Reliable Information From a Completely Unreliable Source

You would assume that the writers of the Gospels would have taken great pains to insure that their sources were completely reliable. So why did John say THIS? “After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene was distraught because she thought someone had taken the body. John 20:14 says, “She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman”, he said, “Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for?” Thinking that it was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

reliable

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:14-18, NIV)

I love the honesty of this story, because it captures the full range of Mary’s emotions and confusion. A work of fiction would probably not have included details like her initial failure to recognize Jesus, and the way she thought at first that he was the gardener. If John had been making it up, he would have used a more reliable and acceptable source, and there were better literary devices he could have used to create drama and impact. After all, the story is not about Mary’s confusion but about Jesus’ resurrection!

Any normal, self-respecting Hebrew literary work from this time would not have made a mere woman such a central character in this discovery—women were not considered legal witnesses, and did not have social standing that justified her inclusion in this event. No serious Jewish reader would accept a woman’s testimony as reliable in that time and place. John actually risks all credibility by telling the truth, so why didn’t he just make up a better version of the story?

Replace Mary with a man whose testimony would be considered reliable, tweak the events just a bit, keep the central part about the resurrection, and boom! You’ve got yourself some front page news. Since he goes out on a limb by including Mary, and since a lie here would have served him better than the truth, the logical conclusion is that this has to be TRUE. If it was an attempt to convince others of the plausibility of Jesus’ resurrection, John went about it all wrong. He should have had someone important like Peter or James meet the risen Lord first, and he should have made it seamlessly perfect. He didn’t need to include details about Mary’s initial conversation with the supposed gardener. But Mary’s testimony is valuable because it IS true, and it has significance because it is told so simply and so accurately. John’s gospel is noteworthy because he ignores social convention. He tells the truth when a lie would have been easier. Probably a good practice for all of us.

John, the scholars tell me that your gospel might be phony!
No Hebrew writer would have used a woman’s testimony.
A woman couldn’t offer proof in matters of the law,
So why on earth did you record the things that Mary saw?
If you had used a man to see the proof, and to receive it,
The temple elders might have bought that story, and believed it!
Instead, you told the truth when falsehood might have served you better:
Since Mary saw the Lord, you wrote the truth down to the letter,
Insuring that the Word of God would not let us forget her!
Mary made the statement that just could not be ignored;
With trembling lips she told the others: “I have seen the Lord!”

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The Waiter Who left His Station to Preach a Powerful Sermon

Stephen was a man in the early church who was selected to wait on tables in Acts 6. I’m sure he must have been a pretty good waiter, making sure the food was evenly distributed and all; but apparently he was a pretty good preacher, too…

In an earlier post I mentioned that Stephen used the phrase “the Son of Man” in his sermon in Acts 7:56: “Look”, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen, one of seven men with Greek names chosen to be a waiter at meals for the early church, was not an Apostle (one who saw Jesus in the flesh), although he did miraculous things (Acts 6:8) and contended with the wisdom of the Spirit (6:10).

With all of those gifts and attributes, I imagine Stephen might have been expected to rise to prominence in the early church, perhaps as a leader or preacher. He had good character and was obviously prepared to lead. Instead, Luke tells us that when an argument broke out about portions being given to the Greek widows at the covered dish supper, the church chose seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) to wait on tables and hand out the food.

For a guy chosen to be a mere waiter, Stephen had a fairly comprehensive knowledge of both Jewish history and the Scriptures, and preached a pretty effective sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7. He had to know that his preaching would stir up a hornet’s nest, but he was bold and fearless.

waiter

(His actions remind me of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in 1956 while reaching out to the Auca Indians… Jim said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Like Stephen, Jim was a bold preacher whose faith put him in harm’s way.) Stephen, who just moments before was a waiter, preached such a powerful sermon that the authorities decided to shut him down. The Sanhedrin condemned him and dragged him out to be stoned, and he became the first martyr in Jerusalem. (And oh yeah, his stoning was approved by a guy named Saul, who probably stood by and heard that sermon and maybe even had it bear unexpected fruit in his life just a little ways down the road…)

Here are a couple of important things about Stephen: he was prepared for this moment long before this moment happened. He was well-versed in God’s word and gave a ready answer to those who opposed him. He preached a powerful sermon, giving comprehensive context about who Jesus was and how he fit into Hebrew history. In the face of death he continued to proclaim his beliefs; he even died while forgiving those who were casting stones to kill him.

So how do we normal folks apply Stephen’s experience in our lives? I think he makes a pretty strong argument that seeing Jesus “in the flesh” is not necessary to have faith or to experience life-changing belief in Jesus. We can do that too. Also, we should realize that it’s not what we DO or how we serve that gives us value. You can be a waitress or a salesman or a sanitary engineer, but if you know Jesus and God’s word, you can contend with wisdom, and you can live a changed life. It may be a truism, but someone whose Bible is falling apart usually has a life that isn’t… A daily walk with God is the best preparation for the big moments in life—so when your moment comes, be ready!

Stephen was a man who seemed a lot like me and you;
He served, and waited tables, and he probably bussed them, too!
He did his job, just serving bread, or bringing food to eat–
And Stephen probably thought his life was pretty much complete;!
He must have studied Scriptures when he wasn’t waiting tables,
Since when he started preaching, it is clear that he was able!
He must have had a walk with God that happened every day,
Since when his moment came he knew exactly what to say!
So even if you’re doing hair, or slinging some spaghetti,
Just have a daily walk with God that’s regular and steady,
And when your moment comes to serve –like Stephen– you’ll be ready!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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The Miserable Failure who Became Amazingly Successful

There was once a miserable failure who turned into a smashing success. You may know some of this story, but every now and then it’s good to remember all of it.
Peter’s testimony wasn’t limited to a few bold proclamations made in Jesus’ presence, such as the one we discussed yesterday; he continued to testify later in his life. His later statements are made all the more remarkable because of what happened the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested and handed over to be tried.

After making bold predictions of steadfast loyalty, Peter denied even knowing Jesus during Christ’s trial at Caiaphas’ house, and left there a broken man, as described in Matthew 26:75. The Bible says he was so ashamed of himself that he “wept bitterly.” (I guess betraying your best friend can make you do that…). I called Peter a “miserable failure” because I cannot imagine that he ever felt more worthless than he did after turning his back on his best friend…

failure

Following this devastating personal failure, he was restored by the resurrection and encouragement of Jesus, recorded in John 21. If Jesus had not appeared to Peter after the resurrection, who knows where Peter’s story would have gone? In fact, if there had been no resurrection, Peter would have lived the rest of his life in remorse and failure… The broken, cowardly fisherman might not have ever appeared in public again, and he would have been remembered as the disciple who let Jesus down.

Apparently, though, he took courage from Jesus after the resurrection by the Sea of Galilee, and took his place again as a leader among the disciples. So it was he who stood up in Jerusalem to deliver the first sermon at Pentecost, and said this about the man he had denied knowing: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know… God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:22, 32, NIV)

Peter the failure became Peter the brave! Peter, who betrayed his best friend and wept bitterly, became Peter the powerful witness. The coward became the communicator! Peter the professional fisherman became Peter the prophet. He was not depending on his own merit to stand up and preach, he was depending on the facts about Jesus. While he lost confidence about himself, he gained confidence in Christ.

Perhaps you have had some failure regarding being loyal to Jesus; the Lord knows I have. In point of fact, I’ve made all of my biggest mistakes in life as a Christian. Like Peter, I have made bold promises about my commitment and then failed, even to the point of weeping bitterly. Perhaps you have experienced that too…

But that doesn’t have to be the end of our story. Just like Peter, we can be reclaimed and restored. The amazing thing about giving testimony is that it doesn’t depend on our success or worthiness, or what we’ve accomplished. A testimony is just giving the facts. It depends on what Jesus did, and the confidence we can have in HIM. If there is ANY difference in your life because you know Jesus, then speak up! It’ll preach.

Peter failed like all the rest, confronted with his greatest test:
In spite of his pretentious boast, he failed the man he loved the most.
His courage slept, his faith was swept, his loyal promise was not kept,
And after he was so inept–a broken man– he went and wept.
That should have been the final act, but this is a historical fact:
Peter’s life was somehow changed, and everything was rearranged!
The risen Lord said, “Do not weep. It’s time for you to feed my sheep.”
So Peter stood and boldly preached, and folks from everywhere were reached;
Though Peter’s life had been a mess, he was redeemed, and found success!
So if you ever fell apart, the Lord can help you make a start:
He has a plan for every heart where even failures play a part!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Son of Man: Who Is He? And who do You say that He Is?

Jesus often referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Why?
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16, NIV)

This passage is perhaps better known for Jesus’ answer to Peter’s declaration, in which he told Peter he would receive the “keys to the kingdom” because of his testimony. That statement has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as being their charter and establishing Peter as the original leader for the church in Rome. You could therefore make the case that Peter’s simple declaration changed all of history.

son

But to me, the substance of Peter’s confession is even more intriguing than the result. The title “Son of Man” was a phrase that had profound prophetic implications in the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was well-known to any Jewish person looking for the Messiah. “Son of Man” is used by the prophet Ezekiel 93 times, emphasizing his humanity in the presence of God’s revelation. It is probably best known from its use as a Messianic reference in Daniel 7:13-14: “I looked, and there was before me one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The teachers in Jesus’ day had varying opinions about who this prophetic figure represented. Some thought he was one of the prophets; some thought maybe it was John the Baptist. Jesus often used this title to refer to himself (it appears 81 times in the gospels), and it was never attributed to anyone but him in the gospels. Stephen used it to describe who he saw in heaven in Acts 7:56. Most every Hebrew churchgoer had some knowledge of the phrase, and the disciples’ mixed response about it in verse 13 is probably typical of the different opinions people had about who the Son of Man might be. Peter’s bold declaration was a leap of faith, and connected the dots between Daniel’s prophetic vision and the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. It’s also interesting that it is Jesus’ most common way of referring to himself: it encompasses his humanity as a son of Adam (which was proclaimed in Luke’s genealogy), but it also refers to his divinity as the Son of God. It is a title expressing humility because he is fully human, but at the same time it refers to one whose Kingdom will never be destroyed. It is an explicit reference that springs from Old Testament prophecy about Israel, eschatology (the last days), and the Messiah, and Peter’s testimony shows that he connected the dots, and he gets it. Have YOU? Do YOU?

Of all the titles, “Son of Man” is one connected to God’s plan,
In ancient prophecies foretold in Scriptures from the days of old…
It speaks of Jesus eloquently, divinity and humanity combined in personality
Expressing his authority for all of human history extending through eternity!
The complex span of God’s redemptive plan, the title of the only one who can
Be fully God and somehow fully man: the only Son of God, the Son of Man!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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The Roman Centurion at the Cross: Same Job, Different Day

Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54 NASB)

This is one of the most unsolicited and surprising eyewitness testimonies to Jesus. A typical Roman centurion: 1) was not Jewish, so he didn’t know about any of the ancient prophecies and wasn’t looking for a deliverer from Rome; 2) was probably accustomed to crucifixions as part of his job, so he should have been harder to impress; 3) was a military commander based on merit, so they usually rose through the ranks and were experienced, competent men; 4) had usually been on campaigns (and was probably here) far away from home, so his level of worldly understanding was probably greater than the average villager’s.

This centurion had probably not personally seen Jesus’ miracles or heard him teach. (Why would he? He had been doing his job, occupying Judea, not following Rabbis around…) In all likelihood the only exposure he ever had to the Son of God was as a battered, humiliated criminal who was facing his last hours on earth.

He was not steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures or looking for a Messiah, and of all the people Jesus encountered he perhaps would have known the least about Jesus’ background, reputation, and wisdom. It wasn’t in his job description to know. He never sat in the temple courts and listened to this Rabbi, and he never saw him turn water into wine or calm the wind and the waves…

It’s likely, though, that while doing his job he HAD seen other crucifixions: messy, drawn-out, boring events with the same inevitable outcome, where the soldiers were so bored with death that they whiled away the time gambling for the criminals’ meager possessions… Yet THIS crucifixion was different. This crucifixion challenged the centurion’s view of the world, and made him look at Jesus differently as well. It may have been the earthquake and the upheaval surrounding Jesus’ death that changed his perspective, but I think it was more than that.

centurion

Perhaps it was the dignity that Christ carried with him to the cross; perhaps it was the things Jesus said to the criminals who were being crucified alongside him; or maybe it was the fact that he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Whatever it was, the Roman centurion went from seeing Jesus as a common Jewish criminal to seeing him as the Son of God. Think about those days in Jerusalem, with all the different observers of the events surrounding Jesus’ death, along with all of the different players that participated in the crucifixion, not knowing it was an event that signaled the end of an empire and the beginning of a kingdom. Surely the punishment of this rabbi from Galilee was something they remembered the rest of their days… When you look at the crucifixion, what do you see?

The Roman soldier watched the prisoners die;
This was just a job he had to do.
He listened and he heard a prisoner cry,
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
He turned to look at Jesus as he died,
And saw forgiveness written on his face;
He knew he’d never be the same inside,
Since he encountered Jesus face to face…

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Give me what I Deserve! But Are you sure that’s What you REALLY Want?

Do you Really want What You Deserve? Stop and think about that before you answer too quickly…
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NIV)

deserve

The “thief on the cross” is perhaps the last eyewitness to talk to Jesus before his death. There is a little semantic disagreement about the two thieves’ crime in the Gospels, since Matthew calls the two men crucified with Jesus “robbers” and Luke calls them “criminals”. Most scholars simply agree that they had apparently committed a crime worthy of capital punishment, and this criminal in particular supports that because he says to the other: “we are getting what our deeds deserve.”

Here are a couple of observations about this unknown eyewitness: 1) he had a realistic view of his own situation, even saying that he was getting what he deserved. Tell me, what would the outcome be like if each of us got what we deserve? What if you were judged TODAY based on what you deserve? Do you have any selfishness, anger or pride? Any secret sins or prejudices? People today would try to shift the blame, or put it on their upbringing, but he was accountable for his actions without pointing fingers or making excuses.

2) He saw something in Jesus that impressed him so much that he was convinced of His righteousness.

3) He called Jesus by name.

4) He saw Jesus as a future king, and asked to be included in his future kingdom.

Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. This is perhaps the most obvious explanation of Grace in the entire Bible. There is no doubt in my mind that this criminal was forgiven for his crimes, and redeemed from sin’s marketplace into God’s kingdom.

So what are the dynamics behind this criminal’s redemption? He could not point to a life of good deeds. If good works were required to make it to paradise, then this conversation could NOT have happened. He came to Christ “just as I am”. He had faith in who Jesus was, and acknowledged him as king. He was given assurance that he would see Jesus in paradise that very day.
Here’s the deal: NOTHING about that has changed in over 2,000 years: none of us is good enough to earn our way into heaven; each of us stands condemned for what we’ve done; but if we come to Jesus in simple faith and ask him to be king, we will be with him in paradise. No matter who you are or where you stand today, I hope to see you there!

Do you really have the nerve to ask for what you just deserve?
Think of it before you start: what really lurks within your heart?
Are you righteous? Are you sure
That what’s within your heart is pure?
Where final justice is concerned,
I will not ask for what I’ve earned!
Just like the thief on Calvary,
I’ll ask: Lord, Please remember me.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Criminals in the Kingdom provide Hope for the Rest of Us

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified between two criminals. They were two different men with different attitudes, and two different outcomes. Their story leads me to one conclusion: someday, there will be Criminals in the Kingdom of God.

criminals

“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NASB)

This is another snapshot of an eyewitness report about Jesus, from another unlikely place. After he was unjustly tried and condemned, Jesus was taken to Golgotha, where he was crucified between two other men, both criminals who apparently had qualified for capital punishment. (Matthew calls them “robbers” but since theft did not warrant such a severe penalty, scholars say they must have been insurrectionists or repeat offenders. Luke calls them “criminals”.)

One of them taunted him skeptically and challenged him to save them from crucifixion, while the other observed his behavior and declared that Jesus was guiltless. Three crosses: one man in the middle, two opposite opinions on either side. It’s a telling reminder that two people can see the exact same thing and disagree about what it means. One criminal looked at Jesus and exercised skepticism, demanding proof and instant gratification: “Save yourself and us!” The other exercised faith and saw Jesus as a king: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”

Hmmm… I wonder where those two guys are today. Come to think of it, where are YOU are today? Are you skeptical? Do you need instant gratification? Do you sometimes look at how difficult your circumstances are and shake your fist at God? Or do you say, “Lord, remember me”? No matter how tough things get, don’t lose faith. The King established his kingdom, and he has promised us a place in it. Therefore, remember Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” As one hopeful criminal to another, I’ll see you in the Kingdom someday!

When Christ was being crucified,
There were two thieves on either side.
One mocked him, but the other cried,
“Remember me in Paradise!”
Jesus heard his dying plea
While paying for his penalty,
And told him, “Son, you soon will be
In paradise today with me.”
If into heaven he was let–
A sinful man with much regret–
Because the King forgave his debt,
Then perhaps we’ll make it to heaven yet!
The only way to heaven is to bring
Our sin before the gracious, loving King.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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A Sentence that wasn’t a Sentence: Pilate’s Backhanded Compliment to Jesus

One of the most unusual testimonies about who Jesus was is expressed in a short sentence that wasn’t a sentence: “I find no fault in this man.” Consider the reactions of Pontius Pilate and his wife:
“While he [Pilate] was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19 NASB)
So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:3-4 NASB)

sentence

Not all of the testimony in Jesus’ favor came from friends, or people he healed… You’d expect those folks to say that Jesus was somebody special, but why would someone from outside this inner circle say good things about him? These two Romans, who had no real personal concern about Jewish claims or religious arguments, encountered Jesus and evaluated him based on face value.

Pontius Pilate’s wife called Jesus a “righteous man”, and Pilate himself found no fault in him. Instead of finding an arrogant upstart or a shrewd political operator, Pilate found a humble, quiet man who refused to pontificate or even dispute the scurrilous claims against him. Jesus’ simple affirmation of the truth and his quiet dignity unsettled Pilate so much that he washed his hands of Jesus’ blood in front of everyone. Ironic that he wanted no part of Jesus’ death, but still sent him to the cross…

Here at the end of Jesus’ kangaroo court trial, Pilate uttered a sentence without ever actually pronouncing a sentence on the defendant. I’ve often wondered if, years later, retired and sitting on his porch in Italy, Pilate thought about Jesus and reflected about the things he said. “My kingdom is not of this world.” “I bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” “You have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above…” (John 18:36, 37; 19:11)

Did his wife ever say, “I told you so! I told you not to have anything to do with that rabbi!”? Did he ever experience anxiety over the role he played in sending Jesus to his death? He encountered the Son of God face to face and then still became culpable in his crucifixion. Can you imagine? But if you stop and think about it, isn’t that what many do today? Technically, isn’t that what we ALL have done? Since Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for sin, doesn’t that mean that all of us sinners participated in sending him to the cross? Don’t end up retired somewhere thinking, “Wow, I knew there was something different about Jesus. I should have treated him a little differently.” You’ll regret it.

In an assignment far from home, caught between the Jews and Rome,
As politics and eternity swirled
in events that surely changed his world,
Pontius Pilate tried to choose, when any way he went, he’d lose…
Pilate tried to wash his hands of the Jewish King, this innocent man.
Events began he couldn’t halt, and so he said, “I find no fault!”
He knew the sentence wasn’t fair, but left his sentence hanging there
To add to Christ’s validity, recorded for posterity,
And echoed through eternity…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Curiosity Killed the Cat. Be Careful that it Doesn’t Have the Same Effect on You

Because of their curiosity about who Jesus was, large crowds followed him.

curiosity

When he challenged them to make a commitment, their curiosity wasn’t enough to keep them around. John pointed this out in Chapter 6: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69 NIV)

Jesus had just fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and many took it as a sign that he was the Messiah. Curiosity-seekers hung around hoping for another free meal, so Jesus challenged all of them by teaching about the bread come down from heaven, and compared himself to manna—God’s miraculous provision for Israel in the wilderness. Each time they questioned him, he turned the conversation up a notch. He wasn’t there to satisfy their curiosity, He was on a mission. If you read through John 6, you can see the progression; when they asked Jesus how he got there, he challenged their motives for seeking him. When they asked him to show them a sign, Jesus claimed to be the bread come down from heaven.

curiosity

When they murmured among themselves, He said that he had come to be a sacrifice, and that salvation was only possible by partaking of his body and blood. To the Hebrew mind and sensibilities, this concept was forbidden and revolting, akin to cannibalism at best and heresy at worst. As Jesus began to teach more explicitly about who he was, many of his followers took offense. This wasn’t the kind of bread they were looking for! The curiosity seekers left, which was perhaps to be expected, but so did a number of disciples, people who were more familiar with Jesus and closer to his inner circle.

After they left, he turned to the twelve and offered them a chance to leave as well. At that point, they had a choice; they could move on, or they could move beyond curiosity to commitment. Peter’s somewhat bold personal testimony about Jesus is important: first, it indicated his belief that this man, who he saw and heard every day, and with whom he ate and lived, was indeed not just a carpenter from Galilee. Peter called him “the Holy One of God.” To me, that’s very explicit evidence from an eyewitness about who Jesus was.

Second, it is the statement that shows why a group of fishermen, some ordinary citizens and a tax collector left all they had to become transformed into men whose dogged faith would one day spread like wildfire, toppling the existing world order and replacing it with mere Christianity.
You can ignore the evidence and forget all about Jesus, if you want to. But to whom shall you go?

Sometimes curiosity can lead us all astray,
While sometimes its attractions simply lead us all away.
Be careful that your constant search for instant gratification
Does not preclude your taking part in your beatification…
If you look hard at what he did, I’m sure that you will see
That Jesus was much greater than a curiosity…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Gratitude: Is It Something you Expect? Is It Something You HAVE?

Why do some people show gratitude, while others don’t?
“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood in the distance and cried out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them he said, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12-16, NIV) Ten lepers, who were outcast and marginalized men who could not mix with healthy people, were out on the outskirts of a village.

gratitude

They asked Jesus for mercy, and he gave them instructions that would both heal them and prepare them for reentry into everyday life. Once the priests saw they were free from leprosy, they could once again mingle with friends and family, hug their kids, and have a chance to live normal lives.

Doctor Luke points out that only the unclean and socially unacceptable Samaritan gave credit to God for his healing, while nine other men went on their way, probably too excited about going back to society to stop and say thank you. It may be that they felt entitled somehow, finally getting what they deserved after years of presumable injustice. It’s surprising that there wasn’t more gratitude expressed, but people can be a little self-absorbed…

Two things here: Not everyone who meets Jesus is grateful, even when they experience healing because of Him. Sometimes we get so busy living our lives or even going to church that we forget how much we have to be grateful for. (How about this: DON’T FORGET! Have an attitude of gratitude!)

Secondly, some of the people you help along the way will not thank you for it. Jesus healed all ten, even though he was aware of their heart attitudes before he acted. Gratitude doesn’t always manifest itself the way we think it should, but remember: we shouldn’t do good so that someone says, “Thank you”.

Our motivation for helping others is often wrong. We do good things in order to receive recognition, or to feel good about ourselves. Paul said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Like Paul, we should perform acts of kindness for the Lord’s sake, not for men’s approval. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he taught that our devotion to God should not be a matter of public pride, but something best kept between Him and us. Matthew 6:4, 6 and 18 all point to the same outcome: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Acts of kindness should be done for our Father with an expectation of gratitude, or regard for human response. Go out and commit some today.

People are amazing. Sometimes, helping them exposes
That some will offer thanks, while others just turn up their noses…
Some will smile with thankfulness that bubbles up inside,
While others turn aside from their entitlement, or pride.
I pray that I may never be the one with such an attitude–
For health, for all I see, Lord, help me worship you with gratitude!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread