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!

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Let Me Be the Donkey!

Donkey and Palm BranchesMark 11:1-11

All three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) make the point that the donkey Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem was one upon which “no one had ridden” before.  Now I’ve never broken in such an animal before… but I have heard that sitting upon a donkey or horse that has never taken a rider can be “quite the experience.”   One would quickly find themselves launched into the air… praying gravity is kind in its choice of your landing spot. And yet with Jesus, this colt of a donkey upon which He rides is quiet, obedient, and responses easily to His commands.   Very un-donkey-like if you ask me!  It displays the nobility of a majestic white steed without any of the pride. There were a lot of reactions to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that day:

The Crowds:  They spread their cloaks in the road, and shouted “Hosanna!”

The Disciples:  John 12:16 says indicates that they were puzzled by the whole spectacle.

The Curious:   John 12:18 says that many went out to get a look at Jesus.

The Pharisees:   They were tearing their hair out!  They cried:  “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19)

There seems to be (besides Jesus) only one person calm in this entire account.  Serving in a steadfast and gentile manner is the donkey. There have been times in which I have read this passage and pictured myself in the crowd with the palm branches.   My hosanna ringing louder than my neighbors!  But this is the same crowd that would turn on Jesus at the end of the week.  I certainly don’t want to be like them. I don’t want be dumbstruck like the disciples or a curiosity seeker like others that day or be stubborn and angry like the Pharisees… so if I have to put myself in the story.  Let me be the donkey.  He is the model of Christian servant-hood and leadership here. We could learn a lot from this donkey.

As pastors and a Christian leaders it is imperative that we do.  In an essay entitled “Becoming a Leader of No Reputation,” Scott Rodin wrote of his convictions about leadership after serving for several years as a seminary president: If I could put one Bible verse on the desk of every pastor and every Christian leader in the world, it would be this, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’ (1 John 1:8) As Christian leaders we must be engaged in a constant process of self-evaluation and repentance. It is so easy for us to be tempted in a variety of directions, and when we stray, we impact our entire ministry. Good leaders undertake their work with a deep humility and a keen awareness of their own weakness and shortcomings.  (Quoted by Crawford Loritts, Jr. in Leadership as Identity, p. 57.)

As Christian leaders, Pastors, Elders, Deacons, etc. bear a tremendous load.  And they are called to bear it with dignity and grace.  They must also be steadfast and yet not falter… never losing sight of their goal and mission. And added to all these things… humility is paramount!

Corrie ten Boom was once asked how she was able to maintain her humility after becoming such a sought after speaker.  Her reply was, “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of the donkey that any of that was for him?  If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides… I will give Him all the praise and all the honor.”

Amen to that!

Blessings!

The Creative Companion

finger crossActs 15:40-41

40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Quick:  Do a friend count?  How many close friendship can you name in 5 minutes?  Guys, your wife doesn’t count no matter how close the two of you might be.  I mean companions that you don’t share a breakfast table with.  As the old saying goes:  “…someone when you make a fool of yourself doesn’t think you’ve done a permanent job.”  Someone that sharpens you and makes you a better you.

Paul had that in Silas.  What do we know about him?

We learn from earlier in chapter 15, that Silas was one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church that delivered the compromise at the recent counsel held there.  He is called “a prophet (v. 32).  We learn later that Silas is a Roman citizen (which would aide Paul in his travels) and in the book of 1 Peter that he served as an amanuensis (in other words… took dictation) for Peter.  1 Peter is some of the finest Greek in the New Testament… which meant Silas was skilled in the Greek language.  Silas is the obvious choice of a traveling companion for Paul

He’s experienced.  He’s talented.  He’s like-minded.

Now we all need people like Barnabus in our lives… mentors that call us out when we are wrong.  But we also need someone like Silas, one who comes along side us to laugh with us, cry with us, share a night in jail with us (see Acts chapter 16)… I’m talking about a Christian friend that shares life with you.  Do you have one for your journey?  Can someone call you such a friend?

A recent sad statistic I read was that 70% of pastors say they have no close friend.  These are our leaders… that provide direction, comfort and protection for the flock.  And they are… lonely.  And they are… complacent.  They have no one to sharpen then…  encourage them… strengthen them.

So how did you do on the pop quiz earlier?  Did you come up empty?  I believe God is calling us to deepen our relationships.  Recently my wife Janine read a Facebook post from a friend in another state.  She was excited about her church and put it this way:  “I am  so happy that I get to grow old with these people.”  Wow!   Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  That is a call to a “can’t wait to grow old with” kind of love.

Seek to get to know someone today.  Break down the barriers of fear and mistrust.  Laugh with somebody.  Enjoy the God given gift of camaraderieRalph Waldo Emerson once wrote:  “We force no doors in friendship, but like the Christ in Revelation, we stand reverently at the door without, to knock.  And only if the door be opened from within, may we welcome in to sup with our friend and he with us.”  Whose door do you need to knock on today?

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!

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.

Advent: Seeing Jesus

John 12:20-21

What is Advent?  It literally means “arrival.”  It has been for centuries a time that Christians laid aside to contemplate the birth of Christ.  However, suggest Advent to most folks today and you are libel to get a blank stare.  Who has two seconds they can rub together to contemplate anything in the month of December?

How about this year we do December differently?  How about this season we see Jesus in all His fullness?

John 12:20-21 reads:  “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

We would like to see Jesus!  Awesome request!  Question?  How do you see Jesus?  The old hymn “Praise Him, Praise Him” has a line that says:  “Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever; Crown Him!  Crown Him!  Prophet and Priest and King”  That line has always intrigued me.   Turns out… it isn’t just an impressive lyric.  It is sound theology.  It is known in theological circles as the Threefold Office of the Messiah (the munus triplex).  This simply means the Jesus while he walked this earth as Messiah, performed the three functions of prophet, priest and king.

In the Old Testament, when they appointed someone into one of these three offices, it would be symbolized by pouring oil over their head (anointing them).  Now, the term Messiah, means “anointed one.”  Jesus… Messiah… the Anointed One, is the perfect fulfillment of all three positions.

I ask you again:  How do you see Jesus?

Mark Driscoll at MarsHillChurch in a sermon stated:  “When we look at Jesus in the Gospels we often find ourselves having favorite sections:  stories, sayings, etc.  Often this is because of who we are more like:

 Prophetic People love to see Jesus preaching and teaching.  Rebuking.  Quoting the OT.  Defending the truth.  When someone says “Jesus”… they picture a fiery rebel.

 Priestly People love to see Jesus feeding the hungry, healing the sick, loving the hurting.  They love it when He describes his role as being “to seek and save the lost.”  They see Jesus primarily as Savior of men.

 Kingly People love it when Jesus talks about organizational aspects of the Kingdom… when He prizes faithfulness and talks about stewardship… about thrones and His rule from Heaven.  They see Jesus primarily as Lord.

Here is the thing… we need to appreciate the fullness of who Jesus is… despite who we are or what our preferences are.  May our heart’s cry this Advent season be:  “We would like to see, Jesus!” –  As He is, not simply as we prefer Him to be.

Hail Him!  Hail Him!  Prophet and Priest and King!