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Monthly Archives: March 2021

Wednesday of Holy Week

Wednesday of Holy Week

Judas is a perplexing figure, isn’t he?  His name is synonymous with deceit and betrayal, so it’s easy to simply dismiss him as a kind of “necessary evil” in the act of Jesus’ narrative.  But if we’re willing to ponder a bit further, perhaps more can emerge.

As one of the Twelve, Judas was part of a tight circle around Jesus.  He spent the better part of three years accompanying Jesus everywhere He went.  He heard Jesus teach hundreds of messages, watched Him perform countless miracles.  He must have had dozens of personal and intimate conversations with Jesus- on the road, around a fire, over a shared meal.  Laughter, tears, insightful moments beyond description.  Seriously, think about having Jesus as your small group leader, except He’s the Son of God and you actually live together.  Just think about the depth of connection Judas had with Jesus. 

So what happened?  What went wrong in the mind and heart of Judas to lead him to such an insidious betrayal?  We could chalk it up to the fact that he was fulfilling a purpose that had been laid out for him.  But Judas was free to choose.  He had personal agency in his decisions.  We can gather some clues in what we’re told of a character flaw in him, a proclivity towards deception and theft.  As the keeper of the group’s funds, apparently Judas would help himself to some of the money.  I wonder what his inner dialogue was like about this.  How did he justify and rationalize this larceny?  Maybe he convinced himself that he was entitled to some extra, or that such pilfering didn’t really mean anything.   Whatever his reasoning, clearly this cultivation of a kind of double life became an opening for the enemy to exploit.  Sobering to reflect on.  Are there hidden parts of me- places of rationalization and entitlement- that open a dangerous window to my soul?

But what must, in the end, have led to Judas’ fateful decision was something we’re all vulnerable to.  Disillusionment.  Disappointment with Jesus.  Perhaps Judas had expected Jesus to be a different kind of leader or revolutionary.  Maybe he thought he was getting an inside track on a key role in a new administration.  Whatever his hopes, Jesus was clearly not lining up.  Likely the disenchantment started small- some frustrated thoughts or confused moments.  Unchecked and uncorrected, they festered and spread.  Eventually they became a raging fire that consumed him from within.  

Of course it’s not only Judas that gets disappointed and confused with Jesus and His ways.  We all do.  It’s what we do with the dissatisfaction that matters.  I wonder what might have happened if Judas would have brought those to Jesus.  Sat with him and had an honest conversation around the campfire.  Maybe that’s not just an idea for Judas, though. What if we brought ours to Jesus, too?

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Tuesday of Holy Week

Tuesday of Holy Week

On this day of Holy Week, we find Jesus in the Temple- the place that He had just vividly purged of opportunistic moneychangers and their like.  In doing so, He re-asserts the Temple’s primary purpose, for it is to be  “A house of prayer for all peoples”.  And now on Tuesday, Jesus is being questioned and challenged; His opponents looking for any window to discredit and humiliate this threat to their entrenched status.  You might call this day, “Debate Day”, but it’s really not an even playing field.  Sure, it’s groups and sects of learned scholars conspiring together against a single man, but this is Jesus we’re talking about.  They didn’t have a chance.


But what is easily lost amidst the wonder at Jesus’ remarkable responses and brilliant rhetoric is His larger goal in these exchanges.  In our contentious and divided day, we often aim for the “killer line” or “takedown sound-bite” to embarrass or humiliate our opponents (or simply those who think differently than us).  Jesus certainly confounds and confronts His challengers— “Woe to you” is repeated 7 times at one point.  But Jesus is not aiming at shame or even trying to “win” an argument.  That’s more our style.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we will find that we’re usually motivated by one of two things.  It’s either pride:  that we’re smarter and “better”; or, more often, fear: a troubling sense that we may have missed it or gotten it wrong, or perhaps that we’ll be exposed or embarrassed in some way.  Pride and fear keep Jesus’ opponents- and often us- from Jesus’ actual message.

And that message is right there at the beginning of these exchanges.  In a stunning declaration, Jesus tells the upstanding, respectable and outwardly good people that whores and thieves are closer to God than they are.  Seriously.  Let that sink in a moment.  Remember, Jesus isn’t trying to humiliate.  He’s desperately trying to INVITE.  The “bad” people were deeply aware of their need for God’s grace and acceptance, and they found it in Jesus.  The “good” people were so busy following the rules that they couldn’t.  And so instead of being embraced in His outstretched arms, they would soon nail them to a cross.  But on Tuesday, Jesus is still trying to reach them, warn them, even welcome them.

So how about you today?  Think about “those” people- whoever they are:  people who look, think, or act differently than you.  Do you find yourself putting them in a category, like “wrong” or “less than”?  Do you have internal (or actual) “debates” with them to reinforce your own position and alleviate your own nagging fears?  Consider again Jesus’ intent for His temple and now for His people- that we would be a place and people of prayer and welcome “for all the peoples”.  Why don’t you have a talk with Jesus about this today?

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Monday of Holy Week

Monday of Holy Week

Clearly something significant is brewing.  Yes, the crowds shouting at Jesus “Save us! Now!” the day before is a huge new development.  And clearly Jesus isn’t passive, because it was His order to go get the donkey, His disciples that began the shouts of Hosanna, His defense of this adoration in the face of challenge.  Tension with the religious leaders is clearly ratcheting up, as it now includes a plot to murder the recently-resurrected Lazarus.  Jesus is an ever-greater threat to their grip on control and He keeps pouring fuel on the fire.

But before the next confrontation in the Temple- which will be a dramatic and public table-turning and house-cleaning- Jesus does something odd.  He curses a tree. Seriously.  Just walks up to a green-leafed fig tree, hoping to find something to eat.  But apparently it wasn’t fig season and Jesus is left hungry and disappointed.  So He curses the tree! What is this?  A bad mood?  Hangry?  Seems so random of Jesus, doesn’t it?

But pause with Jesus here a moment.  Consider the context.  What we see is a tree that looks lush and healthy on the surface but fails at it’s actual purpose: producing fruit.  Jesus has inspected the tree, found it wanting, and declared judgment.  A metaphor, of course, for what He is doing with the nation of Israel, particularly the religious leaders.  No matter how “good” they look on the surface, they are not bearing the kind of “fruit” God desires.  Not increasing in love for God and others, especially those who are “other”.  And Jesus has spoken this warning, this invitation and command often- from the Sermon on the Mount onward, throughout His ministry.  His example, His teaching, even direct confrontations- nothing has landed with them.

So today, let’s linger with Jesus next to the fig tree.  The tree/nation has been inspected and found wanting.  In a few short days, Jesus will once again tell His disciples- and us- to remain intimately connected to Him so that we will bear fruit— much fruit.  Only Jesus can produce the results.  Our part is to stay connected. 

What would it be like to ask Jesus to “inspect’ your life today?  Not as an act of condemnation or guilt-inducement, but as an invitation to draw near to Him.  To look below the surface and outward appearances.  What kind of fruit is Jesus producing in my life these days?  Greater love for Him, for others?  In what ways is He wanting to draw me closer?  

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2021 in Uncategorized