Posts Tagged ‘reconciliation’

Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 3)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

In the movie, Armageddon, there is that darkest moment when Bruce Willis’ character, Harry Stamper, is left behind to detonate the nuclear weapon that they had planted deep in the asteroid. As the asteroid begins to slow down is 22,000 mph pace as it approaches the earth’s gravitational pull to maybe a mere 20,000 mph, all the associated debris trailing the asteroid starts flying past the main part of the asteroid, it does not seem that Harry’s going to be able to get the job done. It is really bad on the surface of the asteroid. Gas vents exploding. Debris flying everywhere. The ground shaking on the surface of the asteroid. But Harry Stamper, being the hero, that he is, cannot fail. He finally is able to regather himself and reach the button on the trigger and right before he pushes the button, he says, “We win, Gracie!” He was speaking of his daughter. If, in that moment, you do not shed tears as the nuclear bomb explodes and rips the asteroid in half, you have no heart. Harry Stamper sacrifices his own life to save billions of people on earth. The nuclear explosion sheers the asteroid in half causing the asteroid not to impact the earth and our planet is saved from an extinction level event. Back on earth, when everyone realizes that Harry’s bravery saved the planet, everyone is celebrating. Everyone except Gracie. She has mixed emotions. She and the rest of humanity would have died immediately upon impact of the earth-killing asteroid or would have died within a year afterward (the dust cloud that would have covered the earth would let no light in for two years or more before it cleared and thus all plant life, animal life, and human life would die within months of the impact). She has mixed emotions. Her own life and those of billions of people have been spared because of her dad’s willingness to do whatever it took but yet she grieves for the father that she loves so dearly but will never see again until the day she dies. It is a powerful ending to the movie. We know of the tumultuous but loving relationship that Gracie has with her dad but you know they love each other without end! Her tears for the loss of her while knowing at the same time her dad saved the planet is what I think of when I think of the physical reactions of the earth that we see at Jesus’ death. Let’s re-read the passage that is our subject today, Matthew 27:45-56 and concentrate on vv. 51-53:

 

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

 

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

 

Today, we look at all the weird geophysical events that took place at the moment of Jesus death. A lot of unusual stuff happened. Palestine, if not the whole earth, fell into darkness as if it were nighttime in the middle of the day. An earthquake occurs. The veil between the Holy Place in the Temple and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the area of the Temple where God’s presence was said to have been on earth. This veil was no slim, thin curtain. It was heavy duty but it was ripped in half like it was a napkin. Further, the graves were said to give up the bodies of prophets.

 

If you think that this was literary license of the authors of Scripture, consider again. If you look at the sedimentary record in Palestine, particularly in the Dead Sea, geologists, as they can in any place on earth, tell you when earthquakes have happened in a given region, if any, by examining core drillings of the soil and layers of rock in the region. The geological evidence is there that shows that around 33AD there was an earthquake event in Palestine. Additionally, a historian name Thallus wrote in 52AD that the region had been thrown inexplicably into darkness during that time. Astrology had become sophisticated enough in certain societies by the first century that they could predict (not nearly as precisely as today) generally when eclipses of the sun would occur. However, this was an out of cycle eclipse which Thallus found frightening when you combine it with the earthquake that hit the region. With this historical, geological and extrabiblical references to these events, it bolsters the biblical account and, if these things happened then why not people rising from the grave. All of this weird stuff happened. Why?

 

Plain and simple to me. God had a Gracie complex. He was like Gracie in our movie illustration. Just as Gracie knew that humanity would not have survived without the sacrifice of her father’s life that he willingly gave up, yet she grieved. Without Harry’s sacrifice, humanity would not have survived. Yet, she lost her daddy. She lost the grandfather to her future children. She lost the man that loved her first, her daddy. She grieved but yet she was thankful that she could grieve. Without her dad’s sacrificial act, she would not be alive to grieve. In the same, God grieved when Jesus died on the cross. God grief is expressed through his creation. Creation moans at the death of Jesus Christ. All of creation moans. The sky is darkened. The earth shakes. God grieves at this moment. God knows that it had to be done. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we are doomed. It was necessary. It was necessary for this death to happen. The death tears the veil that separates us from God. The veil was there because of our sin. It had to be separated from the presence of God. The death ends the separation. It is through Jesus’ taking on God’s wrath and anger toward sin that reconciles us to God. Through Jesus’ death and sacrifice, we can now exist in the presence of God. It was necessary. But yet at the same time, God grieves over the necessity of it. God grieves over the sacrifice of His Son. He grieves. He knows that it was part of the plan and it had to be executed but still He grieves and it is expressed through His creation. For a moment, He suspends the normal operation of the physical laws of the universe that He created to grieve. In His grief over this nuclear explosion in the asteroid of man’s sin, God grieves over the necessity of sacrificing His Son. But The Father can whisper to the Son, “We win, Son! We win!”

 

We now have victory through God’s own hard fought sacrifice. We now have victory over the sin-filled creatures that we are. We win, Gracie. We Win. We now have reconciliation with the father. We Win, Gracie! We win! We now have direct access to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. We live because He died. We Win Gracie! We win! We now stand in purity before God through the clothing of righteousness given to us through his sacrificial death. We Win Gracie! We win! We now have a second chance through His willingness to die for us! We Win Gracie! We win! … Amen and Amen!

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Matthew 5:21-26
Murder
Have you ever been so angry at someone that you wanted to kill them? I will have to admit that I have been angry at various people in my life over the years and have wanted in rare cases to physically hit them. More often though, I have been on occasion mad enough at someone to say hurtful words to them. I do not think that I have ever been angry enough at someone that I wanted to take away their life, to murder them. I do not think that I have ever been THAT enraged where I was willing to do that. I avoid conflict more often than not. Usually, people like me, though they avoid conflict except when it is forced upon them, tend to harbor resentment and let things fester and boil until one day they explode. It is “the Bowling way” as I call because my family is famous for it. We play nice when we are together but never deal with any conflicts within our family straight on. Resentments become greater and greater over time and take on a life of their own. The original offense can be small but it grows and morphs into people not speaking for days, months, even years. The anger grows and grows. Jesus says you may as well have committed murder! What? Jesus? You mean I am accountable for my thoughts too?

Jesus starts this passage by talking about the command from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13) that states “Thou shalt not commit murder” when he says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Wow, this passage of Scripture is likely an extra chunky Chips-Ahoy cookie. Mmmm! Chunnnnkkkky Chips Ahoy coooookkkkkkiiiieees! …. Sorry… had a “bright shiny object moment there….Back to the point… The reason that I say this passage is like a chunky Chips Ahoy cookie is because there is so much to chew on in this passage. First, Jesus says that not murdering someone is not enough. He says that a true believer should never let their relationships get to that point because hate in our hearts is a sin. Second, he is saying that we cannot truly worship our God when we have hate in our heart for someone. Finally, having considered what Jesus’ expectations are, then, we must consider when and if anger is justified…ever? The lesson that we will learn that it’s all about God’s glory! Let’s dive in and see why.

The first point our Savior is trying to make here is that a Christ follower will not let their relationships deteriorate to that point. It is interesting to note the word use here in the Greek text. The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) used here refers here to a fellow disciple, whether a woman or a man. Does this mean that we can be angry with a non-believer? No, it does not, I think. I do think that Jesus is saying that first and especially with fellow believers our relationships should never deteriorate to the point that murder is even a consideration. Fellow believers should resolve conflicts in a humble manner meaning that we take our egos out of the equation and work to eliminate the issue that is keeping us from loving our brother and thus glorifying God. If we have contempt, “Raca” in Hebrew, in our hearts for a brother or sister we may as well have already broken God’s commandment to not commit murder. I think too that it means that we must also attempt to work out our differences with non-believers but non-believers will not always respond in the same manner as a fellow Christian but we have no less responsibility to approach the situation with love. We should respond to these situations with Jesus’ heart. That means thinking of how to use the situation to glorify God through how we respond not about how to sooth our hurt feelings such as with revenge. Non-believers may react with anger and murder but we are called to seek reconciliation. As Christ followers, we are called to come from a position of love first. We are called to seek opportunities to give God glory in all that we do. God is not glorified when we seek personal vengeance whether it be murder or simply hurtful words that destroy lives. Where’s the glory in that? Anger is highly personal. Anger is me getting mine. Anger is making ourselves gods and defining our realm. Anger put us on the throne and makes us the judge.

The second point that our Savior makes through his statements here is that our lives should act as worship to God. Our lives should be to glorify God in everything that we do. When we have hate in our hearts, there is an impediment to our worship of God. When we worship God, we must be in a position that we are laying ourselves bare and giving ourselves totally and completely to God. However, when we have hate in our hearts, we are putting ourselves first. Hate for another person is a selfish emotion. It is showing that we want ourselves put first. Hate is like a baby pitching a temper tamtrum because they did not get their own way. Hate is the very same way. Hate is us being upset because our own needs were not met, our own way of thinking was not supported. So, when we have hate, we are not putting God first. When we are not putting God first, we are not worshipping him. Have you ever been so consumed with anger toward someone that it affected your whole life? I have known people like that. I have seen movies like that. If you remember back in the early 90’s, there was a movie called, “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story”. In the movie, Betty Broderick is the pushy, prodding wife of very successful lawyer in California. She had the good life. They knew all the right people and went to all the right parties. They had it all. However, her successful husband becomes involved with his legal assistant, leaves Betty, and ends up marrying the new and younger woman. Certainly, Betty had reason to be angry, hurt, and to lash out. The problem came when it began to consume her entire life. The personal offense to her of her husband leaving her for a younger woman was her god. She became consumed by it. The anger destroyed relationships. It really, really got out of hand to the point that the children left her and went to live with their dad. She descended into a cycle of hatred and revenge that ultimately led her to break into her ex-husband’s house late at night and shoot her ex-husband and his new wife dead as they lay sleeping in their bed. There was no God in that. When we let anger and revenge take us over, we cannot worship God for we have made something else our god. Anger is highly personal. Anger is all about me getting mine. Anger is making ourselves gods and defining our realm. Anger puts us on the throne and make us the judge.

Finally, let’s consider the point, when we are Christ followers, is anger ever justified? I think it boils down to this. There is such a thing as righteous anger. The difference between sinful anger and righteous anger is the concept of who is the central character. Sinful anger is selfish anger. It is about me! It is about me being offended and hurt and ME lashing out. I think the question we should ask ourselves is whether our anger is about me being right or is it righteous? How does this affect me? As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over evil that we see in the world. Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us. We should take offense against such things! This anger is righteous in that all of us are created in the image of God and each of us should have equal opportunity to experience His love and His glory. Our righteous anger should lead us to take redemptive action. Believers can channel their anger into constructive action by becoming involved with Christian organizations that combat the influence of evil in society. Christians must get involved with organizations working to free children from slavery and volunteer at shelters working to protect battered women. We must lead the charge against hatred and oppression and cruelty! Ultimately, if our outrage results in restoring people into loving, healing relationships with Jesus, it’s righteous anger. Do you see the difference, my friends? Sinful anger is all about me. Righteous anger is that which attempts to restore people to a loving and right relationship with God – it’s not about me!

May we examine our motives for anger! Let us look at ourselves and understand why we are angry. Is it about us? Or is about how evil has clouded the skies of God’s glory in one or more other people’s lives? If we are angry for not getting our way, not getting what we want, and wanting to make others pay for it, then, we need to drop back and punt. We need to let go of selfish desires and seek common ground with those who have personally offended us. We need not allow our anger to get in the way of our relationship with God. If our anger is against evil and how it creates barriers to the full expression of God’s glory in someone’s life or in the lives of an entire people group, then, be angry to the point of being compelled to act. Change the world with righteous anger! Bottom line for both is that we need to be seeking God’s glory whether we are turning away from selfish anger or whether we are righteously angry about the effects of evil in this world! It’s all about God’s glory! Amen and Amen.

Luke 24;36-43 — There are two things that are striking about this passage that are important to consider. First, let us consider that Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”. Second, let us consider that Jesus invited the disciples to touch Him. These things point us toward the fact that Jesus has forgiveness sufficient to cover our failings through our repentance and the fact that Jesus invites us to question Him. Today, we will focus on Jesus’ statement, “Peace be with you!” Tomorrow, we will look at how Jesus invites us to be inquisitive about Him. So, today, Peace Be With You is the subject. Why in the world did Jesus say that to the disciples?

When Jesus appears to them, He is not an angry as one might be if you were in Jesus’ shoes. If you drift back to your teenage years and most of us guys were often mischievous. We would often do things that were either close to breaking the law or clearly over the line of the law. In a group, it always sounded like a good idea, right? And, then, when you were the one that got caught, all your friends scattered like roaches and left you holding the bag. Though Jesus had done nothing wrong as we may have done as teenagers, his disciples scattered on Him like roaches when you turn the light on. They had abandoned Him to die alone. One of them, Peter, even denied that he even knew Jesus. Talk about friends, huh? When crunch time was on, they failed miserably. We, though, cannot condemn them much. We often fail Jesus miserably on a daily basis. Sometimes, we even deny that we know Him rather than feel uncomfortable. But Jesus appears to them and the first thing he says is what? He doesn’t say, “you dogs, you let me down” or “dudes!, you left me hangin’!” No, Jesus, amazingly (after seeing what cowards the disciples had become in that decisive in the Garden), says, “Peace, be with you.” Shalom. The peace that passes all understanding.

Jesus does not rebuke his disciples. He offers them the peace of God. He had every right to dress them down for their failures. He had every right to slap each one of them in the face. He had every right to make them feel about two inches tall. And, by our human standard of tit for tat, we would not have blamed Him. However and instead, Jesus offers them forgiveness. Jesus offers them acceptance. He offers them restoration to His amazing love. Does this not speak loudly to you? Jesus has forgiveness for you even though you don’t think you deserve it. The disciples most certainly felt great shame for their failing of their Master. They probably did fear that He would punish them when He appeared to them. Even though we have shame for how we have been living our lives, if we come to Jesus with a repentant heart and desire his forgiveness more than anything else, He will grant us Shalom. He will grant us peace. He will grant us forgiveness. His love for us is far greater than any disappointment He has in us. Jesus sees what we can be in relationship with Him not what we were before. Just as we as parents see the potential of our children and not their failings. Just as we love our children despite their failings, Jesus is that way about us. He loves us and desires for us to make Him our Savior and the Lord over our lives. He has peace for you and for me!

Not only is how Jesus reacted to the disciples a direct example for us of the forgiveness we find in Jesus, it is also an example of how we should be with other people. Certainly, there are times when rebuke is necessary and required and Jesus often rebuked his disciples. Such rebuke was necessary at times, but He always did it in a way that help the disciples grow not tear them down and stomp on them. However, in this instance, Jesus did not rebuke. He knew the disciples were already beating themselves up. He knew that they were scared. He knew that they were fearful for their lives. We must learn from Jesus. There is a time for loving rebuke but there is also a time when we must simply love and reassure. It is amazing as a parent (we get no formal training on parenting and our kids do not come with customized instruction booklets) that we often do know the difference. Sometimes, we know when our kids need rebuke when they have done wrong and when they need reassurance that they are still loved despite the wrong. Jesus in this instance knew that reassurance was called for. Jesus knew that reaffirming His love for them was called for.

Regardless of whether rebuke is called for or simply uncommon acceptance in the face of betrayal, we must always have our eye on restoration and on reconciliation. Jesus restores and reconciles us to our Father in heaven. We should be the same about the relationships in our lives. If we are called to be little Christs, the literal meaning of Christian, then we can do no less. Everything must be motivated by our love for Jesus and our love for our fellow man. Even when we rebuke others, it must be done in love and with an eye toward reconciliation and an eye toward giving God glory. Sometimes, the situation will call for us to simply tell those that have betrayed, disappointed, or have been evil toward us that we must simply offer them peace. We must offer peace in reaction to hate. We must offer love in the face of evil. We must offer acceptance in the face of betrayal. We must offer restoration the face of disappointment from others. We speak of Christ when we say Peace Be With You to those who have bitterly disappointed us. We speak of Christ when we tell a person that knows they have disappointed us and fear retribution that we love them anyway. We speak of Christ when we restore a relationship rather than throw it away. We speak of Christ when we love when the expectation is hate. We speak of Christ when we seek to emulate our Savior’s behavior in this passage. Amen and Amen.