read later how Pilate’s wife even interrupted the trial to warn her husband:

While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man…"

I guess Pilate really wanted to let him go. Too bad for him though. The religious leaders stirred up the people and persuaded them to ask for my release instead.

Then they all cried out for Jesus to be crucified.

Pilate didn’t like it. He tried to argue with the crowd. I was afraid there for a minute they might change their minds. Lucky for me they were too worked up to think clearly!

That’s when Pilate called for a basin of water and washed his hands in front of the whole crowd – “I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"

It was great! I got off scott-free!

Things worked out unexpectedly well for me, don’t you think?

Hey, what are you staring at?

Don’t you Christians believe He died in your place too?


Silence Of The Lamb

Jesus is silent! First before the Sanhedrin and now before Pilate and those bringing charges against Him. Why?

Is it detachment? Acquiescence? Despair?

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

Along with Pilate, we too are amazed. Why doesn’t Jesus defend Himself? At least win a few verbal rounds!

No way! Our Teacher is living out what He taught. Didn’t He say that we shouldn’t be anxious because our Heavenly Father knows what we need and will respond?

And we remember a sermon in which He said whoever tries to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it!

And then there was that about loving enemies and praying for them. And wasn’t there something else about agreeing with your adversaries and even turning the other cheek?

Everything Jesus taught is on the line! The Teacher chooses to stand by His ideals, proving they work, are viable, will stand up even in the worst of times. Otherwise, it’s all been for nothing!

And isn't this the silence glimpsed by the prophet Isaiah?

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

It’s an impressively splendid thing to behold – this silence of the Lamb.


Mission Impossible?

Regrets – it’s impossible to live without having them! Things we said or didn’t say! Some things we should have done differently!

Here Judas and Peter both do something they very much regret. One betrays the Lord, the other denies Him.

Feelings of regret can be overwhelming. A deep mental distress and sorrow that clings to us – can’t seem to shake!

Unresolved regrets just keep chipping away at our life and bringing us down. If we don’t find the way to cope with them, they can even destroy us.

Dealing with regret was Mission Impossible for Judas.

“I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Peter, on the other hand seems to successfully deal with his regret - And he went outside and wept bitterly.

This is the healthy response to regret. He properly grieves! Tears, self-recrimination, confessional prayer! All of that!

In time, the raw inflamed memory is soothed by Jesus’ forgiveness and Peter rises above regret to live and serve again.

Learning to get past regret is possible! Must be! For our regrets ultimately play a role in our destiny. If we hang onto them, they only serve as painful reminders of our failures and become stones in our hearts.

If we grieve and take them to Jesus, they can become valuable lessons in character-building, stepping stones on the way to fulfilling our destiny to become more like the Teacher.

Dealing with our regrets isn't Mission Impossible. With Jesus it is Mission Accomplished!


Kangaroo Court

Of course, the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Israel, has authority to judge an accused. But an illegal trial in the middle of the night?

This is a kangaroo court. Obviously, this proceeding isn’t about getting at the truth. The hastily assembled false witnesses reveal the court’s prejudice.

Finally, the high priest, exasperated by Jesus’ silence in the face of this farce, poses a direct question - I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.

Only then, Jesus breaks silence - Yes, it is as you say!

The undignified reaction of the court unmasks the true face of the proceedings. It’s merely a mob in disguise!

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy!” "He is worthy of death," they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"

Of course, it’s only blasphemy to say you are The Christ, if in fact you are not. Where is all the evidence in defense of His claim? The miracles, the signs, the teaching!

Oh yes, His teaching. This is really what’s on trial here. And the Teacher knows it. This explains His silence in the face of this travesty of justice.

He understands everything He taught and lived about truth, love, forgiveness, gentleness, humility and faith in God are now on trial!

That’s why Jesus must face these grueling tests armed only with His teaching!
To do otherwise will graphically demonstrate to the world they were only fine sounding speeches that don’t work very well when circumstances turn ugly – when your life is on the line!

If the Teacher expects His students to fully entrust their lives to Him - His teaching - then He must now rely upon them exclusively Himself.



The arrest of Jesus does not surprise Him. He saw it coming. He doesn’t hide. He rises from prayer in Gethsemane and goes out to meet the mob unarmed!

Yet, the manner in which He was arrested must have been a source of great disappointment. After all, He had simply been a Teacher - one who also cared for the needs of the poor and the sick.

Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.

This Teacher didn’t lead an uprising! Seek an insurgency against the powers that be! His voice was never heard in the streets fomenting rebellion!

Even now, he says to His misguided student - Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword!

If He wanted to impose His will, there were better options available to Him - Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Instead, this Teacher seeks a revolution in every heart. A free and willing embrace of the loving principles He espoused and lived!

But there’s a question. How workable are His teachings? In real life? When life itself depends on them?

That’s why He is resolved now to face everything before Him, armed only with His teaching.

And He will do this virtually alone - Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

This may not be all bad. If the Teacher stands alone armed only with His teaching, if the principles He taught are sufficient to sustain Him through His trials, if they really work for Him, then His students will clearly see and understand the power in them.


Cup of Suffering

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane.

How fitting! The word Gethsemane means olive press. In such a press, under a large rolling stone, crushed olives gave up their precious oil.

Here on the Mount of Olives, Jesus endures a crushing weight of suffering - My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

As the cross creeps closer, He prays - My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.

Is it only the prospect of losing His life that is pressing down on Him?

Crucifixion was an especially agonizing death. Anyone would recoil at the prospect of such a violent end.

But there is something worse than death pressing in on Jesus’ mind. For Him, the cross will be more than a painful way to die. At the same time He must also bear the sins of the whole world!

In some very real sense, Jesus would not only be dying physically. He would taste death for every person. The pang of the penalty of sin - separation from the Father!
Nobody understands what that really means. At least, not as deeply as Jesus when He fell on His face in lonely Gethsemane that night.

Only Jesus - one with the Father throughout all of eternity past - could even begin to understand the unfathomable pain of interrupting such a relationship. For Him, this must be the true horror and revulsion of the cross!

Here in the garden He anticipates the abandonment that will soon crescendo from the cross in the heart-rending cry – My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

He is in the press! Crushed, His spirit yields the sweet oil of obedience - Yet not as I will, but as you will.


Best of Intentions

"This very night you will all fall away on account of me…This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."

But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.

You have to love Peter and the others. They have the best of intentions. They pledge allegiance to their Teacher – You can count on us!

They sound like us sometimes, don’t they? We are not ashamed to be a student of Jesus. But then it happens.

We face people and circumstances hostile to Jesus. We hang back. Go along. Blend in.

It’s easy to stand up for Jesus during Sunday worship. The test comes on Monday around the water cooler. Or on Tuesday at the club meeting!

On Sunday we are ready to die for Jesus. On Wednesday we lose the courage to even speak His name. When it will cost us!

At church we easily sing, O’ How I Love Jesus, but on Thursday peer pressure causes us to say – Jesus who?

And on Friday, we still have the best of intentions.

Then it’s Saturday evening. Time to get ready for worship tomorrow!

We understand Peter and the others very well. Jesus does too. He doesn’t condemn them. He just warns them.

Jesus knows after His resurrection, they will renew their courage and stand up. Most will even give their lives for Him.

But until then - for now - they only have the best of intentions.