Surely Not I, Lord?

Art: Upper Room by Artist Gail Meyer

Art: Upper Room by Artist Gail Meyer

Mark 14:12-21

It is the first day of the festival of the Unleavened Bread.  The Passover lamb was being sacrificed.  Everybody in Jerusalem is making arrangement to share this special meal together.  And it is at this intimate gathering of Jesus and His followers that the Son of God drops a bombshell:  “One of you will betray me!”

In my mind:  I can almost hear the initial silence that followed; I can almost witness the shocked looks of dismay upon the faces of the 12.  Mark says they were “grieved.”  The word for this in Greek was lypein.  It is used only twice in Mark… here of the disciples and of the rich young ruler who upon choosing not to follow Jesus who went away sad (lypein).  It was a word that Mark chose to describe those who failed Jesus.

But wait!  There was only one betrayer right?  Was there only one?  We know that all of the disciples at least thought that they were capable of such an act… hence their question:  “Surely Not I?”  And in verse 27 Jesus informs them:  “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.'”

Note the word “all.”  Verse 23 says that they “all” shared the cup.  Verse 31 states that they “all” confessed their allegiance to Christ.  Verse 50 says that they “all” fled from Jesus at His arrest in the garden.

There was only one ultimate betrayer (Judas)… but by dawn “all” the disciples will betray him… if not because of greed… then due to weakness, fear or cowardice.

Often I wonder about Peter’s denials.  I think:  “How could he have done such a thing?  He saw the transfiguration, he passed out the multiplied food at the feeding of the 5,000… he walked on the water with Jesus for goodness sake!”

And yet I wonder if “in the moment” I would have fared any better than Peter or the rest.  You see their main problem was overconfidence in their faith.  Peter swept his arm around the room:  “Even if all else fail you, I will not!”  The rest made their assurances as well.  But it was all words.  In the moment of truth they all headed for the hills!

Howard Hendricks remarks:  “Peter’s problem was not insincerity.  I think Peter meant exactly what he said.  In fact, I seriously question if he was ever more sincere than he was on this occasion.  …Peter’s problem was ignorance, and that’s your problem and mine.  Whenever we say, ‘Lord, you can count on me,’ you’re about to step on a spiritual banana peel.  You’re going to sprawl in the faith.'”

No, Christ cannot count on us.  But praise God we can count on Him.  The shepherd will indeed be struck down… the sheep will be scattered… but the Good Shepherd will die in order to unite his flock again. (v.28)   Greater love has no man than this that He lay down his life for His friends.  No greater love indeed!

Easter Blessings!

Feeling the Weight of It – Extra!!!!

simon of cyreneLuke 23:26

On him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

As a pastor I try to read and study a passage from as many view points as possible.  Recently I posted “Feeling the Weight of It” regarding Simon of Cyrene‘s carrying of the cross of Jesus.  I looked at it from several angles, but as is often the case, a few weeks later, found another yet another possible preaching point.  The following is from Charles Spurgeon‘s daily devotional from Morning and Evening and this is a “pastorpresnell” wordpress extra!

Charles Spurgeon:

charles spurgeonWe see in Simon’s carrying the cross a picture of the work of the Church throughout all generations; she is the cross bearer after Jesus. Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

But let us comfort ourselves with this thought, that in our case, as in Simon’s, it is not our cross, but Christ’s cross which we carry. When you are molested for your piety; when your religion brings the trial of cruel mockings upon you, then remember it is not your cross, it is Christ’s cross; and how delightful is it to carry the cross of our Lord Jesus!

You carry the cross after him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of his blood red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. ‘Tis his cross, and he goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow him.

Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible; Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you; you do but carry the light end of the cross, Christ bore the heavier end.

And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honour. Even so the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross, and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, when it works out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Check out these related Scriptures (John 15:18-25/1 Peter 2:21-23/Philippians 1:29/Mark 10:38-40/2 Timothy 1:8-12) and have a blessed day!

Did Easter Happen to You?

From Tablet 2 1622 Corinthians 5:17

After a Maundy Thursday communion service, a pastor sat with his small child who was asking what it all meant.  The Thursday meal was described as the last meal Jesus had with His friends.  Good Friday was the day Jesus was killed.  Easter was a wonderful day, because that was the day God raised Jesus from the dead.

Then the boy asked, “Daddy, will Easter ever happen to me?”  What a question:  “Will Easter ever happen to me?”

Great question!  Let me phrase to you in this way:  “Did Easter happen to you?”  I’m not asking if you went to church last Sunday or if you consumed a chocolate bunny or went to a fancy buffet.  I’m not even asking what you did on March 31st of this year.  (2013)  I’m asking:  Have you ever experienced the resurrection that occurs when Jesus becomes the Lord of your life?  Do you have a resurrection story?

Paul says:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  We come to life in Him.

Recently came across the testimony of Nard Pugyao:  “In March of 1956 (when I was about 6), a tall, pale, white man stumbled into my home village of Dibagat in the northern jungles of the Philippine island of Luzon. The man didn’t speak our language, so our elders asked him the best they knew how, “Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to learn your language,” he said. “I’d like to write it down and then give you God’s Word in your language.”

“Who is your God?” the elders asked.

“He’s the God of Heaven and earth,” the man answered. “He’s the Creator of the universe. He created you, too.”

“Is he powerful?” the elders probed. “More powerful than the spirits that have controlled our lives from the beginning of time? Is he more powerful than our ancestors, the head-hunters?”

“Yes, he’s more powerful.”

Hopeful, we started teaching this man, Dick Roe, our language. Maybe his God could free us from the spirits.

When I was about 13, Dick had to return to the United States to raise support for his ministry. But before he went back, he translated the Gospel of Mark and gave me a copy. While he was gone, I started reading the Bible for the first time, beginning with the Easter story and continuing through chapter 16. Sitting on top of a rock, I read the Gospel of Mark in my heart language. It felt like I was actually there, seeing the characters.

But the further I read, the more distressed I felt. A mob of people came to get Jesus out of the Garden of Gethsemane. What did he do wrong? I read as fast as I could. They accused him of all kinds of false things. They mocked him, spat on him, beat him, and took him before Pilate. Then the scourge and the crown of thorns. It was excruciating to read that they forced him to carry a wooden cross and then nailed him to it.

Deep in my heart, a hatred of God swelled. I shook my fist and shouted: “I hate you, God, for being so powerless! Why should I believe in a powerless God like you?” With all my strength I threw the Gospel of Mark down to the rocks and started walking home. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t protect his own Son. Our headhunters defended us to the death. Because of them, no one could touch us. I wanted a god like that—someone who would protect me from the spirits that demanded we sacrifice our cows, chickens, pigs, and dogs. This God didn’t even save his own Son.

Suddenly, God reached down into my heart. “Nard, don’t you understand?” I heard him say. “That’s how much I love you. I gave my Son on your behalf.” For the first time, I understood grace. I understood how much God loved me.

“God, if you love me that much,” I prayed, “I want to give you my life, my heart. It’s all yours.” I went back and picked up my Gospel, brushed it off, and sat back on that rock to see what happened next. It was an incredible moment as I read that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. Nobody in all of Dibagat, nobody from among the Isnag people, had ever risen from the grave. The resurrection story changed my life.  (Nard Pugyao  (“Penetrating Power,” Decision (July-August 2006), p. 18; ©2006 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, used by permission, all rights reserved)

Don’t throw the Bible when you get to the end of the Gospel.  There is a resurrection coming.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ… and let Easter happen to you!

Feeling the Weight of It

simon of cyreneMark 15:21

21 They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

Simon was pressed into service (a Greek word commonly used of coercing slaves and animals in work).  It was an example of  Rome’s power over a subjugated people.   They could lay the flat of their sword on your shoulder and compel you to go one mile carrying their baggage.  Jesus refers to this when he teaches:  If you are compelled to walk one mile, walk two.  We call that:  “Going the extra mile.”  Not sure how far Simon had to go… but it had to be the longest mile or two he ever took.

There were two parts to the cross, the patibulum (the beam) and the stipes (the post).  The victim was to carry his own patibulum to the site of the crucifixion site.  It was a heavy weight… particularly for Jesus who was losing too much blood from his flogging and the ghastly “coronation” he endured by the soldiers.

Simon was from Cyrene which was on the north coast of Africa.  This may indicate that Simon was a man of color.  Mark includes two other names:  Alexander and Rufus (known by the readers?)  Mark doesn’t name a lot of people in his Gospel.  Here are 3 names in one verse.  We do know that Rufus was a member of the early church (Romans 16:13).  It is not much of a stretch to imagine that Simon of Cyrene might have been the first disciple to literally follow the command of Christ to “take up his cross and follow.”

How about you?  Have you taken up yours?  Are you following the suffering Jesus?

You might ask me:  How do I do that?  How will I know if I have done it?  You will know it because you will notice the increased weight.

Heard a story recently about a business man who visited the great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Afterward he went backstage to meet the actor who portrayed Jesus. As they talked, the man saw the cross that the actor carried in the play.
Before the actor had a chance to stop him, the business man handed over his camera and said, “Hey, take a picture of me carrying the cross.” And He bent over and tried in vain to lift the huge cross to his shoulders.
With sweat rolling down his face, he turned in frustration to the actor and said, “I thought it would be hollow; why is it so heavy?”
With a smile of compassion the actor answered, “If I could not feel the weight of it, it would be impossible to play the part.”

Are you like Simon?

Are you devoted, faithful, embracing of suffering, vigilant, ultimately bearing the suffering of others?  Count the cost; take up your cross; feel the weight of it all.