Archive for the ‘42-Gospel of Luke’ Category

Luke 23:13-25 — Barabbas, who was he? From the book of Mark, we know that he was a prisoner of Rome during the time of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion for having murdered a Roman soldier and for having stirred up a small but fleeting rebellion against the Roman occupying forces. Although to the many of the Jews, he may have been a hero. His arrest and incarceration were completely justified. He did the crime and was doing the time. But do we really know who he is other than what he did? Other than his rebellion and capital crime, he is mentioned nowhere else in the sequence of the gospel story nor is he mentioned in the subsequent books of the New Testament. Even his name is non-descriptive. Bar-abbas. It means son of daddy. That does not give us any help! Never in any mention of Barabbas in the gospels do they identify who his father was as was done so often in Hebrew literature, including the Bible. For example, Peter before his name was changed was often referred to as Simon, son of John. Barabbas, I guess, then was not connected to his family in any way. He was a rebel to the core. Since he was not identified with his father, he must have been a loner. He must have chosen to go his own way. In these ways, Barabbas is so symbolic of who we are before we encounter Jesus Christ.

Barabbas, not tied to his family in any way. He must have been an angry man searching for meaning in his life. Not tied to his family in any way could mean two things. He had dishonored his family in some way and was sent away to never return to his family. Or, he could have had a horrible home life that caused him to run away and never return. Many Barabbas had to strike out on his own because his father died and there was no uncles to step in and take care of his mom and the rest of his family. Either way, Barabbas was out there on his own. This is a very real possibility for who Barabbas was. Family was of extreme importance in Jewish society. Sons always honored their fathers by saying that they were son of… We know of no such references about Barabbas that would have led the writers of the gospels to mention this fact when writing of Barabbas. So, maybe Barabbas was just a young punk in the streets of Jerusalem that had to grow up hard. Maybe, he was just angry at the world because of all that. Many of us today may hate our government for what it has become but we do not murder government officials or members of the military because of it. It would have been true in Barabbas’ day too. Many Jews detested the presence of their Roman occupiers in their country. Yet, most did not try to lead rebellions and kill people. Barabbas was an angry man. Without a connection to his father in how he was publicly address, it means that he had nothing to lose in his mind. His life was full of anger to the point of lashing out against Rome. That’s pretty serious stuff. The Romans often dealt harshly with citizens of occupied lands who rebelled against Rome. Crucifixion had been perfected by the Romans as the most humiliating and painful way to die. It was very public and very painful. Imagine being so angry at the world that you lash out against the military of the most powerful nation on the planet. He was in complete rebellion. He was out of control. In his mind, it was OK to murder and create mayhem. His life has been so rough that he deserved to take it out on the Romans. Barabbas is so like you and me before we meet Jesus Christ. We are in rebellion against God. We shake our fist at him. We go against his Word and revel in our sins. We are searching for meaning in things of this world. We think that we deserve the pleasures of this life and seek after them and justify why we deserve them. We are Barabbas.

The irony of this scene is that Barabbas is standing there on one side and Jesus on the other. Each is accused of leading a rebellion. For one it is true. Barabbas had rebelled against Rome and wanted to lead others in doing so. For the other it is a lie fabricated by religious officials trying to preserve their way of life. Barabbas was guilty. There was no doubt about that fact. Other Roman soldiers had seen him commit the crime. Roman soldiers had witnesses him stirring up the crowds into an assault on soldiers in Jerusalem. Of his guilt, there was no doubt. He was convicted by the evidence of his sins against Rome. On the other hand, Jesus was not guilty. He was a sinless man who had committed no crime other than speak the truth to men who did not want to hear the truth. Jesus was pure and spotless and had done no such thing as lead a rebellion against Rome. But Barabbas was released even though he was a criminal against Rome. He was to face certain death without his release. In effect, Jesus died in Barabbas’ place. We are Barabbas at this moment when we meet Jesus.

Barabbas new what his crime was and probably was aware of what happens to criminals against Rome. They are sentenced to death, a death of painful proportions that seems to take forever. Many who were crucified took several days to die. Most on the cross wished for an immediate death that would not come. It was slow, excruciating and painful beyond belief. Imagine his relief and utter joy when his death sentence was lifted. Who knows what happened to Barabbas after this moment? But we can imagine his utter joy at being released from a sentence of certain but slow death. We are the same way when we meet Jesus Christ. We come before Him knowing that our sins separate us from God. We know that one sin is all it takes but yet we have committed so many. We know, finally, for the first time in our lives that we do not deserve heaven. We finally realize that no matter the amount of good that we do in this lifetime we do not deserve heaven because of the ever increasing pile of sins that convict us to hell. Hell is like crucifixion but just eternal. Crucifixion may have seemed like an eternity to a person on the cross. But hell is basically eternal crucifixion. Hell is real. Jesus spoke of it often. When we realize that we truly deserve the eternal pain and suffering of hell, that is when we meet Jesus.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, Jesus dies in our place. He takes the punishment for that which we deserve. We are set free from the penalty of eternal damnation that we deserve. We are Barabbas. We are set free from the crime for which there is incontrovertible evidence to convict us and send us to hell. One sin will send us there not to mention the hundreds that we commit each day, each week, each year of our lives. We are career criminals in that regard. But, yet, we are set free by the Innocent One who had no sin but was sent to the cross on our behalf. He took on the full punishment of God for us. We are set free by Jesus’ death sentence which he did not deserve. We are Barabbas. We run joyfully away from the judgement seat. That is the joy of our salvation that lives in our hearts. We as Christ followers know what we deserve and the joy that we have or should have in our lives is knowing that Jesus set us free from the penalty of and punishment of hell. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our sentence is lifted. We are pardoned. If you do not have basic inner joy because of that, then, you do not understand salvation. We have seen the eternal crucifixion of hell that we deserve and we have been pulled back from the brink. Thank you Jesus. Thank you! Thank you!

The most amazing thing here is that Jesus took the punishment that Barabbas deserved and we do not know what Barabbas did with it. The most amazing thing is that Jesus died on the cross in Barabbas’ place and in our place. He did this because He loves you and me and wants us to be reunited with God. He did this before you and I were born. He did this while we were yet sinners in open rebellion against Him. He did this knowing full well we might reject Him. But all we have to do to accept the reward of his death on the cross is to ask Him to come into our hearts and change us forever. When we do that, the sentence that we deserve is commuted. No matter how much we have rebelled. No matter what we have done. When we accept His gift, we are made innocent in His death on the cross. When we ask Him to take away our sins against God and change us from the inside out, we are set free. We are set free. Are you Barabbas today? Do you want to be set free from the hell that you deserve? Come to the cross. Accept what Jesus has done in your place there. Accept what He has done for what you deserve. Ask Him to be your Savior. He has already done the work for you. Ask Him into your heart and make you a criminal against God no more. No more rebellion. Change. Permanent change. We have seen where we belong but we have been set free. Join your brothers and sisters in Christ! Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

Luke 23:13-25 — There are two things that strike you when you read this passage, Luke 23:13-25. The first thing is about Pilate and the second is about Barrabas. All of it having to do with Jesus. Today, let’s look at Pilate and tomorrow we will look at Barabbas.

The first thing we notice is how Pilate handled this situation and what it teaches us. What does it teach us? At my church, we have bracelets that say “Everyday Jesus” and on the other side it has our church verse, Luke 10:27. Everyday Jesus means that we should be more like Jesus everyday. We should be His witness everyday, not just during LifeSong events in the community but in everything we do. It should be evident to the world that we do indeed live out Luke 10:27 by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and by loving our neighbors as ourselves. That’s everyday Jesus. That’s how He lived his earthly life. However, how often are we more like Pilate than we are like Jesus? We see a glimpse of ourselves in Pilate in Luke 23:13-25.

The amazing thing here is Pilate is a representative of one of the most powerful civilizations known ever in human history. The Roman Empire lasted longer than any empire in the history of man. Yet, for all the power and the might that backed up Pilate, it seems here that he is afraid. He buckles to the will of the crowd. From the histories of the times written extrabiblically such as Josephus and others, Pilate was for the most part an arrogant, ruthless leader that was quick to let the Jews know that Rome was in charge. Most believe that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred in 33AD, which was during the last few years of Pilate’s governorship. He was called back to Rome in 36AD.

Because of the history of constant military intervention in the area, Rome was growing tired of the incindiary tactics used by Pilate. He was as we say today on shaky ground. Rome’s desire was to conquer but then assimilate conquered lands into their tax and legal system. Rome did not want to constantly have to have a large military presence in conquered land. It was disruptive to commerce and thus disruptive to taxation. Rome’s longevity as an empire was built on “conquer and assimilate.” Thus, the constant political turmoil in Palestine was a problem to Rome. If Pilate couldn’t handle it, Rome would find someone who could. Ultimately, by 70AD, the turmoil was so out of hand that Titus, the future emperor and at that time a general in the army, finally sacked Jerusalem and destroyed everything in it.

So, although Pilate was the local presence of the Roman Empire, he could not afford a major rebellion on his hands under his watch in Palestine. He argued with the crowd but they would not hear of it. They wanted Jesus crucified and Barabbas released. Regardless of the fact that Jesus had done nothing wrong, they wanted their insurrrectionist hero released rather than what they considered to be a blasphemous false prophet. Pilate held the power to have Jesus released. He knew that Jesus was an irritation to the Jewish religious power elite but, based on what he saw, Jesus had violated no Roman laws and certainly had committed no crime that warranted death, according to Roman law. He was the representative of the most powerful government on earth at the time, but he caves to popular opinion. He gives the people what they want because of political expediency. He did not stand up against the crowd because he feared rebellion and high military intervention would be needed. He did not stand up against crowd because he knew that if Palestine blew up on his watch, he would be sent back to Rome in shame. He caved when it mattered most. He did not stand up for Jesus because he was more concerned about his own hide than ultimately whether Jesus was innocent or guilty.

How often do we not stand up for biblical principles? How often do we not stand up for Jesus? When I think of how our Christian brothers are dying daily at the hands of ISIS in the Middle East? I wonder if you or I in our comfort here in the US would stand up for Jesus and be counted as Christian when it really counted? Often here we are just like Pilate when it comes to Jesus over less things that our lives and livelihoods. We cave just like Pilate to popular opinion whereas our friends in Iraq and Syria stand firm in the cross and give their lives rather than renounce their faith in Christ. We stand around the water cooler at work and do not mention our faith when the opportunity presents itself. We cover up our Christianity at work so that we will fit in rather than being a witness for Christ one on one with others at work. In our world today, the tolerance of any behaviors is sweeping the nation but we are quiet. We do not want to be singled out as standing against the new normal. We bemoan privately about the godlessness of our country but yet we sit at home on election day. Worse yet, we accept candidates for office and bemoan the lack of Christian leadership in our country but yet none of us want to run for office because we don’t want to be singled out. We condemn Pilate for having no backbone. Yet, we do the same thing with our silence and inaction. In the absence of Christian leadership, the nation will continue to drift further and further away from the Bible. In the absence of leadership from us, the world will continue to rewrite Scripture and call it right and good.

Until we are willing as Christians to be like our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, North Korea, China, etc. to stand up and be singled out, we are right there with Pilate. We must be willing to be ridiculed as being old fashioned. We must be willing to be marginalized to the edges of society. We must be willing to work to change our society rather than being consumed with our houses, boats and cars. We must be willing to take risks rather than sit behind our comfortable possessions. How much like Pilate we are today. We consider our loss of comfort and position first before we consider being singled out by the mob. What are you and I willing to risk to stand up for Jesus?

Father, give us the strength today and tomorrow to be willing to die for our Savior. Give us the strength to be your witnesses in a world that knows your Son less and less. Give us the strength to trust in you and our eternity with you because of your Son to be willing to be singled out by the mob mentality of our world. Help us to stand on your Word and not be willing to rewrite it just to fit into a world that is seeking ways to justify its antibiblical choices. Father, help us to be brave and stand up for Jesus no matter what the cost is to us personally. Amen.

Luke 23:8-12 —Awhile back there was a line from the movie, Jerry Maguire, where Cuba Gooding’s character kept shouting, Show me the money! Here in this passage, I envision a similar scene where Herod Antipas is saying, “show me the miracles!” This phrase can be translated to us before we come to Christ ourselves. We want proof. We need something more. But before we jump into that point. To add to the power of this story, we must understand the historical background around the scene in this passage.

Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee and Perea, son of the former king of what was the northern kingdom of Israel, Herod the Great. When Herod the Great died in 4 BC, the Jewish kingdom was divided between Herod Antipas and his brother, Archelaus. Archelaus was given rule over Samaria and Judea. After Archelaus proved to be a totally ineffective and mentally unstable leader, he was removed from office and the roman governorship over Judea and Samaria was established. There was lack of trust between Pilate and Antipas. Antipas had been a ruler much longer than Pilate but yet Pilate, Antipas, feared could have Antipas replaced at any time just like Rome did with Archelaus. There is an old saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows. This saying is used often to describe how sometimes events and circumstances create alliances among political rivals so that they each can use the situation to get what they each respectively want. No situation is more true that what to do with Jesus.

Pilate inadvertantly gives validity to Antipas’ rule over Galilee and Perea by sending Jesus to him instead of dealing with Jesus himself. Now, Antipas would no longer feel threatened by Pilate. And because Antipas did not know what to do with Jesus either, he gives a tip of the hat to Pilate’s rule. From this point, their relationship softened toward each other and a mutual respect developed. This Jesus situation united them.

With this backdrop behind us, we see that Antipas was not at all interested in determining Jesus’ guilt or innocence. He had heard much about Jesus and the miracles that He had performed. He was also troubled by Jesus’ popularity and how He entered Jerusalem as a king to the shouts and delights of everyday man in Jerusalem. He was more interested in Jesus’ celebrity than anything else. He wanted to see this guy that had the temerity to be considered the Messiah and a king. Show me a miracle, Antipas clamors. Show me a miracle! What would have Antipas done if Jesus had performed a miracle? Would he have believed then? That is the question that we must answer ourselves about this Jesus. In Antipas’ case, I think a performance of a miracle would have simply made Antipas feel threatened by Jesus and he would not have believed. He would most likely have seen Jesus as a threat to His rule.

However, it does raise the question for us. What are you waiting on to believe in Jesus Christ? Are you bargaining with him that you will believe if He performs a miracle for you? You will believe in Him if He gets you out of the mess you are in – a mess that you have created yourself by your poor choices and your rebellion against God’s Word. Perform a miracle Jesus so that I can believe. Antipas was the same way. I am not going to believe you are who you claim to be until I have proof. We have gone about making the world about us rather than to God’s glory. We have eliminated God from our conversations because we cannot see Him. We have made Jesus a great philosopher rather than the Son of God because that would mean that there is a God and that all of rebellion of trying to make the Bible invalid in the world is wrong. We have so rationalized everything as being the following result of a big bang theory that we do not need God anymore. God was a figment of our imagination and was used by men to control others. If Jesus is the Son of God rather than just a great philosopher, well, then, hold on, that means there is a God and there is a judgment coming. If Jesus is the Son of God, we are going to need proof to change our mind. We won’t change the flow of culture until we have proof. Jesus perform a miracle and then I will believe. Jesus has already given us the sign.

He rose from the death like Jonah being spit up from the belly of the whale. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and through the empty tomb. That is the miracle. That is what we have to have faith in. We can all give credence to the existence of Jesus Christ. All people on the planet and from two millenia of history know that Jesus existed. However, it takes faith to believe He is the Son of God. It takes faith to believe that He is who He says He is. That is the miracle. When we accept Christ as who He says He is, that is the miracle. Our eyes are opened and we can finally see. As Paul said, all of this Christ stuff is folly to the non-believer even when there is ample evidence that there is a God and that He loved us so much that He sent His Son for us to die for our sins. It is folly until the miracle of faith happens. Are you ready to believe in Jesus Christ? No more demands for proof. It is time for faith. It is time for the Holy Spirit to enter your heart and open your eyes to who this Jesus Christ is – the Son of God, not just some philospher. Open your heart. Have faith. Believe…

Luke 23:1-7 — Have you ever avoided making a decision? Have you ever passed the buck to someone else so you wouldn’t have to make a decision? This passage kind of reminds me of the days when the kids were little and one or all of them would come ask me if they could do a particular thing and I would say, “It’s OK with me if it is OK with your mom.” The kids would then scurry off to see mom and ask the same question. Of course, they would get the same response from their mother and then would come back to me. This would go on for a couple of rotations before the kids figured out we were messing with them. Even though this was a game we would play with the kids, it does point out what is happening here. No one was willing to make a decision. Everyone wanted to pass the responsibility on to someone else. Pilate is no different in this scene.

Although it was a very real thing that since Rome had taken over Israel, it would not allow (as it did in all its conquered lands) the local government have the authority to administer capital punishment by death. This was done to ensure that no Roman citizen would ever be executed by a local government. It was convenient for the Sanhedrin. If they could convince Pilate to kill Jesus, they would get what they wanted but yet the same time they could blame Rome for killing Jesus and therefore avoid any public outcry against them for killing a popular prophet. It was a brilliant plan. But they had to convince Pilate that Jesus had committed a crime against Rome. For Rome, blasphemy against the God of the Jews was not a crime. They would have to couch Jesus’ crime in terms of sedition, rebellion, and a threat against Roman government. With the Roman empire, any threat to Caesar’s power or even to suggest that you were greater than Caesar was a crime. That’s what the Sanhedrin went with. Jesus was presented as a political threat to Rome by saying He was a king. If they could convince Pilate that Jesus was a threat to Rome, He would then be tried and executed for sedition. His blood would be then on Rome’s hands not theirs but yet they would be able to accomplish their goal of getting rid of Jesus. Passing the buck. Manipulation.

Jesus presents a problem for Pilate. Pilate was already on tenuous ground with Rome because of the constant unrest in Palestine. Rome had grown weary of Pilate’s agitation of the Jews. Pilate had once confiscated the Temple treasury and used the money to build a Roman aquaduct (equivalent to modern day water pipe systems). He brought Rome’s pagan images into the Holy City just to create a stir among the Jews and to show the Jews that it was Rome that was now in control of Jerusalem. Add to that he was ruthless in his administration of Roman justice and in enforcement of the Roman tax code. Under his rule of Judea, Jerusalem was becoming an ever-increasing powder keg of revolutionary thought and acts. Now, the entire Sanhedrin (not just a few of its leaders but all of them) bring Jesus to Pilate. For Pilate, to see this must mean that a wrong political move here for him could result in political turmoil and more rioting and more blood spilled and the need for more Roman troops. Something Rome was growing more tired of by the year when it came to the problem of Jerusalem. However, after interviewing Jesus, he clearly saw that this man was no threat to Rome and a man who had never presented problems to Rome in the past. What to do? When Pilate finds out that Jesus was from Galilee, he had his out. He could pass the buck for this sticky political situation to Herod Antipas, the king appointed by Rome over the district that included Galilee. Passing the buck. Not making a decision. For Pilate that would accomplish his goals. He wanted to keep Judea under control and prevent it from blowing up. He could get rid of the Jesus problem by making it a Galilean problem and let one their own (though a puppet of Rome) have the responsibility of getting rid of Jesus. This was a Jewish problem to him anyway. He did not want to deal with it at all. Pass the buck.

What exactly does this passage teach us for our lives today? I think that it teaches us that sometimes we must stand up for what is right. We must speak up and be heard. We must stand up for Jesus. We must be his church. We must stand up against injustice here at home and abroad. It is so much easier to pass the responsibility for tough decisions to someone else. It is often easier to ignore a problem that stand up and say this is wrong and I will not let it happen on my watch. Will we stand up for Jesus when it counts? Or will we quietly ignore things that are clearly against Scripture. Will we pass the buck? Will not aid fellow Christians being persecuted around the world because it is too hard. Surely someone will do it? Will we not support our local church financially because surely someone else will do it? Will we not stoop to help someone in need because surely someone else will do it? Will we do nothing to stop sex trafficking in our country and around the world because surely someone else will do it? Will we not lift a finger to help our fellow Christians in Iraq as they are murdered, raped, and starved to death, because surely someone else will do it? That is what we learn from this passage. We learn that Jesus presents us a problem just as for Pilate. Jesus is standing there saying to you and me. You have to choose. You are either with me or against me. You cannot be lukewarm toward me. You cannot be with me up until the point of discomfort and then jump off the wagon. You cannot pass the buck. Jesus says make a choice.

Accept me and all that it entails. Accept me and carry my message. Accept me and put personal cares aside. Accept me and love others more than yourself. Accept me and be willing to die in my name. Accept me and be willing to go wherever I call you. Accept me and be willing to make a real difference in the world. Accept me and care for the least of these. Are you willing? Jesus stands before you. You must make a decision. You can’t pass the buck. We all must decide about this Jesus!

Luke 22:66-71 — Here, we see the question that has plagued mankind and all religions outside of the Christian faith for two millenia. Who is this Jesus Christ? Who is He? That is the question that the Sanhedrin, the high Jewish religious/civic council, sought to answer this dark night in human history. The problem was that it seems that they had already made up their minds before they asked the question.

This trial was a mockery to begin. It was an illegal trial by their own standards. The council was in place to ensure justice within the Jewish society and typically took great pains to ensure justice. Many of the safeguards that we have in place in our judicial system today could be seen in the Sanhedrin judicial system…on most days, but not this night. Under their judicial system, as is the case today in court, safeguards were in place to ensure that a person was considered innocent until it was proven beyond a shadow of doubt that a person was guilty. Not on this night though. Jesus was presumed guilty from the beginning. False witnesses were sought to testify against Jesus (Matthew 26:59). Typically, the Jewish high council went through an elaborate system of screening witnesses to ensure justice…on most days, but not this night. Typically, a defense scribe or lawyer was allowed for the defendant to ensure that the case was argued fairly and according to the law…on most days but not this night. According to their own laws and procedures, all cases were to be held during the height of the day before the full council…on most days, but not on this night (Mark 14:53-65). There were other irregularities about this “trial”, but the trial was a sham. The power brokers within the council had already made up their mind before the trial began. Jesus had to be discredited, shamed, or even killed to prevent Him from shaking up the power structure of the day. To them, they believed that Jesus was not the Messiah. They believed Him to be a threat to their tenuous hold on power under the thumb of the Roman overlords.

Have you ever made up your mind about something and nothing was going to change your mind? You see it all the time in families where everyone sees something in a loved one’s life that is negative for them but they refuse to believe it or even see it. You see it in today’s politics in Washington where everything has become so polarized along political lines. Democrats won’t do anything that has a sniff of Republican authorship and vice versa. It used to be that the republican form of government was bout compromising polarizing interests to something somewhere in the middle that is good for the country as a whole. Not anymore. Nothing gets done because minds are made up and there’s no budging it. The Sanhedrin was of this mindset on this night. They were bound and set on convicting Jesus of a punishable crime no matter what.

They got what they needed. Jesus in effect agreed that He was the Son of God when He said “You say that I AM” He identified Himself with God by using the name of God used by God Himself in Exodus 3:14. The high priest recognized what Jesus was doing and pounced on it to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. To the high council and according to the law of Moses, anyone claiming to be God or equal to God or attacking the authority and majesty of God Almighty was a sin punishable by death. They had what they were looking for. For the entire week they were looking for ways to discount, discredit or get rid of Jesus. Now they had it. However, we know that Jesus was speaking the truth. He is the Great I Am in the flesh. But this is the question that we must answer today as well.

Who is this Jesus? Who is He to you? Is He the Son of God to you? Is He some great philosopher to you? Is He just another prophet in a long line of prophets to you? Is He some political revolutionary martyr to you? Is He a fraud to you? Is He just another of man’s attempts to appease himself about his purpose in the universe with some religious mythology? Is He one way of may to get to the positive afterlife? These are the questions raised by Jesus. What do you believe? Or do you even believe anything at all about heaven and hell?

Jesus said that He was God right here in this text. We have discussed many times here that the authenticity of the texts of the Bible is uncanny. The words of the Bible have been more painstakingly preserved and were written more closely to the actual events than any other religious texts of human history. We have discussed many times before here how we can prove from extrabiblical sources that Jesus actually existed. We have discussed here how Jesus’ enemies in his earthly life never contradicted one single thing that was written in the New Testament books about Him. We have discussed here about how people throughout the centuries who have given their lives up rather than denounce Jesus Christ would not have done so for a lie. Each one firmly believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth as flesh to live the perfectly sinless life so that He could be the sacrifice for our sins that God demanded. We have discussed many times before here, that for the doubters out there I can get you 95% of the way there when it comes to Jesus because the Christian faith is a logical and defensible faith, but it comes down to one thing to get you the rest of the way – that last 5%.

It is the question that the Sanhedrin asked Jesus. Are you the Messiah? It is the question that we each must answer? Is Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the Living God? Our eternity hangs in the balance. If Jesus is not who He says He is, He is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind. Millions and maybe billions have died in defense of His name. Jesus says He is God in the flesh, right here in this passage. If he is not God in the flesh, then He is a liar not worthy of our respect, honor and belief. If He is just some philospher, He stands here in this passage and lies! If He is some martyrdom-seeking rebel against the established status quo, then He stands here in this passage and out and out lies. He says He is the Great I Am. He says He is God. What do you make of that? Is He a liar, a fraud, or is He the Son of God? You must have faith in Jesus to believe He is the Son of God. There is no way around it. You cannot make logical arguments about it to get to the faith part. Like I said, there is ample evidence of the authenticity of the Bible and, in particular, the New Testament where Jesus’ life is examined, but it comes down to faith. It comes down to what you believe. Are you willing to bet your eternity that Jesus is not who He says He is? Jesus says He is God. Jesus says He is the only way to the Father in His function as the Son. What do you believe? Are you willing to bet your eternity (which is a mighty long time) on the fact that Jesus is not the Great I Am? Are you willing to bet your eternity on this question?

Luke 22:54-62 — Epic fail. That is the phrase often used today for when a person makes a spectacular or embarrassing mistake. This moment was Peter’s epic fail. For all of his bravado about dying for Jesus, he fails when it counted. Under pressure, with the game on the line, Peter misses the game winning shot. He followed at a distance instead of being out front trying to convince everyone that Jesus should not be arrested and tried in this way. When questioned about his relationship with Jesus, he denied knowing Him not one, not just twice, but three times in a row. Epic fail. Choke. How often do we fail Jesus Christ? How often do we deny Him?

Peter denied knowing Jesus because fear had gripped him. He thought he might be arrested for having known Jesus. Although he had spent 3 years with Jesus, he was ready to throw Him under the bus when the pressure was on. The question becomes what will we do when the pressure is on. There are many who do not deny Christ daily around the world. Christians are dying daily around the world in countries that are hostile to Christ. In the Middle East, In Nigeria, in North Korea, In China, we don’t hear about the daily deaths of Christ followers. How are we going to be when the pressure is on? How do we act now?

There are many ways in which we deny Christ. We can deny Him when we do not speak up for Him when we are among non-believers. We deny Him when their conversations are mistaken about Jesus Christ and about being a Christ follower. We are like Peter when this happens. We just want to fit into the crowd and not be singled out. We do not speak up at work when standing around the water cooler and the conversation turns to off color comments about the pretty young woman who just walked by. We deny Christ when we do not speak. Yes, we can deny Him by our silence.

We can deny knowing Jesus by our actions. We can deny Him when we live in ways that are opposite to Scripture. We often say the reason we do not verbally witness for Jesus Christ is because we let our lives speak of Him. What if you life is speaking the wrong words. We may be the only Jesus Christ some people ever see. We live in a world now, even in the South, the Bible Belt, where there are second generations of people who have never darkened the door of a church. The world is becoming increasing secular and more biblically illiterate. We may be the only evidence in their lives of Jesus Christ. If we are living our lives to just be comfortable and fit into the crowd and act just as they do, we are denying Christ more powerfully than Peter. Are you and I spending so much time being “in the world” that no one can tell the difference between us and a non-believer? How often do we deny Christ with our actions?

How often do we deny Christ with our inaction? Many of us Christ followers sit behind our fences and say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and bemoan the fate of the world. Yet we do nothing. We sit around and talk about how elected officials seem so concerned about tolerance that they are marginalizing the majority in favor of the rights of the few. We bemoan the lack of morality in the world and that anything does nowadays. Yet we do nothing. We should be out in the world trying to make a difference for Christ but we fear being singled out like Peter feared being singled out. We should be witness with words not just our lives. We should be running for public office at all levels so that we can influence the world for Christ. We should be loving the very people that are marginalizing us. We should be demonstrating the love of Christ to a world that sure does need to know Him more than ever. We should have the resolve to be different. We should not sit quietly behind our fences and point at the world and say there is nothing that can be done. We can deny Christ by our inaction.

Help us, Father, to be a people who have the resolve to not deny you in our daily lives. There will be day when it will cost us something to be a Christ follower here in the United States. May we begin practicing now in the art of not denying you in the little things of life so that when it really counts that we will not deny you when life and liberty are at risk. Help us to have the resolve of the martyrs past and present who were willing to die rather than deny their faith in Jesus Christ. Help us to be your people when it costs us something more than discomfort. Help us to be the kind of people that would willingly rather die than deny. Give us that kind of love for your Son. Help us Lord, oh Lord, help us, not to deny you when the pressure is on. Help us oh Lord, help us. Amen.

Luke 22:47-53 — This is it. The whirlwind of action begins. The easy road is over. Jesus is set on a course that will take us to the cross and beyond. The action does not cease from this moment until they lay Jesus in the tomb. Only then is there a break in the action. It is like watching movies like Lone Survivor or American Sniper where once the action starts, it does not stop until the movie is almost over. Events are speeding up. The point of no return is here. What is it that we learn from this scene in Luke 22:47-53? The thing that strikes me heart today is that it is all done in the dark. It is all secretive. It is all back alley. It is all deceitful. However, through it all, God uses the situation to accomplish His purpose.

A good many years ago, a former boss of mine gave me some really sage wisdom when it came to making decisions about whether to do something that is questionable morally or not. He said that when faced with those situations, you need to ask yourself a question. If everything we did made the newspapers, would you want your mother or father to read about this? Would you want your friends and family to read about the action that you are contemplating right now? Pretty esoteric stuff there, but there is so much truth to what he said. Most of us are not popular enough or do not hold high public office such that every move we make is tabloid worthy. That is what comes to mind when I read this passage. The religious leaders had to come by the light of the moon to arrest Jesus. This was not done in the light of day. This was not done in the center of Jerusalem as Jesus was preaching and teaching at the Temple. It was done outside public view. There is just plain out deceit and dishonor written all over this scene.

First, you have Judas. Because of the lack of street lights in those days, the temple guards would not have been able to see very far with their lanterns so they needed the help of Judas in the darkness to know who to arrest. Isaiah prophesied in 53:2 that the Messiah would not be some chiseled handsome man like the Jesus of “The Bible” miniseries (my wife call that guy who played Jesus in The Bible miniseries, “the pretty Jesus”). He was apparently just an everyday looking kind of guy. Therefore, Judas had to identify Jesus in some way for them. He chooses a way that is unique I think and it so fitting for this night. It was deceitful. In all cultures throughout history, the kiss is symbolic of affection. It is symbolic of reverence and honor. It is symbolic of there being some type of relationship between the kissor and and the kissee. Judas could have just grabbed Jesus by his garments and said, “Here! This is the man you want!” But, no, he chose to identify Jesus by kissing Him. Why? I think that this is the power of evil. It appears to be one thing but really is something else. Judas gave the appearance of being Jesus’ friend by kissing Him but really he was now an enemy of Christ. Evil can dress itself up to seduce us and deceive us into falling into Satan’s lair. But, it is the very power of the seduction that ends up destroying us. Judas was a thief throughout Jesus ministry even though the disciples had trusted him. He was out to satisfy his own lust for power and position. He gave all the right appearances of being a disciple. However, though he was as close to Jesus as only 12 men in history got to be but yet he was as far away from Jesus as the staunchest atheist is today. Sometimes, we encounter people in the body of Christ that are Judases. They say and do all the right things but yet they are ultimately there to satisfy their own egos. Deceit and distrust follow. In Judas, we have one example of the deceit of this night.

Second, we have the Temple guards representing the leaders of the Temple. They are there because the high priest wanted Jesus out of the way. Jesus was heralding a change in the relationship of God to man. Their entire religious and economic system was built around the Temple and Jesus was threatening to change all that. The commotion caused by a popular Messiah could lead to the whole city erupting an clamoring for a change in the status quo. Part of that status quo was the uneasy detente between the Jewish religious leaders who provided the day to day governance of the Jewish people and the Roman occupation forces and administration. This popular Messiah who called the religious leaders fake and ruthless and hypocritical. If Jesus’ popularity continued to grow, the whole house of cards could come crashing down and the Romans would fill the streets with blood. Jesus had to go. But they could not do it in daylight. They had to do in the dark. They didn’t want to do in the light of day for fear of riots. Jesus was immensely popular. Jesus was known throughout the city. He was causing quite a stir among the average citizens of Jerusalem. They knew they had no basis for his arrest. They had to do it when no one was looking. The deceit of this night. Back room politics. Politicians forcing their views on the general populace. Politicians doing whatever it takes to keep their hold on power and wealth. The deceit of this night. Satan revels in such things. He loves for people to fall prey to the seductions of power and prestige so that they will not worship God. It reminds us of whether we are the same when we are alone vs. who we are in public. Are we the same by ourselves as when we are surrounded by people. What are true colors when no one is watching? Are we deceitful when no one is looking and pious when someone is? Who are we really? When we have the chance to do something that is morally wrong but there is no chance of being found out, will we do what is morally wrong because it feels good to do it? Satan smiles when we are alone and choose ways that are far from God.

Third, and the most amazing part and point of this passage, is the fact that despite what all is about to happen, Jesus finds time to heal a man’s wound. Despite being arrested and about to be carried away for beatings, lies, and brutality, Jesus heals a wounded man. That man’s life I am willing to be was changed forever as a result. We do not know his name and we here no more of him before or after this scene. But, I would be willing to bet that he was never the same after that night. That is the amazing thing about the Jesus effect. Jesus can take the worst of situations and make them into something that gives God glory. Isn’t this true of our lives as well, Jesus steps into the mire and muck of our lives and touches us and heals us. We are forever changed. He walks into all of our deceits and lies and the place that it has led us and He touches us. Jesus can change everything for us. Our dirty little lies and our dastardly deceits and the mess they caused can become part of our testimony as to the power of the healing hand of Jesus Christ. In the midst of turmoil, Jesus has time to heal a guard. In the midst of the hopelessness of our lives at the moment that we are defenseless, where everything has fallen apart and we have no more lies or deceits to tell to cover up the mess of our lies, we fall to our knees. Our mess of life lay around us like this guards ear. We are bleeding from the choices of our lives. Jesus is there to heal. Jesus is there to restore. He has time for you and He has time for me. Call on His name as you look at your life of bleeding and your ear laying on the ground. Call on His name as you reap the results of a life lived to preserve yourself and to please your own needs. He has time to heal you.

In the end, we know the purpose of this story. Judas thought he could personally force Jesus’ hand in establishing a new world order, a place where Judas would be powerful and at the center of it. The Jewish leaders were using Judas to get rid of a threat to their way of life, their power, their wealth, their safety before the Romans. They were trying to preserve what was dear to them. All of these things converge into a deceitful, disgraceful night. However, God uses the free will acts of man to put together the patchwork and fabric of His plan, His redemptive plan for mankind. Each of these characters in this scene are thinking that they are doing what preserves their plans, but God is orchestrating it all to achieve His. He uses the deceit of these characters to achieve the signature moment in history. Jesus taking on the wrath of God for all sins for all time. This was the plan all along. The cross was the plan. It reminds us that God works all things for the glory of those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your ugly deceits and lies and all that rebellion against Him, He is using to weave your way to the cross. He brings us to our knees at the cross. There through the effects of our lies and deceits, we stand naked and defenseless before our Lord and we cry out. All of the ugly is gone. Jesus heals. Our past is just that. It is fuel for our fervor for Him. We do not want to be the man before the cross anymore. It is by grace that we pass through the cross into our new life. Our past is there to remind us, to give testimony to the power of Jesus. God uses it all, the good, the bad, the ugly to accomplish His will. He is God!