Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Unity is God’s desires for his people. Unity involves being in agreement, being unanimous in what is valued, believed and how it is lived out.  It also involves being united in purpose, working together to achieve a common goal. Unity brings the blessing of God to the church Ps 133. It is critical for the survival of the church, it is a non negotiable.

The trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the perfect examples of complete unity in their relationships to one another and carrying out the plan they created for the salvation of mankind.  There was never any confusion, conflict or misunderstandings in the role each one has.  They work in perfect harmony with each other.

We have some examples in the Old Testament of people being united working in unity for a common goal or purpose.  When there is unity there is the potential to accomplish great things.

Unity in the Old Testament

Tower of Babel

Genesis 11:6

(Gen 11:6)  And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Making David King

1Ch_12:38  All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with a whole heart to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king.

Example of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.

Neh_4:6  So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, he expressed his desire that the disciples would be one just as he and his father were one.

Joh 17:11  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. . Joh 17:22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 

Joh 17:23  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. ­­

Just as Jesus was one with his father so too are we one with Jesus through the work of redemption.

Our unity with Jesus also enables us to share his glory.

We also share his love

We share his mission

We share the knowledge he has given us.

The unity of the believers was critical to the world’s acceptance of Jesus being sent by the father.  If there is disunity among believers, it will cause problems for nonbelievers to accept the unity that Jesus had with his father and the purpose for which he was sent.

After the death of Jesus he instructed them to wait for the Holy Spirit to be sent.  They obeyed Jesus’ instructions and gathered in a room to pray and study the Scriptures that Jesus had revealed to them about himself.  This time of being together helped to form them into a unified team.

Act 1:14  All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 

Devoting: persevere devotedly, intense times of prayer

As the disciples gathered together, it was with one accord. This expression, occurring eleven times in Acts, is one of the keys that unlocks the secret of blessing. Where brethren dwell together in unity, God commands the blessing—life for evermore (Ps. 133)

One Accord: one mind, unanimous

Act_2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Women were included, Jesus was one of the greatest liberators for women. The role of women among the Jews was very limited and limiting.  But Jesus set a new standard and the early church gave women a new status and opportunities to be involved in ministry.  The upper room prayer meeting was a great start to including women in ministry.

As the church grew in numbers they maintained unity.  They also made demonstrated their unity by sharing meals among themselves and maintaining singleness of heart.

Act_2:46  And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Their unity was also expressed in their prayers and declarations when Peter and John were released

Act_4:24  And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

In spite of opposition they remained united of one accord in continuing their ministry in the temple area.

Act_5:12  And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.

Unity in the temple signs and wonders were manifested.

Act 15:25  it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 

Church leaders had to solve and issue regarding the Law of Moses, how it should be honored among the Gentile believers.  They were united in how to resolve it and who to send out from among them to communicate the message.

These were all great examples of unity in the church but unfortunately there were recorded times of disunity and problems that were the result of disagreements.

Disunity was experienced by the early church.

There was a problem with taking care of the widows in the church.

Act 6:1  Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

Disunity was caused by discrimination against the Hellenist widows.  The problem was quickly resolved and the church was united.

Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement regarding taking John Mark on the missionary journey.  They could not come to agreement and had to separate into two teams rather than one team that was not in harmony with each other. 

Act 15:37  Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 

Act 15:38  But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 

Act 15:39  And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 

Act 15:40  but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 

Act 15:41  And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. 

Paul also had to confront Peter and Barnabas about wrong doctrine and wrong behavior which resulted from it.

Gal 2:11  But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 

Gal 2:12  For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 

Gal 2:13  And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 

Gal 2:14  But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 

The Corinthian church was experiencing disunity because they were associated themselves with either Paul or Apollos rather than Christ.  Elevating personalities and following after people is always dangerous and can be very unhealthy.

1Co 1:10  I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 

1Co 1:11  For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 

1Co 1:12  What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 

1Co 1:13  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul had to address two believers who were at odds with each other.

Php 4:2  I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 

Paul in his epistle to the church at Colossae  stressed that in Christ there is no discrimination. Christ is our unifying factor. Discrimination breeds disunity and it has no part in the body of Christ.

Col 3:11  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 

Greek The Greek word used here, hellÄ“n, is an ethnic term denoting the people of Greece. Paul sometimes uses this term as a synonym for “Gentiles” (non-Jews). Their cultural heritage dominated the Roman world.

circumcision nor uncircumcision Another way of referring to Jews (those who are circumcised according to the law) and Gentiles (those who are not).

barbarian A person considered uncultured according to Graeco-Roman standards—i.e., those who did not speak Greek or Latin and who practiced foreign customs or traditions and lacked social standing.

Scythian Like barbarians, Scythians were typically regarded as uncivilized people. They were crude, cruel people from the north

Slaves, menial workers at the bottom of the society.

Unity in the body of Christ is not uniformity.  In the body of Christ there is great diversity yet we are united in Christ in that he is our Lord and Savior and his teachings along with the entire Scriptures provide the basis of our fellowship along with the Holy Spirit indwelling in each believer.

It is important that we endeavor to maintain unity in the body as it is one of the strongest witnesses to the world of the truth Jesus has revealed to us through his life, death and resurrection.  Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to maintain unity of the Spirit.

Eph 4:1  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 

Eph 4:2  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 

Eph 4:3  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

Unity will help bring people to Christ while disunity will drive them away.  Who wants to be a part of anything that is riddled with division?

Unity or being or one accord has to do mainly with our beliefs, that we are unified or in unanimous agreement to what we hold to be true.  Apart from this level of agreement we do not have true unity.  We may belong to the same group of people but we do not share the same values and beliefs or behaviors that would identify us as part of the group.

Hindrances to Unity (Joy Dawson)

1.       Lack of communication of needs. Pride keeps us from communicating needs. Love can flow out to others after a need is expressed.  We don’t want to express needs as it may indicate a weakness.  If we do not express our needs we can become a hindrance to unity.  We are not invincible.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 

2.       Sin, confess your faults one to another that you may be healed.

Jas 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 

 If we have consciously hurt someone we need to confess to them.  If they are not aware of it then it is the exception to go to the person. Restitution should never hurt the other person. Coldness of heart toward someone is to be forgiven.

Mat 5:23  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 

Mat 5:24  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

 Mt. 6.14, 5.23,24. Mrk 11.25, 26  forgiveness is required for forgiveness.  Expressed forgiveness unites.

3.       Expressing love to one another, gratitude, encouragement, comfort and understanding. Don’t be reserved in expressing these things.  God expressed his love openly.

1Jn 4:11  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

Pray to be sensitive to the needs of others and be willing to meet the needs. Put love into action.

4.       Not communicating what we are doing and why we are doing it. Leaders think that others should just accept it and not question it

Mat 18:15  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 

Mat 18:16  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

The  enemy uses it to lead us to misjudge others and drive a wedge between us.

5.       Not having a servant heart.

Jesus set his disciples straight when they were debating who would be the greatest in the kingdom. 

Luk 22:24  A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 

Luk 22:25  And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 

Luk 22:26  But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 

They were not looking at serving each other but being served by others.  This is the wrong attitude that will create disunity just as it did among the disciples who heard this conversation.  We promote unity through our service to each other. Being humble will keep us from being humiliated because of a wrong attitude and expectation.

Unity is corporate humility

Unity must be pursued, it is not optional for believers and it must be put into practice if we desire to receive the blessing of God.  It must be protected and any threats against unity confronted immediately.  Division and disunity damage the body of Christ and diminishes the witness to the world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The man who would be King

David was chosen to be the king that followed Saul. He was a very young man when the prophet Samuel came to anoint him as the future king of Israel. ( 1 Sam 16:13) It was a surprise to his father and his brothers that he was the one chosen to be Saul’s successor.  David may have been only 17 years old when he was given the news regarding his future.  I am not sure what went through his head after receiving the news but it was a message that I am sure he and his family never forgot.  God had big plans for David’s life but it would take years before he would see the fulfillment of the prophecy.  His call was clear and came from a respected man of God.  The man who would be king had to keep a humble profile and wait for God’s timing for him to assume the title and all the responsibilities that came with it.

David would go through a time of training to prepare him for his future kingship.  He did not boast of his calling but continued doing what his father asked him to do, care for the flock of sheep.  David did not try to put himself in a position to be close to the king but humbly served his father.  He did not think of himself as too important for this task, pride of his calling was not part of his conduct.  God was ordering his steps and providing the training to develop his character to be able to handle his calling.

David was a skillful musician and had developed a good reputation among the people.

who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.” 1 Sam. 16:18

David was a young man with great potential and he faithfully served King Saul by playing his lyre when the evil spirit attacked Saul.

David was not afraid to take on challenges.  Rescuing a sheep from a lion and bear was preparation for rescuing Israel from the Philistine army. Goliath did not intimidate him even though the entire army stood in fear and was paralyzed by the thought of fighting this giant.  David took on the challenge because he understood that God would not allow his name to be defiled by the Philistines. (1 Sam. 17:26)  He knew his God would give him the victory. Perhaps he remembered the calling of God on his life, that one day he would be king and if this prophecy was true, he did not have to fear for his life and could boldly come against Goliath. God was not going to allow him to be defeated or killed because his purposes for David had not been fulfilled.  David’s passion for God and his glory was evident to all. 

After this victory David did not return to his family but was taking into the household of Saul and appointed to serve in Saul’s army. (1 Sam. 18:2)  God have him success in the battles and the people praised him. Again we see the humility of David and his desire to serve Saul.  All the praise could have gone to his head and the temptation to announce that he would one day be king.  The praise did not seem to affect David but it devastated Saul and the relationship he had with David changed from support to suspicion and jealousy.  Saul feared that he would lose the kingship to David and from this point sought to kill him. (1 Sam 18:9,10) Saul’s  two attempts to murder David were not successful, David’s life was in the control of God and the prophetic word would preserve his life so that God’s purposes would be established.  God was with David but no longer with Saul.

David continued to serve Saul and God continued to bless his life.  David submitted himself to Saul and carried out his responsibilities as commander of 1,000 men and God continued to give him success.

When David was told he would be given Merab, Saul’s eldest daughter as his wife, he responded in humility. (1 Sam. 18:15)

“Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father's clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” 1 Sam 18.18

This promise was not fulfilled yet David did not demand that Saul fulfill his promise.  A second wife was later promised to David, Saul’s daughter Micah.  The price David needed to pay would put his life in jeopardy at least that is what Saul intended with the hope that the Philistines would kill David. (1 Sam. 18:21)  Again David responds in humility.

“Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” 

It seems that David was unaware of who he was in the eyes of Saul and of the people.  He claimed he was a man of no reputation, not worthy to be the king’s son-in-law.

Saul’s third attempt to kill David was a failure.  The result was that Saul became even more fearful of David taking over his rule.

Saul’s fourth attempt to kill David was not carried out because of the intervention of Jonathon, Saul’s son and heir to the throne. (1 Sam. 19:2) Jonathon informed David of his father’s plan to kill him and David lived with this knowledge yet continued to submit to Saul and serve him.  David demonstrated his loyalty to Saul in spite of the 4 plans to kill him.

Saul’s fifth attempt to kill David came when David was ministering to him by playing music to sooth his soul. 1 Sam. 19:10)  I don’t know how you would react to the previous attempts to kill you by a man who was obviously intent on carrying out his plan to murder you.  David remained loyal and did what he was called to do in his service to Saul.  Once again Saul in his rage tries to pin David to the wall with a spear.  David fled for his life to his house.

Saul’s sixth attempt to kill David came when Saul sent men to watch when David left the house and then kill him.  David’s wife, Michal learned of the plan and helped David escape in the night. David sought refuge with Samuel the prophet in the city of Naioth. (1 Sam. 19:11-18)

Once again Saul planned his 7th attempt on David’s life by sending messengers with him to take David.  (1 Sam 19:20-24)This time God defended David by causing Saul to fall under the power of the Spirit. Causing him to prophesy all the way from Ramah to Naioth.  When he came to Samuel he continued to prophesy all day without his clothes on!  God was stripping him of his robes of king and confirming his protection of David.

In spite of this attempt David wanted to be at the King’s table to celebrate the new moon. (1 Sam. 20:5) He was uncertain if he should go and formed a plan with Jonathon to be away for 3 days and find out if Saul was still on the rampage to kill him. On the second day of the festival of the new moon Saul became concerned that David was not at the table with him.  When Jonathon was questioned he gave an alibi for David’s absence which Saul knew was not true.  His reaction now was to attempt to kill his own son by throwing a spear at him.  Saul obviously had lost it and was willing to kill his own son because he was protecting David’s life.

David fled for refuge with the Philistines and convinced them that he was a madman whom they did not need to fear. (1 Sam.21:14) David continued to move around and was joined by 600 men who did not want to serve Saul.  David was on the run constantly as Saul continued his pursuit to find him and kill him. None of Saul’s attempts were successful yet David made no attempt to attack Saul and his army.  God’s protection was evident in his life and there was no need for David to try to defend himself by engaging in a battle.

When David and his men were hiding in the caves of Engedi, he had a perfect opportunity to kill Saul when Saul came into the cave to relieve himself.  (1 Sam 24) David’s men encouraged him take Saul out but David could not do it.  In spite of all the evil Saul had done and his crazy desire to kill David, he could not kill the man God had appointed king. David felt guilty of cutting off the edge of Saul’s garment while his men wished he had cut off his head.  When Saul left the cave David showed honor to Saul.

“My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 

David made Saul aware of the fact that he had spared his life and that he had no intention of killing him.  David referred to Saul as “God’s anointed”24:10 and called him “father” 24:11.  I could think of many other things I would have called Saul yet David showed honor and respect to him.

David’s humility is confirmed again by his own view of himself.

1Sa 24:14  After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 

David could have said, “Don’t you know who I am?  I am going to be the next king of Israel so stop trying to kill me!”

David’s humility and demonstration of respect and honor broke the heart of Saul causing him to weep and confirm that David would be the next king.

David honored Saul’s request that he would not destroy his name out of his father’s house.  This was a common practice at this time to ensure that no one from the household of the previous king could become king.

Saul did not change his plans to stop pursing David. When Saul and his army were camped in Hachilah David sent out spies and found the place they were sleeping. (1 Sam 26) It was the perfect set up to kill Saul yet David once again refused. 1Sa 26:9  But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?” 

1Sa 26:10  And David said, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 

1Sa 26:11  The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.”

David continued to show respect and honor to Saul who by all standards did not deserve to be treated this way.  David trusted in God to continue to deliver him and in God’s timing he would elevate him to become king.

David’s comment to Saul are remarkable.

1Sa 26:24  Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the LORD, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”

In spite of all the attempts on David’s life, he regarded Saul’s life as precious.

David fled from Saul and went to be with the Philistines. Saul finally gave up trying to kill David.

Eventually both Saul and Jonathon were killed in battle with the Philistines. (1 Sam.31) When the news reached David his reaction was not one of great joy that finally Saul was no longer going to be chasing him, he could live in peace and return home after years of fleeing for his life.  David’s response was that he was appalled that the messenger had killed Saul and had no respect for God’s anointed one.  The messenger was killed because of what he had done.

David and his men wept and fasted instead of celebrate.  They showed honor to Saul and Jonathon.

David’s lamentation gave honor to Saul and Jonathon.

2Sa 1:19  “Your glory, O Israel

2Sa 1:21  “You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor fields of offerings! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul,

2Sa 1:23  “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!

2Sa 1:25  “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!

David praised the men of Jabesh-Gilead for recovering the bodies of Saul and Jonathon and burying them in Israel.

2Sa 2:5  David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “May you be blessed by the LORD, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him. 

David is an extraordinary example of one who was loyal to Saul, showed respect and honor in spite of all the evil things Saul had done and all the attempted assassinations of him.  David had tremendous respect for the position God had given Saul as King of Israel.  He submitted himself to Saul until it was obvious that he needed to flee for his life.  David’s humility was demonstrated throughout this time in his life.  He saw himself as one who was like a flea and not a future king.  He waited upon God to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy when he could have taken things into his own hands and made himself king by killing Saul.  David confronted Saul with respectful and truthful words.  He did not degrade Saul by calling him names or speaking evil of him.

The lessons we can all take from the life of David are what God expects from all of us in relation to those God has place in authority in our lives.  Saul was obviously a fallen imperfect man who in the eyes of the world did not deserve any kind of respect and should have been removed from office.  Yet David refused to speak against him or do anything to him.

Worldly Standards

·       We witness behavior that is contrary to God’s standard.

·       Politician’s  tweets

·       Denigrating statements on Facebook

·       Fake News

·       Gossip

·       Disrespect for business owners and their property

God’s Higher Standard

Jesus told his disciples

Mat_5:44  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Paul admonished the church in Rome

Rom 12:21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Rom. 13:7 Pay…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Peter instructed the church

        (1Pe 2:18)  Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Injustices Jesus Suffered during his final days

I want to look at the injustices Jesus suffered at the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Roman government during his final days before his death.  We know that God is a God of justice and for him to experience the level of injustice Jesus endured must have been very difficult.

God is a God of justice. 

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;

therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

For the Lord is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for him! (Is. 30:18)

There are many verses that validate this aspect of his character.  His justice is always perfect because he knows everything about every situation including the thoughts and motivations of the heart of the person or persons committing the injustice.  Injustice is usually associated with someone exerting power over another person to force them to do what they want.  Jesus experience this at the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Roman government during the last days of his life. When Jesus was treated unjustly, the depth of the injustice was greater than what we as human beings could experience because he knew everything that was involved in the situation.  Jesus understands what it is like to be treated unjustly and as we go through the incidents that he experienced during his final days it will become more clear to us what he endured.

The timeline of the events that took place that led to the crucifixion of Jesus is important and will help us understand what happened in such a short time.

1.      Arrest in the garden (Mt. 26:45-55; Lk. 22:47-53; Jn 18:1-12)

2.      Trial 1 Jesus before Annas (Jn 18:13-24)

3.      Trial 2 Jesus before Caiaphas ((Jn 18:13-24)

4.      Trial 3 Jesus before the Sanhedrin (Lk. 22:66-71;

5.      Trial 4 Jesus before Pilate (Mt. 27:1-14; Mk. 15:1-5; Lk 23:1-6; Jn 18:28-38)

6.      Trial 5 Jesus before Herod Antipas (Lk. 23: 6-12)

7.      Trial 6 Jesus before Pilate (Lk. 23:13-25)

8.      executed by crucifixion (Mt. 27:32-44; Mk. 15:21-32; Lk. 23:26-34; Jn. 19:16-24)

It is important that we first understand a little about the relationship between the Jews and Roman government.

The Jews were under the control of the Roman government.  They were given some self-government but they did not have the right to put anyone to death. 40 years before the destruction of the Temple, judgment in matters of life and death were taken away from them, only Caesar had that right.  Legally the Jews had no right to put anyone to death.

According to Jewish law in Leviticus 24:16 any one who blasphemes the Lord was to be put to death by stoning.  The hands of the witnesses were to be the first ones to throw the stones (DT. 17:7).

It was obvious that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus put to death but they were unable to do it as noted by the Roman law.  They had to contrive a plan to convince the Roman authorities that Jesus had committed a crime punishable by death. The Jews from start to finish were seeking to use Pilate for their purposes. They could not kill Jesus themselves, so they were determined that the Romans would kill him for them.

In order for the Jews to put Jesus on trial they had to arrest him in a private area away from the crowds who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  It was estimated that there were 3,000,000 people in Jerusalem at the celebration.

The arrest of Jesus had to take place a night.  If it were to take place during the day there would be a possibility of a riot by the people who admired Jesus and thought of him as the promised Messiah.  In order to make this happen Judas became the key player to set up the arrest scene.  He sold his soul for a mere 30 pieces of silver and led the Jewish leaders and the band of 200+ soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The number of soldiers sent to arrest Jesus indicated that they thought there may be trouble at his arrest and they wanted to make sure everything was under control.

John’s recounting of the arrest noted that Jesus was first brought to Annas. He was an ex high priest who held this position from AD 6-15.  He remained a powerful figure even though he was not the current High Priest.  The position of High Priest formerly was an office held for the life time of the Priest but when the Roman government took control everything changed.  The office became a matter of contention and intrigue and bribery and corruption.  The highest bidder who was willing to comply with the Roman government, was given the office. Each of Annas’ 4 sons were appointed High Priests and the current High Priest, Caiaphas, at the time of the arrest of Jesus was the son-in-law of Annas.

The family of Annas was very corrupt and gained much of their wealth by extortion.

“Even the way in which Annas made his money was most probably disgraceful. In the Court of the Gentiles there were the sellers of victims for the sacrifices, those sellers whom Jesus had driven out. They were not traders; they were extortioners. Every victim offered in the Temple had to be without spot and blemish. There were inspectors to see that it was so. If a victim was bought outside the Temple it was certain that a flaw would be found. The worshipper was then directed to buy at the Temple booths where the victims had already been examined and where there was no risk of rejection. That would have been convenient and helpful but for one thing. Outside the Temple a pair of doves could cost as little as 4 pence; inside they could cost as much as 75 pence. The whole business was sheer exploitation; and the shops where the Temple victims were sold were called The Bazaars of Annas. They were the property of the family of Annas; it was by the exploitation of the worshippers, by trading on the sacred sacrifices that Annas had amassed a fortune. The Jews themselves hated the household of Annas.

Now we can see why Annas arranged that Jesus should be brought first to him. Jesus was the man who had attacked Annas' vested interest; he had cleared the Temple of the sellers of victims and had hit Annas where it hurt--in his pocket. Annas wanted to be the first to gloat over the capture of this disturbing Galilaean.”  Wm Barclay

The examination of Annas was a mockery of justice.  Jewish law declared that a prisoner must not be asked any questions that would incriminate him.  The penalty of death could not be given based on the confession of the person being tried.  Annas violated the Jewish law by asking Jesus questions.  Jesus called him on this and told him to ask questions of people who had heard him. After Jesus held him accountable for his action, he was slapped by one of the officers.

Jesus was then taken to Caiaphas the High Priest were the Jewish leaders made false accusations and mocked Jesus.  They had to fill in time before daylight when they could officially put Jesus on trial. 

The Jewish Sanhedrin was the group responsible for bringing the charges against Jesus.

The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. In particular it had complete jurisdiction over all religious and theological matters. It was composed of seventy members. Scribes, Rabbis and Pharisees, priests and Sadducees, and elders were all represented on it. It could not meet during the hours of darkness. That is why they held Jesus until the morning before they brought him before it. It could meet only in the Hall of Hewn Stone in the Temple court. The High Priest was its president. The manner in which the trial of Jesus was conducted was unjust and violated the procedures the Sanhedrin had established.

“We possess the rules of procedure of the Sanhedrin. Perhaps they are only the ideal which was never fully carried out; but at least they allow us to see what the Jews, at their best, conceived that the Sanhedrin should be and how far their actions fell short of their own ideals in the trial of Jesus. The court sat in a semi-circle, in which every member could see every other member. Facing the court stood the prisoner dressed in mourning dress. Behind him sat the rows of the students and disciples of the Rabbis. They might speak in defense of the prisoner but not against him. Vacancies in the court were probably filled by co-option from these students. All charges must be supported by the evidence of two witnesses independently examined. A member of the court might speak against the prisoner, and then change his mind and speak for him, but not vice-versa. When a verdict was due, each member had to give his individual judgment, beginning at the youngest and going on to the most senior. For acquittal a majority of one was all that was necessary; for condemnation there must be a majority of at least two. Sentence of death could never be carried out on the day on which it was given; a night must elapse so that the court might sleep on it, so that, perchance, their condemnation might turn to mercy. The whole procedure was designed for mercy; and, even from Luke's summary account, it is clear that the Sanhedrin, when it tried Jesus, was far from keeping its own rules and regulations.

Jesus was then brought to Pilate. Pilate was a very troubled man and he did not know how to handle the situation presented to him.  The history of his life helps us understand a little bit why he consented to the crucifixion of Jesus." Wm. Barclay

Palestine was not an easy province to govern.  It was under the control of the Emperor who sent his military there to keep the people under control.  A procurator was given the assignment of keeping law and order and this was the position Pilate was given in AD 26.  Pilate was a failure in his position of procurator or governor.  There were three incidences that marked his career.

“The first occurred on his first visit to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not the capital of the province; its headquarters were at Caesarea. But the procurator paid many visits to Jerusalem, and, when he did, he stayed in the old palace of the Herods in the west part of the city. When he came to Jerusalem, he always came with a detachment of soldiers. The soldiers had their standards; and on the top of the standard there was a little bust in metal of the reigning Emperor. The Emperor was regarded as a god, and to the Jew that little bust on the standards was a graven image.

All previous Roman governors, in deference to the religious scruples of the Jews, had removed that image before they entered the city. Pilate refused to do so. The Jews besought him to do so. Pilate was adamant; he would not pander to the superstitions of the Jews. He went back to Caesarea. The Jews followed him. They dogged his footsteps for five days. They were humble, but determined in their requests. Finally he told them to meet him in the amphitheatre. He surrounded them with armed soldiers, and informed them that if they did not stop their requests they would be killed there and then. The Jews bared their necks and bade the soldiers strike. Not even Pilate could massacre defenseless men like that. He was beaten and compelled to agree that the images should thereafter be removed from the standards. That was how Pilate began, and it was a bad beginning.

The second incident was this. The Jerusalem water supply was inadequate. Pilate determined to build a new aqueduct. Where was the money to come from? He raided the Temple treasury which contained millions. It is very unlikely that Pilate took money that was deposited for the sacrifices and the Temple service. Much more likely, he took money which was entitled Korban, and which came from sources which made it impossible to use for sacred purposes. His aqueduct was much needed; it was a worthy and a great undertaking; the water supply would even be of great benefit to the Temple which needed much cleansing with its continual sacrifices. But the people resented it; they rioted and surged through the streets. Pilate mingled his soldiers with them in plain clothes, with concealed weapons. At a given signal they attacked the mob and many a Jew was clubbed or stabbed to death. Once again Pilate was unpopular--and he was rendered liable to be reported to the Emperor.

The third incident turned out even worse for Pilate. As we have seen, when he was in Jerusalem, he stayed in the ancient palace of the Herods. He had certain shields made; and on them he had inscribed the name of Tiberius the Emperor. These shields were what is known as votive shields; they were devoted to the honour and the memory of the Emperor. Now the Emperor was regarded as a god; so here was the name of a strange god inscribed and displayed for reverence in the holy city. The people were enraged; the greatest men, even his closest supporters, besought Pilate to remove them. He refused. The Jews reported the matter to Tiberius the Emperor, and he ordered Pilate to remove them.” Wm. Barclay

Pilate’s history of failures did not need one more item added to it that could cause him to lose his position.  The Jewish leaders knew this and used it to their advantage.

"It is to be very carefully noted that the charge the Sanhedrin finally produced against Jesus was one of blasphemy. To claim to be the Son of God was an insult to God's majesty and therefore blasphemy, and punishable by death.

Before Pilate that charge was never even mentioned. They knew well that it would have carried no weight with him, and that he would never have proceeded on a charge which would have seemed to him a matter of Jewish religion and superstition. The charge they levelled against Jesus was entirely political, and it has all the marks of the minds and ingenuity of the Sadducees. It was really the aristocratic, collaborationist Sadducees who achieved the crucifixion of Jesus, in their terror lest he should prove a disturbing element and produce a situation in which they would lose their wealth, their comfort and their power.

Their charge before Pilate was really threefold. They charged Jesus (a) with seditious agitation; (b) with encouraging men not to pay tribute to Caesar; (c) with assuming the title king. Every single item of the charge was a lie, and they knew it. They resorted to the most calculated and malicious lies in their well-nigh insane desire to eliminate Jesus.” Wm. Barclay

Pilate after the first trial send Jesus to Herod Antipas.  He was the son of Herod the Great who murdered children after the visit of the 3 wisemen who came seeking King Jesus.  He wanted Jesus to put on a show for him and do a miracle.  He questioned Jesus for a long time but Jesus did not answer him.  Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.

Pilate could find no fault in Jesus as he had not committed any crime punishable by death.

Pilate tried to placate the Jews but they would have nothing of it.  They wanted Jesus dead.

"Throughout the trial his conduct is well-nigh incomprehensible. It is abundantly clear, it could not be clearer, that Pilate knew that the charges of the Jews were a series of lies that he knew that Jesus was completely innocent, that he was deeply impressed with him, and that he did not wish to condemn him to death--and yet he did. First, he tried to refuse to deal with the case; then he tried to release Jesus on the grounds that at the Passover a criminal was always released; then he tried to compromise by scourging Jesus; then he made a last appeal. But he refused all through to put his foot down and tell the Jews that he would have nothing to do with their evil machinations.

It is clear why Pilate acted as he did. The Jews blackmailed him into crucifying Jesus. They said: "If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend." This was, in effect: "Your record is not too good; you were reported once before; if you do not give us our way, we will report you again to the Emperor, and you will be dismissed." On that day in Jerusalem, Pilate's past rose up and haunted him. He was blackmailed into assenting to the death of Christ, because his previous mistakes had made it impossible for him both to defy the Jews and to keep his post. Somehow one cannot help being sorry for Pilate. He wanted to do the right thing; but he had not the courage to defy the Jews and do it. He crucified Jesus in order to keep his job.

Pilate gave in to the demands of the Jews and allowed the crucifixion to take place.

The routine of crucifixion was always the same. When the case had been heard and the criminal condemned, the judge uttered the fateful sentence: "Ibis ad crucem," "You will go to the cross." The verdict was carried out there and then. The condemned man was placed in the centre of a quaternion, a company of four Roman soldiers. His own cross was placed upon his shoulders. Scourging always preceded crucifixion and it is to be remembered how terrible scourging was. Often the criminal had to be lashed and goaded along the road, to keep him on his feet, as he staggered to the place of crucifixion. Before him walked an officer with a placard on which was written the crime for which he was to die and he was led through as many streets as possible on the way to execution. There was a double reason for that. There was the grim reason that as many as possible should see and take warning from his fate. But there was a merciful reason. The placard was carried before the condemned man and the long route was chosen, so that if anyone could still bear witness in his favour, he might come forward and do so. In such a case, the procession was halted and the case retried.

Throughout this entire ordeal Jesus remained silent.  He allowed all the injustices to take place without saying anything in his defense.  He knew his identity, purpose and his destiny and that if he was lifted up all men would be drawn to him.  The cross was the way God lifted him up and we are the benefactors of what Jesus endured for us.  The one who knew no sin was made to be sin for us.  His unjust death met the just demands of God for a perfect sacrifice to be offered for the forgiveness of all the sins of mankind, past, present and future." Wm Barclay

I pray that each of you has a greater understanding of the injustices Jesus suffered for our sake and that we each have a greater appreciation for what he endured for our salvation.

As followers of Christ we too may suffer injustices for our beliefs.  The same hatred Jesus experienced is also being experienced by believers in countries that oppose Christianity. We like Jesus must know how to respond when situations of injustice happen in our lives or the lives of people we meet.  God is a God of justice and he wants us to bring justice to the oppressed.  Jesus came to set the captives free and we have a responsibility to do the same.

Peter witnessed the injustice and suffering Jesus experienced and gave this counsel.

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. (1 Pt. 3:13-15)

I listened to a missionary who recounted the story of a believer who was imprisoned for his faith.  He was treated inhumanly by the prison guards as well as the 1,500 inmates who were the most violent criminals.  They threw food at him and even human waste.  He was beaten often and was daily subject to horrible abuse.  The goal was to get him to renounce his faith and sign a paper to admit he was part of an insurrection to overthrow the government.  Throughout his imprisonment he refused to deny Christ and the prison officials were exasperated in their attempts to change him.  But one day they sent people to his home, 1,000 miles away and took some clothing from his wife.  Then they made another woman wear the clothes and brought her to the prison to drag her in front of his cell.  Her face was not toward him but he recognized the clothing as his wife had only 2 sets of clothes to wear.  She was then taken to a cell close to him and for 72 hours she was raped. He heard everything that was happening and it ripped at his heart.  Finally her cries ceased, she was dead.  This was more than he could bear and he told God it was over.  He was going to sign the paper and deny his faith so he could leave the prison and look for his family.  But that night the Holy Spirit spoke to him and allowed him to hear the voice of his wife and children.  He knew they were alive and that the woman they dressed to be his wife was not his wife.  When the prison officials came to have him sign the papers, he told them he had heard the voice of his wife and that she was alive.  He refused to sign the papers and told them to leave his cell. The prison officials decided he had to die and he was led out to the area where he would be hung.  As he left his cell and walked past the other 1,500 inmates, they all stood at attention to honor him and they began to sing the songs they heard him sing in his cell for the past 18 years.  The prison officials could not carry out his execution and released him.

We may never experience this level of injustice and suffering but we must not forget that there are many today who are and they need our prayers as well as any efforts we can do to help them be released.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37

Luk 10:25  And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Luk 10:26  He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 

Luk 10:27  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 

Luk 10:28  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 

Luk 10:29  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

Luk 10:30  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 

Luk 10:31  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 

Luk 10:32  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

Luk 10:33  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 

Luk 10:34  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 

Luk 10:35  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 

Luk 10:36  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? 

Luk 10:37  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

The parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar to us but its message is always for today and is a challenge to us.

Jesus was approached by a lawyer whose occupation was to interpret the Law and make additional laws to ensure that the Law was not violated.  They were experts at making life miserable with burdens God never intended for his people to carry. He came to Jesus with a perhaps a prideful attitude and wanted Jesus to know that he was a great example of one who kept the Law or possibly he came with a sincere question.  The question he posed to Jesus was to find out who Jesus would say was truly his neighbor.

The scribe who asked this question was in earnest. Jesus asked him what was written in the law, and then said, "How do you read?" Strict orthodox Jews wore round their wrists little leather boxes called phylacteries, which contained certain passages of scripture--Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-20. "You will love the Lord your God" is from Deuteronomy 6:4 and Deuteronomy 11:13. So Jesus said to the scribe, "Look at the phylactery on your own wrist and it will answer your question." To that the scribes added Leviticus 19:18, which bids a man love his neighbour as himself; but with their passion for definition the Rabbis sought to define who a man's neighbour was; and at their worst and their narrowest they confined the word neighbour to their fellow Jews. For instance, some of them said that it was illegal to help a gentile woman in her sorest time, the time of childbirth, for that would only have been to bring another gentile into the world. So then the scribe's question, "Who is my neighbour?" was genuine. (William Barclay Commentary on Luke)

When we look at the life of the Samaritan we notice several things about his life.

1.       He was a Samaritan.  The Jews regarded the Samaritans as rebels and they wanted nothing to do with them.  They were outcasts who were a mixed breed as they had married outside of the Jewish nations.  The strict Jew did not want to have any association with a Gentile and because the Samaritans were a mixture of Jew and Gentile they were rejected.  Jesus used the Samaritan as an example to the lawyer which gave even greater impact to his story.  The lawyer would be comparing himself to someone he rejected yet in the end would have to come to a conclusion that he could not deny.

2.      The Samaritan traveled alone and this was not a safe way to travel on a road that was known for its robberies.  The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was called the “The Red or Bloody Way”.  It was a road with many twists and turns which made it easy for robbers who hid behind the rocks to quickly jump out and rob people.  The Samaritan was not using good judgment to travel alone on this 20 mile road.  So as Jesus told the story, those listening were probably making judgments about the Samaritan that reinforced their prejudice against them and labeled this man as careless.

3.      The Samaritan made himself available.  The Levite and the Priest did not respond to the need.  They avoided making themselves available to help the injured man. They were more concerned with violating the Law which forbid them from touching a dead person if they wanted to stay ceremonially clean.  The priest would lose his turn of duty at the Temple and would be unclean for 7 days.

4.      The Samaritan was a risk taker.  When he saw the injured man on the road, he took a risk to help him.  The injured man could have been faking his injury so that someone would come to aid him and then the robbers who were part of the plan would jump out and rob the one who came to help.  The Levite came a little closer than the Priest but was not willing to do more than just look at the injured man. The lawyer was probably thinking that the Samaritan was acting foolishly by taking the risk but Jesus was emphasizing his courage to reach out to help someone who was injured.

5.      The Samaritan had compassion.  Maybe he saw himself in the injured man.  He could have been in the same situation and would have wanted someone to help him.  The word compassion means more than just pity.  It is a very strong feeling, a yearning in the heart.  It is as though you see something that takes your breath away. It is more than a reaction and has with it the desire to do something to aid the person in trouble.

6.      The Samaritan made his resources available to the injured man.  His material possessions of cloth, oil, wine and his donkey were readily used to help the man.  He used them to bandage the wounds as best he could and transport him to a safe place where he could receive care until he recovered.

7.      The Samaritan was generous and trustworthy.  He must have developed a relationship with the Inn keeper that he could be trusted to pay whatever additional expenses incurred. He went beyond what was expected of him to provide additional help in his absence.

When Jesus finished telling the story, it was obvious to the Lawyer who the true neighbor was but also what it means to be a neighbor.  The applications to our lives should also be obvious.

1.       At times we find ourselves facing situations that we did not expect to encounter.  We have the opportunity to make a response to come to the aid of a person in need or we can make excuses or justify our lack of involvement. 

2.      We can choose to make ourselves available to help someone in need.  If we are so set on our agenda or schedule we will not give ourselves the option of stopping to help someone.  An act of kindness or assistance may only take a moment of our time but if we do not have a mindset that we are available we probably won’t do anything .

3.      Involvement usually carries some amount of risk to ourselves. Pulling someone out of a burning house or car is a high risk that few people would be willing to take.  In some situations we may risk our health and safety.  Intervention is not always and easy task and may result in people opposing what you are doing to help the person in need. 

4.      When we truly love our neighbor then having compassion toward them in times of need should be a natural reaction and response.  Love is an action word not just a feeling. We can measure our love by the type of response we give to situation we encounter.  We must be able to put ourselves in the situation the person is confronting and allow ourselves to experience to some degree what they are feeling.  If we were in the same situation they are facing how would we want someone to respond to us?

5.      A true neighbor will make their resources available to someone in need.  We will give what we can to help them and give it immediately.  For some people delaying in giving often leads to not giving at all.  It is not impulsive giving but spontaneous giving from a generous and compassionate heart.  If God is the true owner of everything we have then it should not be difficult to give away what he has given to us when he prompts us to do so.  An open hand is better than a closed fist.

6.      Another way we can help is by getting people the help they need.  Connecting them to other people who are better prepared and skilled in dealing with situations the person confronts is important.  Follow up care is a great way to show compassion to others.  Checking up with them to see how they are doing is very meaningful to the person we are helping.

Throughout this week of your ministry with us you have seen people in need in many areas of life be it physical, emotional, spiritual.  You have responded in love through the ministry you have given to the people and for this we are very grateful.

As you return home I pray that you will continue to reach out to people in need in your community and make yourself available and do what God leads you to do to demonstrate his compassion.  We live in a broken world and we have many opportunities to demonstrate the love of God.