Thoughts Mid-Week

It’s the middle of Passion Week. It’s also really late – 1:43am so I might start rambling.

Recently, to get myself to say The Lord’s Prayer, I’ve had to key it into my calendar and set a reminder every day to say it. You would think I love God enough to do it automatically. Instead I key it in to the calendar. What kind of child am I? I might start scheduling in The Jesus Prayer mid-day too so I say that. I think they are both helpful prayers. They keep me focused on what is important. Who is important.

I watched The Young Messiah last night. It was interesting to see what Jesus might have been like when he was a child. Good movie. I liked how they personified evil. Loved the controversial, “did Jesus know He was the son of God the entire time?”

I spent a lot of time tonight pondering on a few things. Or keeping myself distracted. Obviously not the best way when there are better things to do. Work can make me think of a lot of things but I feel I came to a conclusion I approved of. And that is to focus on the others and not myself. Because when the spotlight is on me, I get very uncomfortable, falter and freeze. I don’t know what it is. But I feel more at peace with this than thinking of myself because when I think of myself I see impostor, fraud and inadequate. I’m not sure it’s low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence or as someone pointed out, avoidant personality disorder. Whatever it is, its nerve wracking and makes me anxious just by the thought of it. So focus on others. Enable and empower them. I’m very grateful that there are people who see me for skills I have – i.e. I listen well. I have been told that many times. It must be true. Some times I need affirmation too.

I realise how much wisdom there is when we are close to God. It’s as if everything is right. I talked to someone recently who tried to advise and he was completely off and I definitely felt I knew more than him about the ways of the world. I think if we stick close to the one who designed the world, we’ll understand how it works.

Dear Heavenly Father, give me peace and courage to do and say the right thing. Help me to keep you the centre of my life in everything I do. I thank you for all the blessings in my life. For people who appreciate me, for people who see me and for their belief in me. I thank you also that I can do the Stations of the Cross this week. I feel it has really helped me to see what you have done through biblical texts and I am grateful for this time I can spend with you. Help me to understand more the magnitude of what you did for us and help me understand it so my heart is changed forever. I don’t want to fear for what I do not know. Please keep me hidden in your wings, protected and safe. I pray for everyone I love that you will protect them too.

Stations of the Cross – 6,7,8

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said,”Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. (John 19: 1-3)

This is so demeaning. It’s rude too. It’s cruel. They mocked Jesus. They mocked God. They made fun of Him. While mocking Him, they beat Him. What kind of people were these?

I have been hated on before. Bullied. It was awful. But I wasn’t beaten. These people beat Jesus. BEAT! FLOG! STRIKE! SLAP! Pure evil, I say. I can’t do that to a human being. There is a part of me that can though, I imagine. Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. Like Jesus was some animal. Not a human like Pilate himself. Psychologically, I can’t imagine what kind of people they were at home. How broken their lives must be.

When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” … They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. (John 19: 6, 15-17)

Yeesh. With leaders like these, who needs commoners, you know? These were people in the temple, highly revered who mocked Jesus, who misunderstood God and who couldn’t see the glory of God. They wanted to crucify Jesus. Even though Pilate wanted nothing to do with Jesus (Pilate is quite weak, in my opinion), he kept on trying to deflect responsibility… and blame others. Weak leader. Wait. So Pilate turned Jesus over to the religious leaders. So it was the religious leaders who took Jesus to be crucified? Weren’t they worried of dirtying their hands? Tarnishing their holy hands? What kind of chief priests were these?! I thought being holy was so important to them. Why did they act so uncivilised for holy men? WEIRD. Jesus carried the cross himself. After having been flogged. How did Jesus find the strength? How did he have any more strength?

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15: 21)

So they got a passer-by to carry Jesus’ cross. I thought Jesus carried it himself? Also, they got a passer-by… like these lazy religious leaders who wanted to crucify Jesus didn’t want to do the dirty deed themselves? And they got some person from a foreign land to do it as if absolving their own race and type from doing the dirty deed? Or were they bullies and they bullied this passer-by? It seems though the writer of Mark got to know Simon quite well because they mention his kids. Like he became part of the community. How interesting. I wonder if he knew at the time he was being asked to do something amazing or later on, after learning everything, did he realise how privileged he was? Coerced into carrying but then realising what a gift it was? I don’t know. So interesting. Would I have been bitter at first? Probably. Why me?? Would probably be running through my head. But imagine later when I am asked. I mean did Simon of Cyrene even know what the commotion was? Or was he just around to see what was happening and then forced to do this? Or was he minding his own business?

Stations of the Cross – 3,4,5

So I need to consolidate my Stations of the Cross to end on Good Friday. I find that it makes more sense than ending on Easter.

When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us,” but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth.” (Luke 22: 66-71)

“You say that I am”. Jesus didn’t have to say He was the Messiah. The people were accusing Him of being the Messiah. It’s quite different. He wasn’t beating them over the head and saying He was the Messiah. People were claiming Him to be. It’s not like He was denying it either. It’s quite mind boggling. Everyone is saying He’s something. He’s not admitting it or denying it.

It’s a bit like celebrities who need to admit to certain things. For example, are Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez in a relationship? They didn’t say they were and people kept on pressing them to say if they are in or not. Or if Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss are still friends. People need them to say it from their mouths and if they do, people might not believe them, may believe them, may dislike what they hear or just love what they hear. It’s a funny thing.

It doesn’t matter what they say. It matters what you believe. Or does it? And so with Jesus too, I feel. It didn’t matter what He said because they already had developed a thought in their head. That He was the Messiah. They found it blasphemous obviously because it’s quite unbelievable. If it’s true, it still sounded unbelievable. It cannot be. Why would you crucify the Messiah if you believed it?

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!” As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!” A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away.” At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. (Matthew 26: 69-75)

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be Peter when he found out he had denied knowing Jesus 3 times just as Jesus had prophesied. Interestingly, it was a maid, a girl and bystanders. People from the sidelines who were accusing Peter. It wasn’t important people. It was commoners. Some times it’s the common folk who are the worst. Poor Peter. His speech gave him away. He swore too. And cursed. And made an oath. All in the name of denying Jesus. You would think he’d be sent to hell for that forever. That’s what some churches teach. Don’t swear or else. Did these incidences haunt Peter for the rest of his life? I try and imagine what it would be like to deny the truth 3 times. Would I stick by my guns for the rest of my life? I’m not sure I’d be like Peter. Let me think. If I loved someone and that someone said I would deny them and I said no I wouldn’t to their face and later I did deny them, I would definitely be haunted by guilt at my actions. I would also feel great remorse and sorrow at my own actions. I would also beat myself over it. I would swear to myself never again. Maybe that was what happened to Peter. He wept bitterly. A grown man weeping bitterly is a sorrowful sight. “I do not know the man”. That’s actually quite a horrible thing to say. Imagine if I knew someone really well and then I was made to say I didn’t know them. I think throughout the process of denying knowing Jesus, Peter must have been having tumultuous thoughts. Going through doubt, unbelief, belief, guilt,… he must have had disturbing thoughts. I mean I would be very distressed if someone I knew dearly, was suddenly hauled up by authorities and then I didn’t want to be seen with him in case I got hauled up and then I’d deny knowing them. Yeah. I would be a complete mess. Peter must have been one too. How did he overcome it? He became resolved to do better.

The chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed…. Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be crucified. (Mark 15: 1-5, 15)

I wonder why this version does not mention the fullness of verse 15. Jesus

So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. – Mark 15:15 NLT

He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. That’s awful. Ouch.

Pilate asks Jesus “are you king of the Jews?” and Jesus replies with “You say so”. I should do that next time. Someone accuses me and instead of responding back with some response, I should just say, “You say so.” It’s enough. It’s like the best response ever. No need to defend ‘cos the other person said so and that’s that. And after all the accusations Jesus didn’t answer and this amazed Pilate. Pilate was amazed! What does that even mean? Why was he marveled by Jesus’ actions? I love that. Again, I need to learn this. People will say things, true or untrue. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to defend myself because I know it. Can you imagine Jesus did not defend Himself? To Pilate, this must be rare. I can imagine a lot of people might speak up for themselves, defend their position or deny everything but Jesus did not. He let people accuse Him. He let people flog Him. And Pilate pacified the crowd by releasing Barabbas and flogging Jesus. What kind of crowd was this that would consider such punishment just? A mad, possessed crowd if you ask me. Crazy.

Stations of the Cross – 2

 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders.  The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.

 Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. – Mark14:43-46 NLT

Why were the crowd of men armed with swords and clubs? I mean, it’s Jesus and his pretty lame disciples. Did they imagine Jesus to be like Samson? Or was Jesus big and burly?

Were the leading priests, teachers of religious law and elders among the crowd? Or did they just send the crowd of men to do their dirty deeds?

I love it how Judas doesn’t get much love at all. The writer labels him a traitor straight off the bat. A bit like how Trump labels everyone, “Crooked Hillary”, etc. etc. How did they know Judas’ exact words and why take Jesus away under guard? In other translations it says ‘safely’ or ‘securely’. Why if they were coming with clubs and swords? Makes no sense at all. And a kiss is gentle. Almost affectionate. Gosh, Judas was a traitor. If this had happened in this day and age, they might have made Judas gay and might have insinuated that he had certain feelings for Jesus. The twisted minds of today. Although, I’m pretty sure there is such a narrative somewhere in the gnostic gospels. Probably something like Judas and John were fighting for Jesus’ attention and John won and because of that, Judas was jilted and he turned on Jesus like a jealous gay lover. I could totally write a liberal screenplay.

I just don’t see why they needed to bring armed men like Jesus was threatening. Oh well. He is God after all. Haha. Maybe then they did view Him as powerful in that sense?

Hmmm.  IF I was there, I’d be a lame disciple. Haha The disciples were always so lame when with Jesus. Haha. The sidekicks. I would have been groggy and very sleepy, not sure what the commotion is about.

Station of the Cross – 1

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” – Matthew 26:36-41

Often times I feel burdened by the weight of brokenness. My own brokenness, the brokenness of others and I have read before that my job is to lay them at the feet of Jesus, for Him to carry it but as I read this 1st station, I see that Jesus didn’t like it either. He was distressed and anguished at what Father God was calling Him to do. Why was Jesus’ soul crushed with grief? Whose grief? Ours? His own? Was He worried with what He was about to be called to do? What was going to befall Him?

Did Jesus know His whole life that He would be a sacrificed for us? Do you think then that Jesus’ sarcasm throughout the Bible was tinged with humour or with anger?

Jesus asked for the cup of suffering to be taken away and ‘yet’ He wanted the Father’s will to be done and not His own. It’s quite contradictory. It’s as if Jesus too suffers from this inner conflict, this push and pull that I often feel in me. I want to do things my way but I also want to obey God. It is a constant battle within me. In Jesus’ case, He manages to put aside His own will and follow the Father’s will. I think it takes so much to surrender that because He could have opted out not to save us. He didn’t have to go through any of it. But He did.

Jesus was sarcastic, wasn’t He? “Couldn’t you keep watch with me even 1 hour?” I think I would be like the disciples. I know I will be. It is true. My spirit is willing but the body is weak. But my spirit is also weak. Not strong enough. I often times give in to temptation. I wonder what temptation Jesus was referring to here. How were his sleepy disciples being tempted?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus Christ. Without Him, where would we be? Thank you that Jesus Christ had such a strong will to do what You asked of Him. It is not easy to have insight and know the outcome was not going to be pleasant or easy. Did Jesus know the end game? If He did, why would He whine? Wouldn’t He have sucked it up?

Even though I know the end game, I still whine, I still lose sight, I still complain, I still lose faith and heart.

Why do I get distressed? Why do I get anxious? What am I upset about? Is it my sin? Is it the brokenness that gets to me? Is it because the flesh keeps on winning? I feel comforted knowing that Jesus felt anguish. Because it means it is normal to have these feelings. That we don’t need to live this happy go lucky type of faith but we are allowed moments of deep grief.

What was this sadness that Jesus felt? Why did He feel this way? Was it for His own situation or because of us?

Help me to have perspective. To see as Jesus saw. To plead like Jesus did. To pray like Jesus did.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Palm Sunday 2018

It’s past 25 March, 2018. It’s now 12:50am on 26 March.

I feel very restless and uneasy. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is making me queasy.

I feel this is a very tall order. I also don’t know what it means. Maybe as I start off Passion Week, I will think what this means. What is God saying?

I read some interesting commentaries:-

The lesson for us is this: it is possible to seek Jesus and believe in his power, but be totally lost and worldly-minded. In our situation that means you can be a very religious person and have many right doctrines, but not be born again. What is missing is a spiritual feeding on Christ, a heart delight in all that he stands for, and a lowly childlike submission to his Word. Jesus urges us to examine ourselves to see whether even in our church life we are laboring for the bread that perishes instead of really feasting spiritually on the Lord we love. – Desiring God

The gospel is more than merely a way to go to heaven when you die. That is an apocopated gospel (if I might use that term), a cut-off gospel, a half-gospel. The full gospel is that Jesus is alive now, and is available to us now where we are, where we work, whatever we are doing, in our struggles, in our strife. – Ray Stedman

I feel this week I will attempt to read through the passages related to the Stations of the Cross. May God bless the reading of His word.

You are the King of Glory
You are the Prince of Peace
You are the Lord of heaven and earth
You’re the Son of Righteousness
Hosanna to the Son of David
Hosanna to the King of Kings
Glory in the highest heaven
For Jesus the Messiah Reigns!

I was going through my feed and was reminded of the song above. It seems quite fitting for Palm Sunday.