The Sacrificial Lamb hosts a dinner

Gracious Father, Sweet Holy Spirit, Precious Jesus, this moment of remembrance catches me in my heart every single time. It is difficult thinking about those who betray you, let alone sharing a meal with them where you pour out your heart for them. You looked them in the eye and You saw their brokenness. You knew what they would do, and so soon. What an awesome example You have set for us. What an amazing grace & love You’ve shown. Please bless us with this grace, may we do the same & may You be glorified in it. In Jesus’ holy Name, amen.

Luke 22:7-22
“7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”

If we needed an image for shocking compassion, this is certainly it. To say that the act of remembering is beneficial is a gross understatement. When I try to think through, in detail, the events of this evening, picturing myself as a silent observer, I am shamed along with the apostles & wonder if I have let my Lord down. It is easy to stand up like Peter and say that we would draw our sword & die for Him, but it proves to be much more difficult in practice. Jesus knew all that would happen with these men whom He called friends, and yet the Sacrificial Lamb hosts a dinner for them.

He gives them ownership, a part in the proceedings, and tells them to “…prepare so we may eat.” They have a task, a mission, to perform for the One they love. Their Master has asked them to do something they are capable of doing, something familiar, something they grew up experiencing, a meal they could recite by heart.

When He gives them this task, though, the elements are already present. The place is already secured. They are to do the work of preparing the meal, a hands on experience, remembering what each part means, remembering the story of Moses, the people enslaved & the bitterness of their lives. They folded napkins, prepared the bitter herbs, laid out the matzoh & lamb shank. Each part a reminder of something written deeply on their hearts, something that resonated even more deeply into their present condition & lives. The thing they wanted to see so much from the Messiah they followed: freedom & restoration.

In faith we find it so, even today. Jesus has prepared the dinner, He Himself the Sacrificial Lamb. He has tasted the bitterness, was moved in haste, broken & hidden away like the afikomen. As He moved through the dinner with those who would desert & betray Him, I have to wonder if their hearts were awakened to something new happening before their eyes. I have to hope that they saw something different this time. I wonder if the Time was bearing down on them like it was on Jesus, if there was a sense of urgency & expectancy like on that night in Egypt thousands of years before. I wonder if the air was electric that night, if pauses were pregnant with meaning & if Jesus allowed them to feel the weight of that gathering.

He brought them to His rest before suffering. He invited them in between the warp & the woof of the tapestry of time & showed them connections prophesied and planned. They were integrated forever into this holy plan, this divine coming together of God & man. This reclining would be His last rest before He suffered for them & for us. He invited them into this moment that the rest of us would have probably spent alone, withdrawn. He gave of Himself, served them, a meal with broken people before He would be broken for them.

The New Promise given by the New Sacrifice. Given so we may live. It is right & good to pause & remember this, watch & listen. You are invited into the rhythms of His grace, a seat at the table where Master serves the servant. Acceptance is found, repentance brought to mind & love is deepened at the table of Christ. Pause. Be present there & remember. He has invited you.


Taxing Questions

Father, in You is the house of Wisdom. Lord, within Your heart & mind we find the origins of all truth & knowledge. Help us to see our lack, assist us in our foolishness and give us good counsel. We are prone to twist things & we try to distort Your truth to meet our own agendas. See if there is any offensive way in us and lead us according to Your good grace & mercy. Help us to see plainly beyond this world’s distortions. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 20:19-26
19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.

21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

Sometimes I wonder how tiresome it was for Jesus to deal with these Jewish leaders & authorities. They’re obviously jealous of the attention He gets. They cannot begin to speak with real authority like He does. He constantly breaks down the walls of their sanctuary of rules, and exposes their inner thoughts and weaknesses. He draws the affection of the people, while they can only muster up loyalty through fear and misused authority.

He is everything they are not & the people see it.

So, Jesus deals with these people who should be leading the nation in a God-honoring way, but who can only seem to focus on polls and perceptions. And rather than working with Jesus to bring the hearts of the people to God, they are authoritarian aggressors, always seeking out new plots, plans and schemes. And they’re moving beyond the boundaries of discourse & debate and sliding into the realms of intrigue and isolation. They plot and scheme and send others out to try to ensnare Jesus with words & social perceptions.

They ask pointed questions meant to trap & polarize the people. They want to lay hands on Him, but are relying on these spies and unruly people to stir up trouble. They pray for mobs to rise up against Him, because they lack the skill, wisdom and courage to do so themselves. These men who are not used to being contested suddenly find themselves marginalized & they simply cannot handle it.

There is nothing of God in their attitudes. Their god is their own image, their own expectation, their own fleshly desires. They may call it G-D, but they have an idol in their own hearts. And so they use flattery, and send smooth talking saboteurs to weave a web of misdirection.

What do we do when we find ourselves faced with people who should be in authority, but who cannot wield that authority properly? Paul has an encounter with the Sanhedrin later on in Acts, and after being struck by someone at the direction of a man who turns out to be the current High Priest, Paul corrects his language after lashing out at him in return. We are not free to bully our way past human authority figures, but we can stand in defiance of them like Peter and the other Apostles had to when they were told not to speak in the Name of Jesus anymore. We must respect the office, but we follow God first and foremost.

So we do not use their tactics: false flattery & misdirection.
We do not use their motivations: being thought well of, lording over people.
We do not follow their examples: plotting & planning in order to ensnare.

Jesus does tell us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, because He knew we were going to have these encounters. He knew we would find ourselves standing in places & dealing with situations that would press our buttons and leave us desiring to play by those same twisted rules. And so He sets an example for us that shows us a better way.

These shrewd speakers start asking Jesus about what is lawful & right, & since Jesus knows their hearts and motives, He responds with plain, rightly given truth. He distinguishes between the authorities these men deal with: God & Caesar. He then speaks to the limited realm of human authority & it’s physical limitations. If Caesar wants this slip of metal with his picture on it, then let him have it. Everything belongs to God, it all has his fingerprint on it anyway. Caesar’s reign and power comes from having his image on a coin, God’s power is not so small & finite.

When I was in elementary school I was at a friend’s house, and we walked over to play at another kid’s house because he had this great swing-set in his backyard. We were all having a good time, but my friend and I were a year or so older than this kid. He wanted to twist the rules and be in charge of the games we were playing because it was his backyard & his swing-set. He started getting agitated with us, made us sit down on the edge of his play area and wait for him to come back out.

When he came out of the house, he had a full sheet of yellow legal paper in his hand & he said, “If you all want to keep playing on my playground, then you have to watch me eat this whole sheet of paper. If you don’t then you have to leave.” Now, I’m sure he thought he was coming out to impress us, and he thought we would all be wowed by his digestive prowess. But about 1/3 of the way into the sheet of paper, you could tell that his mouth was drying out & that there was no way he was going to finish.

I’m not sure what he thought this little show would accomplish, but it fell flat and we all just got up and left. He was a child & so he behaved childishly when he felt he was loosing ground on his own turf. Now, we weren’t being mean to him, we weren’t excluding him from play. But it was his yard, his stuff & he had an expectation for being in charge of everything that went on there.

Jesus deals with this attitude over and over again. He has to stop teaching and pay attention to these men who should be leading the people, but who fill their mouths with nonsense in order to maintain control. And so Jesus’ approach should be our approach. When we deal with difficult people who struggle with authority, then we look into their motives, rather than lashing right back at them. We examine the power structure they operate within & we set that understanding & worldview next to the things of God with an understanding of His authority over all mankind. And from the origins of truth, we speak simple truth. We cannot play by their rules, we cannot run by their expectations. We do not walk down convoluted paths of deception, but we speak plainly, allowing God to be our guide.

The simple answer is powerful. True authority stands up to scrutiny. Looking to the base of where aggression finds its beginnings will reveal much. Truth often silences foolishness, but when you deal with fools, their silence is not often guaranteed.

We, as Christians, should continue to examine Jesus’ response to people like this so we might gain wisdom, be slow to anger & slow to speak. We must unlearn what the world has taught us, and gain wisdom from seeking out the heart of God instead. This doesn’t come overnight, but with discipline and wisdom gained from experience. If we walk with Jesus daily, in the rhythms of His grace, & if we are patient with others and with ourselves, we will find that God provides all we need in dealing with difficult people & difficult situations.

Father, in You is the house of Wisdom. Lord, within Your heart & mind we find the origins of all truth & knowledge. Help us to see our lack, assist us in our foolishness and give us good counsel. We are prone to twist things & we try to distort Your truth to meet our own agendas. See if there is any offensive way in us and lead us according to Your good grace & mercy. Help us to see plainly beyond this world’s distortions. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Acts 10:9-16 // Open doors

“9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon. 10 Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he went into a visionary state. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four- footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”

14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and ritually unclean!”

15 Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven.”

Acts 10:9-16

Peter was just being honest & working from his undertanding of God’s expectations, and was following the Law as it was laid out from Moses, who had received it from God. He was trying to be obedient. He was trying to be good & live properly, desiring to honor God in his body. God had given the Israelite people a different diet as a part of their being ‘called out’ from the other nations. They had to wear certain things, do certain things and eat certain things as a part of their national, cultural, spiritual identity. There were certain things that a Jew just did not do, eat or partake in. These are the things that idenitifed them as belonging to God. 

So, when Peter heard, “Get up, kill and eat.” what he heard was “Defy every part of who you are, and leave behind what God has called you to be.” and so his natural response was, “No!” Again, he was trying to be who he thought God wanted him to be. There were rules and expectations, laws, statutes and decrees to follow. They were just as much a part of him as the hair on his head & the toes on his feet.

But God had a plan to open doors for them and to grow His church through them, and that meant that it was time to look beyond just their Jewish neighbors and to expand into the Gentile nations surrounding them. Cornelius had just received a vision to unlock and turn the knob on his side of the door, and now Peter was receiving the vision to unlock & turn the knob on his. God was opening doors.

Again, Peter, being a ‘good Jew’ wouldn’t have even considered going into Cornelius’ house if God hadn’t done this, it was a part of his personal wiring. But God desired for Peter to make a personal connection with Cornelius and his family and that couldn’t happen from being standoff-ish and remaining on the front step. There had to be an open door and a collision between these two cultural worlds. The distinctiveness between the world and those who followed God were not going to be on a racial line anymore, but drawn on a line of love for all and an obedience to the heart & will of God. There was going to be a called-out-ness to them, but not through diet or dress anymore. This was going to be based on the heart, and so for Peter, the one with the barriers, God had to directly address those old habits, teachings and concerns. There was noting really spiritually wrong with not eating pork, iguana or beetle meat. Those animals were not evil or corrupt. Those laws were simply a part of their separated lives, and those doors were opened now.

We have a tendency today to draw lines and close doors that God never desired to be drawn or closed. “I won’t go into that part of town.” or “I don’t associate with those kind of people.” are things that shouldn’t come out of the mouth of a Christian. The only people that we are told to disaccoiate with are those who have been taught & know God’s expectations & have instead chosen to live in defiance of Him, people who are undergoing discipline by the elders of the church. Even then, that is for the purpose of restoration and a desire for them to understand what they are missing and how they have stepped outside of HIs will. But no social group, racial group or any other human separation should keep us from sharing the Gospel with anyone walking this earth. 

If tomorrow, you meet a homosexual, gluttonous member of ISIS who is a habitual liar and gossip…they need to hear about Jesus & God’s redeeming grace through Him. Even if that person represents everything that you cannot stand, whatever their combination of sins may be, there cannot be a locked door in the way that you have set up. God desires that they would have their hearts changed and that they would follow Him. He deisres to give them His mercy and grace and to offer them forgiveness…and He wants to communcate that through you and through me. If we are going to GoLove people, this cannot just be a mental acknowledgement that this needs to be done, but we must take it to heart and live it out personally. God has opened the doors for the Gospel message to spread to anyone and everyone, it is not for us to close them because we are uncomfortable. We must trust in His heart and do as He says. We cannot refuse for someone else what we have been afforded in Christ. That is not our desicion to make. The doors are open. W emust scatter seed and live in obedience to out Master’s call. 


Psalm 89:14-19 // Repentance, discipline and life

“14 Return, God of Hosts.
Look down from heaven and see;
take care of this vine,
15 the root Your right hand has planted,
the shoot that You made strong for Yourself.
16 It was cut down and burned up;
they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
17 Let Your hand be with the man at Your right hand,
with the son of man
You have made strong for Yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from You;
revive us, and we will call on Your name.
19 Restore us, Yahweh, the God of Hosts;
look on us with favor, and we will be saved.”
Psalm 89:14-19

I must be honest with myself, and I cannot allow any delusion or illusion of personal piety cloud my vision. It is so easy to look at culture and point fingers, just like it is easy to point out the sin of my neighbor. But if I am going to live a life that is ‘square’ with God, a life that is lived in daily repentance, then I cannot afford to be blinded by pride or apathy.

Grace does not provide a blank check to live as I please. God will not refrain from disciplining me just because I claim to love Him. No. As a father disciplines his chiild, because he loves them, God will discipline me when I stray from His will and desire so I can listen to my own flesh. He loves me too much to just let me run my own path to destruction. It is then up to me to choose to listen to the rebuke, seeking His path and accepting His correction, or to ignore it and accept damnation at my own hands.

We see this exchange payed out over and over again with Israel & Judah in the Old Testament. God has given His instruction. The people follow it for a time and then choose their own path. God, in His rich love and justice, draws their hearts back to Him, sometimes through a word from a prophet, sometimes through the sword of an enemy. But He will do His part. Sometimes people respond immediately, as David did when he was confronted by Nathan, sometimes it takes 70 years of exile to turn the hearts of the people back to Him.

However God chooses to get our attention, we must accept it, being thankful for His loving direction and correction. We can hardly GoLove others in the Name of Christ without talking to them about discipline and obedience. They move hand in hand with discipleship, and with the life we receive in Christ. To expect less would be to expect something less than love
from God, which is something He would never give on the pathway of salvation. His love is whole, and cannot be anything but whole. His justice is whole, and likewise cannot be anything but whole. And so His discipline, thankfully, runs the same way. We will respond. It is simply a question of how.

look at me! look at me! i’m pious!

great, good for you. you can worship God, like you were created to do, just like the rest of us. you are fulfilling one of the basic purposes you were created for to worship & serve the Creator-King of the universe. when we robotically fulfill our purpose in God, expectig attention from it, there is no other reward to be had beyond that recognition. you serve God, and people praise you for it, or say ‘wow. what a righteous dude.’ then you are receiving your reward. serving God is not about being seen, and we shouldn’t expect to be lauded when we do.

in mark 2, some disciples of john and of the pharisees are fasting. we know this because they made it obvious, and told people. i think the only jewish holiday that requires a fast is the day of atonement, so they could have been observing that holiday. it would explain why both camps (unrelated) are fasting and asking questions about it, like it was expected of Jesus’ disciples to do the same thing.

i totally understand having to make yourself do something for God in order to learn the discipline and joy of doing it. that’s how i got to enjoy my morning reading and devotional time. i wasn’t so pious that i was born doing it…i had to make myself get out of bed and do it. and so today, i enjoy doing it, and miss it when i miss it. so, these 2 groups may have been engaged in a holiday based discipline, and wondering why Jesus’ disciples weren’t doing what was expected. it is also entirely possible that they were just fasting to prepare for the Sabbath, and there was no special call to do so beyond the example of their rabbis.

whatever the motivation for the fast, one of the basic principles of fasting is to keep it quiet. people are not supposed to know you are fasting, and if you announce it to the whole world, then people are going to question your motives. i know people who have done extended fasting, and after a while, you end up having to tell people what you are doing. you can make up reasons for not eating, or say that you aren’t interested, but eventually it comes out. and that’s okay. if you are on an extended fast, then more than likely, God called you to it, and so there may be a lesson to learn for those around you.

but we have go to be careful in our service to God, that it remains as service to God and not as a show for men.

listen, we do not serve God to gain the praise of men. we do not serve God in order for people to say how great or pious or godly we are…goodness, no. if we are, then we have missed the mark entirely. if we serve at church to be seen, if we help our neighbor in order to hear a “thank-you,” if we give money to the poor in order for someone else to see our charity, then woe to us.

if chorazin and bethesda were going to be in trouble for not turning to God because they saw Him at work in Jesus, then we will also be in trouble. because we are at least emulating Jesus through what we have seen, but our hearts are still focused inwardly rather than on God, just as theirs were. to see God at work, to experience His grace and mercy and power first hand, but maintain a cold, calloused heart that seeks for itself…there is no hope or reward there. there is no reconciliation for the heart that seeks it’s own glory, or ignores the call of God.

and so, when we serve, we must know that we are indeed fulfilling who and what God created us to be, but in that, we must understand that was our role to begin with. our righteousness is counted as a mass of bio-hazard waste in the light of God’s own righteousness. what we do in God is who we are supposed to be in the first place. a tree is not rewarded for bearing leaves. a fish is not praised because it swims. they are simply being what God made them to be. God gets the glory for the tree and the fish, and for our service as well.

when we focus the attention on ourselves, we rob God of the praise that is due Him.

Father, please forgive my arrogance, that anyone should ever praise me for my service. help me to understand better just what it means to serve You wholeheartedly. help me to make sure that i hide behind You, and that You receive all the glory and praise. please spur me to greater service in You, so that others will see your hand at work, and do the same…giving You the glory all the time through their actions and words. thank-You for the opportunities to serve daily, and for trusting us with those duties for You. please forgive me when i miss the mark.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.