Friday, November 21, 2014

The Son of Man is Betrayed

Life of Christ 162

Judas Iscariot leaving the Last Supper,
Carl Bloch, 1890
          It is Tuesday afternoon. Jesus will die tomorrow. He and His Apostles are on the slopes of the Mount of the Olives where they have just finished a discussion about the end times. And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. (Matthew 26.1-2) It is worth noting that Jesus knows exactly when He will die (the day of preparation), the earthly cause of His death (betrayal), and the method of His death (crucifixion).
          The Sanhedrin, which has been actively conspiring to assassinate Jesus for months, dearly wants to do it soon but they are afraid of His popular support at Jerusalem during Passover week. They gather together at Caiaphas' house sometime early in the week to plot how to get around this obstacle. Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. (Matthew 26.3-5) The Sanhedrin had been mad at Jesus for a long time. For over a year they had been tacitly fomenting mob violence against Him. But when Lazarus was indisputably resurrected from the dead just two miles outside of Jerusalem a month ago they began to be more than mad at Christ – they began to fear Him as a political threat. (John 11.48) Then, to add insult to injury, Jesus shows up on Monday morning and ruins their best money making week of the year by wreaking havoc in the Bazaars of Annas. (see Life of Christ 149) They were mad at Him already and wanted to do away with Him. Then they got frightened for their political future. Then He again attacked them in the pocketbook. Now they have reached their breaking point.
          The Sanhedrin, however, faced two problems in doing away with Jesus. First, they did not have the legal authority to execute someone; only Rome did. Second, they were afraid of the reaction of the common people packed into Jerusalem. They needed a way to solve both of these problems and they found it in the person of Judas Iscariot.
          Judas solved their legal dilemma (or at least they thought he did). In Dwight Pentecost's excellent book on the life of Christ he discusses this aspect:

Judas agreed to fulfill a point of Roman law, a necessary requirement if the Sanhedrin was to proceed with their plot to execute Christ. A person could not be brought to trial before a Roman court until an indictment had been officially lodged against him, charging him with a crime. This indictment had to be signed by witnesses who, by signing the indictment, agreed to appear in order to give testimony for the prosecution against the accused. Thus Judas offered himself as a witness against Christ. He agreed to go before the Roman courts when Christ was brought to trial on a yet undetermined charge.
          Not only that, but Judas also agreed to find a way to solve their publicity dilemma:

Luke 22.3  Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
4  And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.
5  And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.
6  And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.

          Now let us turn from examining the thinking of the Sanhedrin to examining the thinking of Judas. Last Friday night after arriving in Bethany a special dinner was held for Jesus. (see Life of Christ 145) The story is placed parenthetically in Matthew 26 to explain some of the reason for Judas' resentment. But I believe the actual root of Judas' discontentment with Christ goes further back than the previous Friday. Judas had long ago been chosen to help the group in administering its finances. He must have had some gifting in this area. A gifting implies a desire and there is only a short step from a gifting with desire to ambition. In my opinion, Judas latched onto Jesus because Judas was ambitious. He thought Jesus was going places – a throne – and Judas wanted to be right beside Him when it happened. Scripture shows us that thoughts of their place in the future kingdom were much on the minds of the Apostles on numerous occasions.
          We know from our study of Jesus' life that He initially experienced a time of great popular enthusiasm especially in Galilee. Judas had watched that fade away and perhaps in his mind he placed the blame for that on Jesus Himself. John the Baptist had been beheaded and Jesus had done nothing about it except to run away. Jesus often seemed to flee, whether from confrontation or attempts to make Him king. Jesus chose not to publicly declare His claims on numerous occasions. Jesus refused to miracles in situations in which they would have been greatly advantageous. Jesus did nothing to defuse the growing animosity of Israel's religious leadership. Lately, He had often been referring to the morbid subject of His own death.
          In the other Apostles this same deteriorating course of events led to a strengthening of their faith. Jesus at one point (John 6) asks His disciples if they would also go away and abandon Him like everyone else. Peter answers wonderfully, To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. Yet the same circumstances that increase one person's faith doom another's and this was the case with Judas Iscariot.
          We see Judas completely unmasked in contrast with Mary during the Friday night supper referenced in Matthew 26. Her discernment, deep sorrow, and obvious love for Christ stand in stark relief to Judas' selfishness, covetousness, and hypocrisy. Since then the situation, from Judas' perspective, has only worsened. Jesus had a weird depressed thing going on during the Triumphal Entry. Jesus completely failed to capitalize on that great moment of popular enthusiasm. The next day He unnecessarily aggravated the authorities by cleansing the Temple again. All morning today (Tuesday) He had bickered with the powers that be in the Temple. Then, in the afternoon on the Mount of Olives, it had been all doom and gloom and the end of the world. Satan, sensing his time had come, takes possession of a Judas who had gradually brought himself to such a place of spiritual emptiness.
The Pact of Judas, Barna de Siena, 1350
        The Sanhedrin, appallingly ignorant of the tremendous spiritual forces whirling around them, would have accepted Judas' offer of betrayal most willingly. For the price of a mere slave they had in one stroke gotten an exceedingly reputable witness to agree to testify against Jesus, and they had gotten someone who would arrange to turn Him over to their custody in such a way as would not arouse the attention of the public. Thus it is that these two, the Sanhedrin and Judas Iscariot, came together in their hatred, ambition, and greed to accomplish demonically inspired evil.
          I cannot leave this awful scene in the Passion week without mentioning one application. Our heart can turn to wickedness even in the best of surroundings. For three years Judas Iscariot lived in close proximity with Jesus. And the result was awful. A thousand years before Christ Solomon said, I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly. (Proverbs 5.14) You can surround yourself with the best of friends, insert yourself into a church on fire for the Lord, and vigorously protect what enters your eyes and ears – but if you do not guard your heart wickedness will find you anyway. It grows in all of us and the crowd we run with cannot protect us from a bad heart.
          It is absolutely astounding to think of what depths Judas sank in relation to his close proximity with Jesus. No man has ever gone so low in hell from being so close to Heaven. Indeed, the distance between where he was and could have been and where he is now is greater than that of any other person in human history.
          …and there, but for the grace of God, go you and I. Beloved, let us never forget it. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Olivet Discourse, Applied

Life of Christ 161

          It is Tuesday afternoon. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. He and His Apostles are sitting on the Mount of Olives discussing the end of the world. Literally. From this story (Matthew 24 and 25) known as the Olivet Discourse I offer you three brief observations.
          First, the best thing to do with the Tribulation period is to skip it.

Mat 24. 21  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

          Several years ago I studied the book of Revelation extensively. The majority of it covers the events of that awful seven year period. A quick survey reveals John discussing the following list of events during this time: -the four horseman of the apocalypse (the antichrist, war, famine, death), together they kill ¼ of humanity; -millions will get saved after the Rapture and millions will then be martyred; -God will show His face to earth (earthquakes, a blackened sun, a reddened moon, and falling stars will follow); -one third of everything green will be burned up; -one third of the sea will turn to blood; -one third of fish will die; -one third of ships will be destroyed; -one third of fresh water will be poisoned; -a demonic scorpion swarm will be released from hell, it will target a different city for 150 nights; -an army of 200 million demons will slaughter humanity by the billions for exactly 391 days and one hour; -open war breaks out on Earth between Satan and God; -all must worship the antichrist and receive the mark of the beast; -this mark must be accepted in order to buy or sell anything; -sores fall on those who receive the mark; -the rest of the oceans turn to blood; -the rest of the flowing fresh water becomes undrinkable; -the sun becomes exponentially hotter; -an unnatural darkness covers the beast's capitol city; -the biggest earthquake in world history occurs; -the great city Babylon is smashed to bits; -…and then comes the enormous slaughter known as Armageddon.
          I say again, the best thing to do with the Tribulation period is to skip it. You do not want to be on Earth. How do you skip it? By casting yourself in faith at the feet of Jesus and pleading for mercy now. Do not wait. Make sure you are saved now.
          Second, we ought to always be looking for the Second Coming.

Matthew 24.42  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43  But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
Matthew 25. 13  Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. 

          For us, as the Church, this all begins with the Rapture prior to the Tribulation period. And there is no warning. It is imminent. We are to think of it and look for it constantly. God designed it this way specifically so that in so doing we will adjust our lives accordingly in holiness.
          Third, let us make good use while we can of the talents God has given us. Scripture shows us that rewards come for those using their talents in His service (Matthew 25.19-21) and judgment comes on those who do not. Every person reading this has God-given talents. You also have a God-given choice – serve yourself and your own agenda or serve Him. By all means, do not put off this decision. He could literally come at any moment.
He is coming back. This is just as sure of a fact as that He came the first time. It will be much better to be coming back with Him than to be on Earth. And it will be much better to have served Him than to have served yourself.

          Beloved, let us live in the light of the Second Coming. Let us serve God while time remains. Let us trust that He is coming no matter how badly things may look at the moment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Olivet Discourse

Life of Christ 160

          It is Tuesday afternoon. Jesus will die tomorrow. After a strenuous morning of public interaction in the city and in the Temple Jesus and His Apostles leave for the relative peace and quiet of the nearby Mount of Olives. Much of it was covered with booths and tents for the pilgrims come to Jerusalem for Passover but they found a restful spot somewhere overlooking the city. The discussion that ensued is known as the Olivet Discourse. (Matthew 24 and 25)

          As they were leaving the city that afternoon one of the Apostles openly marveled again at the amazing physical structure of the Temple. Herod the Great who had begun building (or re-building to be more accurate) the Temple almost 50 years earlier was one of the great builders of the Roman Empire. The Temple complex, still incomplete, (it would not be finished for another 30 years) was a huge step up from Ezra's Temple and massively impressive.
          In response, Jesus asserts that although the structure which dominated Jerusalem was indeed visibly impressive shortly not one stone would be left on top of another. He said this, I believe, in reference to the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem which He prophesied. I write about that here: The Lament Over Jerusalem.
          Upon arriving on the Mount of Olives the Apostles, apparently puzzled by this statement of Christ's, ask Him to expand on it. The Jewish eschatology of the time vaguely expected judgment and devastation. It called for the Roman Empire to be overthrown as a condition for the establishment of the messianic kingdom. In addition, Jesus had already told them He was leaving them soon to go away (John 7.33-37; 12.35-36) only to return later. Connecting these two ideas – an apparently massive destruction of Jerusalem and Jesus' plans to leave and return – they ask Him when this would happen and what sign (or miraculous indication) they should look for.
          Jesus' answer is four-fold. It is impossible to go through it in any detail in one blog post. I will give you the broad outline of it today and then a few high points from it in the next post.
          The Olivet Discourse can be divided roughly into four chronological events.  Before I introduce them it is critical that you understand it is the Jewish people in view here and not the Church. A failure to grasp this has caused a fair amount of theological confusion especially in the area of eschatology. In plain words, Jesus is discussing the end times from the perspective of the nation of Israel. That does not mean there are no applications for the Church but it does mean we need to be very cautious about drawing important doctrinal conclusions from the Olivet Discourse.
The first event (Matthew 24.4-26) discusses what is commonly known as the Tribulation period. As a dispensational pretribulational premillennialist (there's a mouthful, eh?) I believe this begins with the Rapture, lasts for seven years, and is immediately followed by the Second Coming.
The second event (Matthew 24.27-30) is the Second Coming of Christ.
The third event (Matthew 24.31) is the re-gathering of Israel. At the beginning of the Tribulation period the nation of Israel will make a seven year pact with the antichrist. This man of sin will keep his pact protecting Israel for the first half and then violate it horrendously. Amongst other things, he will set up a statue of himself in the rebuilt Temple and demand to be worshipped. The Jews, of course, will rightly refuse. In response, and motivated with all the hatred of Satan, he will hound them to the ends of the earth. The holocaust which results will make Hitler's attempts at extermination look like child's play. When Jesus returns He will send angels all around the world to immediately physically regather the remaining Jews to the land of Palestine.
The fourth event (Matthew 25.31-46) is the judgment of the living Gentiles. These are they who have somehow managed to live through the barbarity of the Tribulation. They must and will be immediately judged by the King of Kings.
Sandwiched among this chronological outline are three parables or illustrations. They are designed to emphasize the importance of living holy and of being ready in view of the imminent return of Christ. The first relates to a fig tree. (Matthew 24.32-51) When you see leaves you know summer is coming, and there are certain indications for which we should look that indicate the return of Christ is close. The second illustration is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. (Matthew 25.1-13) This is a wedding story. The wise virgins were prepared for the coming of the groom. The foolish ones were not. The third illustration is the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25.14-30) It is critical that we serve the Lord while we can.

In the next post I will give you three brief applications from the Olivet Discourse for our day that I hope will be a help to you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two Mites and Two Widows

Life of Christ 159

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow. Jesus has thus far spent the day engaged in a vigorous verbal sparring match with the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. Along the way He has proven Himself once again to be a master of the Scriptures. He has not backed down one single inch. In fact, He has actually gone on the offensive – against the spirit of the age, against the leadership of the age – on their home court.
The Widow's Mite, Jan Luyken, 1700
       Now, wearied in spirit from the opposition and rebellion He has faced along with the thought of how this long day will end tomorrow afternoon, He takes a break. (Mark 12.41-44) Herod's Temple complex covered dozens of acres, and on this Passover week it would have been crammed with tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. Leaving one of the larger courtyards Jesus and His Apostles headed away from the hustle and bustle for the relative quiet of the Court of the Women. Lining the sides of this court were 13 trumpet shaped collection boxes marked with various titles such as incense, wood, past neglect, etc. It was beside one of these 13 treasuries that Jesus pauses to rest, and in one of the few quiet moments He will have today He solemnly watches as people cast money into them.
          Knowing the rabbinical predilection for rules it should not surprise us that they had a required minimum for an offering. It was a mite. This was a small coin that represented the equivalent of 1/366th of an average day's wage. The equivalent in twenty first century America is 34 cents.
Resting there, Jesus observes a certain poor widow cast in two mites. Though a tiny amount in the big scheme of things it represented all her living. All morning Jesus has been fighting with a generation of vipers. How refreshing it must have been to Him to find such great faith and love to God still present somewhere amongst His people on that awful day!
Elijah Receiving Bread From the Widow of
Zarephath, Giovanni Lanfranco, 1624
We honor God when give Him, without reserve, everything we have. The widow of Zaraphath is a tremendous example of this. (I Kings 17.10-13) Elijah was directed to go to her and instructed that she would provide for his physical needs. However when he arrived she was preparing a couple of sticks to build a fire in order to cook one last meal for herself and her son. In spite of this dire situation Elijah rudely demands that she feed him first – and she does. And the Lord greatly honors her faith.
In both of these stories concerning two different widows we see great faith in God and a great love for God. And we see that God honors those who honor Him.
This is about money, certainly, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also. And He is after our heart. But it is about so much more than money. It is about giving Him, without reservation, everything we have and are.

What are you holding back? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Generation of Vipers

Life of Christ 158

          It is Tuesday morning two days before Passover. Jesus will die tomorrow. He and His Apostles have entered the Temple and promptly been ambushed by the Sanhedrin and its representatives. They have launched attack after attack on Jesus Christ and He has met them all ably. On this day Jesus is in no mood to mince words. After several different pharisaical attacks ran into a messianic buzz saw Jesus promptly launches His own attacks. Our story today contains the last two of these. (Matthew 22.41 through Matthew 23.36)
          His first attack He couches in the form of a question directed toward the Pharisees. What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? In relation to the messiah, from whom will he be descended? Well, the answer is obvious and Scripture repeats it again and again. He will be a direct descendant of David. This is the answer the Pharisees give. They say unto him, The Son of David.
          Unknowingly, the Pharisees have just walked full on into a deadly trap. Having gotten their permission to quote a messianic psalm (Psalm 110.1) of David's Jesus hits them right between the eyes. How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? The question pierces right to the heart of the main objection to His claims by the Sanhedrin. Jesus asserted not only that He was the Messiah but that He was God Himself. The Sanhedrin, not understanding the Trinity, took that to mean Jesus wanted to turn their religion from monotheism to polytheism. They believed that Jesus was blaspheming the lynch pin of the entire Torah – Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Yet if that indeed is the case then why did David, clearly referencing the Messiah, say that Jehovah (LORD capitalized in the King James Version) referred to the Messiah as Adonai (Lord in the King James Version)? In other words, why did Jehovah call David's descendant, the Messiah, a term reserved for God alone?
          The answer is patently obvious. It is because the Messiah was God Himself come in the flesh. Psalm 110 is a clear Old Testament reference to the divinity of Christ. Thus, Jesus has every right in the world as Messiah to claim to be God. All morning the Sanhedrin has been trying to trap Jesus and put Him into a verbal box from which He cannot extricate Himself. All morning He has batted away their attempts with ease. Now it is His turn, and the box in which He places them is a veritable vise squeezing the life out of their foolish rebellion. They can make no possible answer to this that will support their resistance to His claims. The psalm in question is clearly messianic and it clearly says the Messiah is God. Their solution is so sad to me. Instead of repenting of their error and yielding to His claims they simply clam up. Like a stubborn teenager who will not admit he is wrong they hold a sullen rebellious silence. And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
          As you see, Jesus had completely shut them up. Silence reigns in the circle around Him. Now, looking directly into the faces of the representatives of the Sanhedrin, Jesus launches a full orbed diatribe against them. It goes on and on and on and contains the harshest language He has ever used. He holds nothing back. He tells them the complete and brutal truth regarding their system, their hypocrisy, and their wickedness. The previous Autumn Jesus had launched a similar diatribe at the Pharisees, and I took eight blog posts to deconstruct it. You can find the first one here. Now, months later, and with only hours left in His life He repeats it and in so doing writes the epitaph of pharisaic rabbinic Judaism. In conclusion, Jesus aptly identifies the soul and destination of the Pharisees. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
          This entire morning has been one verbal sparring match between Jesus and Israel's religious leadership. There is blood all over the floor, metaphorically speaking, and none of it is His. Yet in spite of how He has once again proved Himself before the people nothing changes. Many people marvel at Him but no one is convinced. On the other hand, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Sanhedrin are just as much convinced as ever that He needs to die, and to do so as soon as possible.
          Do not tell me that you cannot believe on Christ. Tell me you will not believe. His claims are not in question. His moral perfection is not in question. His deity is not in question. His fulfilling of prophecy is not question. His knowledge of and adherence to the Word of God is not in question. There are no remaining questions about His life or His claims. There is only rebellion. There is only a stubborn refusal to believe.
          I realize many people go to hell out of misplaced ignorance but such was not the case for the Jewish people of Christ's day. They were a nation of vipers and although they would succeed in assassinating Him on the morrow they would ultimately lose – their Temple would be burned, their beloved Jerusalem would be smashed, their nation would cease to exist, they would bring upon themselves millennia of anti-semitism, and worst of all, they would end up in hell.
          You cannot fight God and win.

          You just can't.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Greatest Commandment

Life of Christ 157

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die on Wednesday afternoon. He and His disciples are spending some time in the crowded Temple taking on all comers. His enemies did not disappoint Him. Our story today contains the next in a lengthy series of verbal sparring matches.
          The Pharisees had codified the Torah into 248 specific commandments and 365 prohibitions. These 613 precepts were imposed by them on their followers, along with numerous rules and sub-rules related to all of these precepts. Needless to say, their religious system was cumbersome in the extreme. Often, keeping one of these precepts meant, in practical terms, coming into conflict with a different one. It was necessary then, in their system, to determine the order of priority of these 613 precepts so that they could be followed correctly. This was the only way to ensure that the more important of the two conflicting precepts was kept.
          The ranking or order of these 613 precepts became something of a theological Hundred Years War continuing endlessly amongst rabbinical students and their teachers. One particular Pharisee, a lawyer, launched this idea at Jesus during a break in the flow of the conversation. He was, like all the rest, trying to make Jesus look bad by forcing Him to take a position that might prove unpopular with some of His supporters.

Mat 22. 34   But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
35  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

          Jesus’ response has rightly become well known indeed.

37  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38  This is the first and great commandment.
39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

          Jesus explains that contrary to the pharisaic approach there is not a pecking order, per se. Nor was He saying that the Law only had two commands (as is so popularly and so awfully believed in American Christianity). He was saying that all the Law is ‘hung’ on the two commandments He mentioned. This implies a connection between the Law rather than a ranking of separate prescriptions and proscriptions. In other words, the Law is a living body of connected tissue rather than a stack of isolated rules. The organism that is the Law is rooted in a belief in a monotheistic God, a love for Him, and a love for other people.
          It is for this reason that James could say later in his epistle that to break one law was to break them all. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2.10) On the surface such a statement seems completely unreasonable. Yet when we view the Law as a connected organism violating it brings guilt even if it is only violated in one area.
          For example, let us say that a nefarious individual comes up to me in a dark alley. He demands my wallet and threatens me with a knife. When I am too slow to comply he slices my arm, grabs my money, and runs off. When he is later found and arrested he will be charged with stabbing me. Yes, he only stabbed me in one place. No, he did not harm my legs, my stomach, my face, etc. But in slicing my arm he injured me and thus punishment is appropriately called for.

          When we violate just one area of God’s Law we are guilty of no small misdeed, beloved. We are guilty of violating the Law, period. It is all connected. The greatest commandment is the entirety of the Law. It is viewing God’s will for our behavior as a monolith rather than a stack of Legos. And it is viewing this Law through the prism, or on the foundation of a belief in God alone combined with a heart love for Him and for the world around us.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jesus 3, Sanhedrin 0

Life of Christ 156

The rural Pennsylvania cemetery
where my daughter is buried
          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. He and His Apostles are spending the forenoon in the Temple taking on all comers. The Sanhedrin openly took a stab at Him once, but having been vanquished they have now resorted to sending out surrogates. The first of the surrogates, The Pharisees, sought to trap Jesus in a question about tribute money. Naturally, they failed miserably. Today’s story reveals the Sadducees to be the next antagonist.
          Jesus had historically tangled far oftener with the Pharisees. This is because the Sadducees were less numerous amongst the common people. The Sadducees were the party of the rich and of the politically connected, and Jesus had had limited interaction with such men thus far. However, they too have a vested interest in stopping this religious upstart as Jesus threatened all of Israel’s leading parties of the day.
          The Sadducees most well-known theological position was a rejection of the afterlife. Similar to the Samaritans, they accepted the Torah (the books of Moses) and rejected as canonical the Old Testament prophets. They also rejected the Pharisees’ Oral Torah (the ‘fence around the garden of the Torah’). This Oral Torah is what we commonly know as the Mishnah section of the Talmud. It embraced all manner of extra-biblical rules and insisted on a hyper-literal minute observance of thousands of rules. The Sadducees limited embrace of only the books of the Moses was the foundation for their rejection of the afterlife. After all, to them the afterlife was not clearly referenced in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy.
          To the Christian this is startlingly ridiculous. Heaven is spoken of often in Scripture, and together with the fact of Christ’s resurrection is a great comfort to our hearts. But the Sadducees rejected the rest of the Old Testament, Christ’s resurrection was still five days away, and the New Testament had not yet been penned.
          But to the Sadducees of Christ’s day this was an altogether reasonable proposition. This was especially true when set in contradistinction to the pharisaic approach to the afterlife. The rabbinic Pharisees had garnished the doctrine of the resurrection to a fare-thee-well. Edersheim reports they held that ‘in order to secure that all the pious of Israel should rise on the sacred soil of Palestine, there were cavities underground in which the body would roll till it reached the Holy Land, there to rise to newness of life.’ Faced with such ridiculous assertions the Sadducees held their position to be the reasonable one.
          Jesus, of course, had already proclaimed Himself to be the resurrection and the life. (John 11.25) He had raised several people from the dead including Lazarus a mere two miles away a few weeks ago. Yet the Sadducees cared nothing for this. And if they could somehow box him into a corner, verbally, and leave Him gasping for conversational air they would win points not just against Jesus but against the Pharisees as well.
          They open their attack by spinning an improbable story. 

Luke 20. 27  Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
28  Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
29  There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.
30  And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.
31  And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.
32  Last of all the woman died also.                     
33  Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.

          They had the barest shadow of support for this story since the Torah commanded a brother-in-law to marry a childless widow in order to ensure the family inheritance remained intact. (Deuteronomy 25.5-6)
          Jesus on this Tuesday morning is being displayed to us in a different light. He is hoisting His opponents on their own verbal petard time and again. He is holding nothing back. He is going for the jugular each time. He does the same here as well.
          His response goes back to the sole authority the Sadducees will permit – the Torah alone. Quoting Exodus 3, Jesus says But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22.31-32)
          His answer hinges on the grammatical tense of ‘I am.’ If Abraham were currently (in the timeframe of Exodus 3) dead God would have told Moses ‘I was the God of Abraham.’ But God did not. God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham.’ Clearly then, an Abraham dead for five centuries by Moses’ time was actually still wonderfully and vitally alive – in Heaven – which means the resurrection and the afterlife are both true. And this was provable from the Torah alone.
My daughter's grave
          All of this not only vanquished those Sadducees on that far off day in the Temple two millennia ago, but it also lends to us in our day a very real and comforting truth: everyone whom God is the God of is still alive. In other words, any human being who ever placed their belief in Jehovah alone is still very much alive – even if their body currently graces a cemetery space. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. (Luke 20.38)
          Beloved, you have buried your own loved ones as have I. But those we have buried who fell asleep in Christ are still very much alive. And there is comfort enough to last a lifetime long until we are once again re-united with them in Heaven.

           …and if you are scoring along at home it is now Jesus three, the Sanhedrin zero.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jesus 2, Sanhedrin 0

Life of Christ 155

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. Already today we have seen His interaction on the way to the Temple with the Apostles, the Greeks, and the crowd in Jerusalem. There we saw the Father encourage Him audibly. On arriving in the Temple, He begins to teach and is immediately hassled about His credentials by representatives of the Sanhedrin. He deflects that by bringing up John the Baptist and then proceeds to tell three parables that absolutely skewer the Pharisees.
          Today's story (Luke 20.20-26) follows hard on the heels of this last exchange. The Sanhedrin just openly confronted Christ and was bested in the Jews favorite sport – theological argument. Now, not wanting to risk looking that bad again they decide to send other players against Him to see if He can be damaged in the eyes of the people. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. Like a chess player who conceals one move behind another, the Sanhedrin moves into the shadows and begins to launch verbal attacks at Christ via surrogates.
          The Sanhedrin has long been angry with Jesus yet beyond privately encouraging mob violence and secretly conspiring to assassinate Him they have done little to physically harm Him. The primary thing holding them back over the last few months from a more aggressive posture against Christ was their perception that His popular support was wide and deep. Realistically, it was rather shallow, as Wednesday’s events would prove, but the Sanhedrin was not sure of this. What follows in our story today flows from this misperception. The Sanhedrin hopes to cause either His popular support to dwindle or to get Him in trouble with the Romans. If they could accomplish the former it would make Him easier to kill on religious grounds. If they could accomplish the latter the Romans just might do it for them.
          Their question to Him was downright ingenious. They ask Him if it was lawful for Rome to collect taxes from them or not. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or no? The Jewish people as a whole rejected Rome’s right to collect taxes. This was not simply because of the tax burden but because it implied they thus accepted the Roman Caesar as their legitimate king. This was highly problematic to the Pharisees, the predominant religious group in Israel, who insisted that Jehovah alone could be their king. On the other hand, the Romans were known to deal harshly with those who publicly rejected Rome’s right to rule or tax. They had recently killed Judas of Galilee for just that very reason. (Acts 5.37)
          The Pharisees were joined in their question by the Herodians, a group who advocated acquiescence to the rule of Rome. Normally they would take the opposite position to the Pharisees on political questions, and the fact that they joined in with them on this occasion added weight to the question placed before Christ. As well, we must add to this the fact that Jesus is publicly proclaiming Himself to be Israel’s messiah (which means her king as well). Now the simple question is suddenly fraught with political, popular, and criminal overtones.
          As the Sanhedrin saw it Jesus had only two possible answers from which to choose and neither one was pleasant. If He approves the payment of taxes He will alienate Himself from popular support in Israel and undermine His own claim to be the Messiah and King of Israel. On the other hand, if Jesus rejects the payment of taxes He will call down the wrath of Rome on His head for stirring up sedition. What to do?
      But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.
          Many people view His answer as a clever evasion. While it was an evasion on the surface it is not so underneath. Jesus’ admonition recognizes two distinct albeit occasionally overlapping spheres of authority. One is political and earthly while the other is religious and heavenly. In this He anticipates Paul’s later development in Romans 13. There Paul explained that civil government itself is instituted by God and that it has a legitimate role to play in life. Jesus recognized that Caesar had God-given authority to collect taxes but that this authority did not conflict with God’s kingdom or rule over the individual or society.
          His answer is breathtakingly wise. In one fell swoop He solves a continual conundrum at the intersection of contemporary Jewish theology and politics. Along the way the Sanhedrin discovers much to their chagrin that they failed in their aim. Jesus did not get Himself in trouble with Rome, nor did He lose the respect of the people. In fact, He gained respect. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.

          …and if you are scoring along at home it is now Jesus two, the Sanhedrin zero.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Wedding Feast

Life of Christ 154

It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. Today is the longest day of His or any man's life. Confrontation began in Jerusalem before He even arrived at the Temple and it will continue almost without interruption until His death on Wednesday afternoon.
          A moment ago He dispatched the Sanhedrin's attack on His credibility, and began an immediate counterattack on the Pharisees. He does this with three parables and today's post is the third of those three parables. (Matthew 22.1-10)
An outdoor court yard prepared for a Jewish wedding
       One of the great occasions in Jewish social life, as in our own, was a wedding. Typically the wedding was held in the evening. The bride would walk from her father's home to her husband's home. Torches were lit and often the happy group was accompanied by music and dancing along the way. The bride, who remained veiled, on her arrival stood with her espoused while the marriage ceremony was conducted. Following this a great feast was held.
          In His third parable of attack on the Pharisees Jesus likens the present situation to just such a wedding feast. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son. Without straining the text, it is quite obvious that the king is Jehovah and the son is Jesus Himself. You will recall that the previous parable, the Lord's vineyard, also contained a son likened to Jesus as well.
          And he sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Jesus has spent years issuing this call to Israel and they have clearly decided to reject the invitation. The Jews were interested in Jesus in a train wreck sort of way but there was in them no corporate reception of and belief in Him in their heart.
          Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
          This is incredibly harsh language, beloved. Jesus, standing in the Temple and facing down the Pharisees hours before His death, holds nothing back. Again, as with the second of these parables of attack, Jesus calmly informs Israel's religious leadership that He knows exactly what they plan to do with Him. And God will not take such a vile and hateful rejection of His Son sitting down. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Make no mistake. Jesus is hurling the term 'murderer' full in the face of the Pharisees, and telling them that God is going to burn their precious Jerusalem to the ground as a result of this murder.
          Then, as if adding insult to injury, Jesus informs Israel's religious leadership that there opportunity is gone. God will now turn, in the New Testament dispensation, to the Church. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Of course, we as the Church are not worthy either. It is all of grace. Yet at least we are receptive and believing. We have accepted His wedding invitation while the Jews have not. And what, pray tell, is the Church's great responsibility and undertaking? The evangelization of the world. We are to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the Earth. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

          Someday, perhaps this very day, the Church will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Those remaining on Earth are in for an horrendous time of great tribulation. Earth's climate will be wrecked. Substantially more than half of the entire population of the globe will die various forms of cruel deaths. Satan will take over the government publicly, demand to be worshipped, and point what is left of humanity in the direction of open warfare with God. Yet during this time of great tribulation we, as God's people raptured and assembled together in Heaven, will be experiencing the singular blessing of the marriage feast of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19.9)

          God's plan for Israel is not done. But the sad truth is she long ago rejected the call to the wedding feast and judgment fell upon her as a result. At the same time, her rejection opened up the door of opportunity for Gentiles such as you and I. Let us thank God we have heard and accepted His call to the wedding feast. And let us give ourselves fervently, compassionately, and consistently to Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lord's Vineyard

Life of Christ 153

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. Today is the longest day of His or any man's life. Confrontation began in Jerusalem before He even arrived at the Temple and it will continue almost without interruption until His death on Wednesday afternoon.
          A moment ago He dispatched the Sanhedrin's attack on His credibility (see Jesus 1, Sanhedrin 0), and began an immediate counterattack on the Pharisees. He does this with three parables and today's post is the second of those three parables. (Matthew 21.33-41)
A vineyard in Judea, 2005
       In the Torah, the Psalms, and the prophets there are numerous examples of Israel being likened to a vineyard. Jesus knows this and He knows that His enemies know it as well. Thus, when He chooses to use a vineyard as the basis for this story He knows that His hearers will understand Him to mean this parable is about Israel.
          Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. Jehovah carefully planted Israel in the land of Canaan. He then turned it over to husbandmen (the leaders of Israel).
          And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. Jesus is here referring to the many prophets and messengers Jehovah had sent unto Israel. These men, such as Jeremiah for instance, or John the Baptist more recently, were trying to get Israel to produce fruit and they were roundly rejected.
          But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. With this statement Jesus is clearly referring to Himself, and the crowd around Him knows that. They know that He claimed to be, not only Israel's Messiah, but the very Son of God Himself. He is saying here that He has been sent straight from Jehovah to a disobedient Israel in order to give her one last opportunity to straighten up.
          But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize the inheritance. You would almost think, reading that sentence, that Jesus had been privy to the private discussions of the Sanhedrin in John 11 after the resurrection of Lazarus. They were very concerned that Jesus would cause them to lose their positions as Israel's religious leadership and thus formally voted to conspire His assassination. (see One Man Should Die for the People)
          And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Jesus' death is still completely unknown to the crowd around Him in the Temple that day, but it was well known to Himself, and to the Sanhedrin. In the middle of a Temple thronging with Passover pilgrims Jesus is calmly telling the Sanhedrin that He knows they will kill Him soon.
          One of the things that is absolutely amazing about Jesus is how He conducts Himself on this, the last week of His life. He is staring death right in the face. Even worse, He is staring the agonizing separation from His Father right in the face. All the horror of hell is about to be poured out on His head. His own people are rejecting Him. And yet He has the unmitigated gall to inform His enemies repeatedly that judgment will come down upon them as a result and that He will win in the end.
Harvesting grapes in Judea, 2007

          When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season. We have already seen the appalling judgment coming to a Christ-rejecting Jerusalem and Israel. (see The Lament Over Jerusalem) The Sanhedrin did not see it. The crowd around Jesus in the Temple that day did not see it. But Jesus did, and looking right down the gun barrel, so to speak, he calmly informs His executioners that they will lose in the end.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Disobedient Son

Life of Christ 152          

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. He and His Apostles are in the Temple engaged in a furious back and forth discussion with the Sanhedrin and its lackeys. He has just scored verbal points against them when they attacked His credentials. Now Jesus goes on the offensive. He tells three stories or parables aimed smack dab at the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. (Matthew 21.45)
          The first one is found in Matthew 21.28-32:

28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30  And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31  Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.       

          Bear in mind, this is aimed at the Pharisees. According to every external measurement they were obedient to Jehovah. In fact, they prided themselves precisely on such external measurements of obedience. But as we have seen time and time again in this discussion on the life of Christ it was an empty obedience. He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. (Mark 7.6)
The Pharisees and the religious leadership of Israel were the son who outwardly professed obedience but actually did anything but. Jesus had found a more receptive audience amongst the 'sinners' then He did in the religious leadership. Those sinners, of a long time, had professed with their life a disobedience to Jehovah but upon believing in Jesus that had shifted to obedience. On the other hand, no matter how much the Pharisees professed to obey Jehovah they were actually stubbornly and rebelliously committed to kill God's only begotten Son.

…and Jesus has nothing to lose on this, the day before they kill Him. And on their home turf during their most important feast the day before their greatest 'triumph' He emphatically tells them so.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jesus 1, Sanhedrin 0

Life of Christ 151

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. He and His Apostles have no sooner arrived at the Temple then they are approached by some of the Sanhedrin. And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority? (Matthew 21.23)
          In the tyranny of the rabbinical world in which Jesus moved tradition was everything. This was because a rabbi was trained by another rabbi who was trained by another rabbi in a chain going back supposedly to Moses. A good rabbi was a cistern from which not a drop leaked. In other words, he simply held what he was taught by his mentors and tutors. Thus, everything he said was approved by an unbroken chain of authority.
          Jesus, of course, was not a good rabbi at all (in this sense). He skewered tradition. He was not just a reformer; He was a revolutionary .(see Jesus the Revolutionary) In the rabbinical system it was vital to be credentialed or ordained by some other group of rabbis. Jesus had none of this for His doctrine did not come from man but from God. He had already had to deal with this in His ministry (see A Synagogue Full of Wrath) but it rears its head again in the Temple the day before He dies.
          The Sanhedrin is furious with Him but they still feel themselves unable to move against Him in the open light of day for fear of His popularity. (Matthew 21.46) Some genius comes up with the idea of disputing Jesus' right to teach since He had plainly never been authorized or credentialed by any other rabbi. And if He cannot furnish these credentials (which, of course, He could not) they feel that the crowd will lose some of their awe of Him and this will allow the Sanhedrin more room to operate in their campaign to take His life.
          Jesus, as He so often did, brilliantly answered their question with a question. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? (Matthew 21.24-25) In other words, was John credentialed from Heaven alone or by some human rabbi?
          This puts the Sanhedrin in a box. They realize the people accepted John the Baptist as a prophet. Additionally, since he is now dead, he has all the weight of sympathy behind him as well. The Sanhedrin cannot say John had credentialed himself or the people would lose respect for the Sanhedrin. Nor can they say John was credentialed from Heaven alone for John had clearly and publicly pointed Israel toward Jesus. In other words, if John was authorized from Heaven then so was Jesus in every respect.
          The members of the Sanhedrin have no choice but to refuse to answer. This gives Jesus all the justification He needs to likewise refuse to answer their question. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21.25-27)

          Jesus 1, Sanhedrin 0.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Voice From Heaven

Life of Christ 150

          It is Tuesday. Jesus will die tomorrow. This day is so full and varied it almost belies the ability of the mind to contain it. The Gospels record what has to be almost every interaction and teaching by Christ today. Physically, between Tuesday and Wednesday there was no sleep for Christ. He will be awake, extremely busy, and under intense pressure from Tuesday morning until His death on Wednesday afternoon.
          The day opens with Jesus and the Apostles already in Jerusalem. Among the proselytes at Passover were several Greeks. These were not Jews living in Greece, but actually people of Greek ethnicity. (John 12.20-21) Having heard of Jesus, they come across one of His Apostles that morning in Jerusalem, and they ask to be taken to see Jesus.
          Philip here is faced with the same problem that would confront Peter on the tanner's rooftop in Joppa in Acts 10. He had to decide whether or not to interact with Gentiles. This very thing would become a huge issue in the amost exclusively Jewish early Church and would be dealt with at great length by Paul in his epistles. Philip does not know what to do so he takes the problem to Andrew. Together, they bring the problem to Jesus. (John 12.22)
          Jesus has the weight of His upcoming death uppermost on His mind on this Tuesday morning and it comes out in His response. He says, in essence, that the ethnicity of His followers does not matter; what matters is their response to Christ and to the Father. In other words, if they will believe on and follow the Father then the Father will accept it. (John 12.26) This is completely in keeping with the approach Christ took toward Gentiles His entire ministry and the approach the New Testament tells the Church to take.
          The conversation between Jesus and Andrew and Philip then morphs into a heartfelt prayer by Christ to the Father. I think it spun out of the incredible emotional pressure that Jesus was under. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. (John 12.27-28)
          In response, the Father audibly encourages the Son right in the middle of crowded Jerusalem. Those who were nearby thought it was an angel that spoke to Him and those that were further away thought it was thunder. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. (John 12.28)
          At this point, with a crowd now having gathered around, Jesus mentions again His soon coming death and says it will be beneficial to the people. The Jewish crowd around Him found this puzzling for they knew He claimed to be the messiah and they knew the messiah would not die. The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? (John 12.34)
          Jesus, of course, could have pointed them to His upcoming resurrection in response but He did not. Instead, He implored them to trust Him while they still had time to do so. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be children of light. (John 12.36)
          From this story I draw four lessons. First, there are no ethnicities in Christ. We have seen this repeatedly emphasized in His ministry. The first case was the healing of the centurion's servant (see Life of Christ 58) but He placed a similar emphasis on ministering to Gentiles again and again. We find it once again here just hours before His death.
          Second, the only way to produce fruit is to die. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12.24) Just like a kernel of wheat, in dying Jesus brought millions to eternal life. And, like Him, it is only in our death that we too can produce fruit. I do not mean our physical death rather I mean dying to self. There are two kinds of fruit mentioned in the New Testament: the fruit of the Spirit and the souls of men. Neither of those are produced in the life of a Christian who has not and is not crucifying the flesh. We cannot embrace and celebrate our own lives and accomplish anything for the cause of Christ.
          Third, the only way to genuinely live is to die. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12.25) I am thinking at the moment of two girls with whom I attended high school. Twenty five years later it is quite easy to see the arc of their life. Fern (not her real name) was a year younger than I and generally a rebel. She was raised in a Christian home, attended church frequently, and attended my Christian school. She had little interest, however, in following the Lord. She regularly broke the rules, on purpose, and belittled those who kept them. Rachelle (not her real name either) was a year ahead of me. She too went through a rebellious period but she eventually got her head and heart straightened out. For twenty five years Fern has lived selfishly and if you pull up her Facebook page you will find the only thing that gives meaning to her life is alcohol. For twenty five years Rachelle has given her life away, first for a number of years in China as a missionary, and now as a Christian school teacher in the South. Fern is well on her way to losing her life; Rachelle is well on her way to keeping it unto life eternal. I would much rather my daughter grow up to have Rachelle's life than to have Fern's life. I say again, the only way to genuinely live is to die.
       Fourth, the Father knows just exactly when we need encouragement. Everyone has a breaking point. When you reach yours go to the Lord in prayer and He will sustain you. (Psalm 55.22)
          The Boston Marathon this year was a very emotional experience for many people. In 2013, of course, two bombs went off at the finish line, and many people viewed finishing this year's marathon as their personal victory over terrorism. At mile twenty six, just shy of finishing, Dave Meyer of Grayslake, Illinois saw a man begin to go down in front of him. Knowing his own time was already far off his personal best Dave decided to help him. Running over to him he reached down and placed the man's arms over his shoulder and began walking him to the finish line. It was not, however, enough for the man (whose name the media never released) was at the end of his rope, and soon Dave felt like they were not going to make it. Jim Grove, of Texas, was in a similar situation with his time to Dave. As he saw Dave struggling to help this man finish he decided to help as well. He ran over and slung the man's other arm around his neck. Together, the three of them began to stumble toward the finish line. But the man's legs were totally used up, and in spite of his help he began to sink to the ground. Within moments, two other runners, Mike Johnson and Kathy Goodwin, came alongside. Together, the four of them literally carried the man to within inches of the finish line. They gently propped him back up on his feet, and let him step across the line under his own power.

          The Christian life has well and often been likened to a marathon. When you get to your breaking point you will find God waiting to meet you there. Twice on this Tuesday, the longest day of any man's life, Jesus will receive direct encouragement from the Father; once at the beginning and once at the end. I find it so precious. Keep running, beloved. Keep running. He is right beside you, and in Him you will find all the aid you require just when you need it most.