Tag Archives: the cross

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Jesus Intercedes for Us

Jesus has many titles and numerous ministries. A very significant one is his ministry of interceding for his disciples. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.   (Romans 8:34)

Without his prayers the early disciples would have failed in their mission. From today’s Gospel we have his high priestly prayer:

Jesus prayed for his disciples, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.   (John 17:6-10)

Jesus prays to the Father he has been glorified in the disciples. This is a mystery because Jesus, himself, had not been glorified. He had not yet gone to the cross. We read in the Gospel of John:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As[k] the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart[l] shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

The Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out because Jesus had not paid the price on Sin at this point. In his prayer, however, he was seeing into the future. He was looking at the ministry of his disciples and he was looking at our ministry. Jesus would be gloried in his disciples because they would continue his ministry on earth. They would perform signs and wonders in his name.

Jesus new that his disciples would be facing great hostility and persecution because of the works they would be doing. Thus, he prays for the safety of the early disciples as well as our own:

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name ithat you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one   (John 17:11-15)

The living water is the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. To do the works of Jesus we need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus t0ld the Samaritan woman at the well:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”   (John 4:10)

To receive that living water we must ask Jesus. To keep that living water we must be willing to give up deliberate sin. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.   (Psalm 1:1-3)

Yes, we are still in the age of the apostolic anointing. God is counting on us to continue the work and earthly ministry of Jesus. Jesus is interceding for us to do so. It is not the time to speculate about the end of the age. It is a time for reformation and revival in the Church. God is inviting us to flow in the his Spirit. Are we willing to be planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season?

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Evangelism

To be sure, some Christians are called and gifted to serve as an evangelist. But every Christian has a part in the ministry of evangelism. Some might say that they just do not know how to do it. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. He is the greatest evangelist. Perhaps we should rely on him do the work of evangelism through us.

Today’s appointed scripture gives us an excellent case study on evangelism. Beginning with the Book of Acts:

An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.   (Acts 8:26-31)

To do evangelism we need to be put in position to do so. We need to be led by the Spirit of where He wants us to do evangelism. Next, we need to do evangelism in context. Evangelism by the numbers, following a set of rules, tends to be unproductive in most cases . If is is forced it can turn people off.

Philip did not have a preconceived plan. He simply responded to the leading of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit had already prepared the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch. Again, from Acts:

Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.   (Acts 8:32-34)

The message of the cross is the core of evangelism. The Apostle Paul wrote:

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.   (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

In his First Epistle, the Apostle John wrote:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.   (1 John 4:9-10)

Evangelism is not about asking someone to attend a church or a Bible study, That is all well and good. It is not getting someone to say the sinners prayer, especially if they do not understand the depth and breadth of their sin, Rather, evangelism is about converting souls. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But souls are not ready until they are aware of the magnitude of their sin and the price God has paid to cleanse them of all unrighteousness. Only the message of the cross will bring about this awareness.

Evangelism does not stop at the cross, however. It is also an invitation of come into union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

Jesus said to his disciples, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.    (John 15:1-5)

The Christian faith asked for a commitment on our part. We are asked to live a new life of love and holiness. We cannot do this on our own. Jesus  cleanses us from our sins. He also calls requites  us to forsake sin.

As Christians, we are asked to produce fruit of the Holy Spirit. Part of that fruit is leading others to Christ by our words and example.

Are we excited about the kingdom of God? Are we excited about the good news of Christ that we want to tell others? Becoming of being a disciple of Christ is bearing fruit. Jesus makes this promise to all who commit their lives to him:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”   (John 15:7-8)

The days of superficiality are over. The Ethiopian eunuch was excited about the good news of Christ. He could not wait to be baptized. Reading from Acts:

As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip[c] baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.   (Acts 8:36-39)

Today, let us dwell on the awareness of what Jesus has done for us and the price he has paid. What are we willing to give to him?

Help us, dear Lord, to grow in grace, fully committed to you, so that we may bring forth lasting fruit in your name.  Amen.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Good Shepherd

We are looking for leadership in America today. We are looking for good leadership. I believe this is true all over the world. What makes good leadership? Jesus described what that is:

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.   (Mark 10:42-44)

We have a few great leaders, but some of them are great in their own minds. They are not great for the people. We need leaders that care. We need shepherds that care for the flock. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.   (John 10:11-15)

There are leaders who are only working for the money. When tough issues arise they are no where to be found. They duck under the cover of lies, distortions, and propaganda. Then they blame others for the evil that they do.

Good leaders are always there for the people. They are comforters. They may challenge us, but they also reassure us that we can rely on them. They have our backs covered. King David wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:1-4)

Good leaders care about the welfare of the people. They sacrifice their own wants and desires in the interest of the welfare of others. In his First Epistle, John wrote about the ultimate leader:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us— and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?   (1 John 3:16-17)

Jesus went to the cross for us. Peter told the high-priestly family who forbid him to speak about Jesus:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

Jesus is a true leader. He is still the leader today for all who put their trust in him. He paid the price of our sins on the cross. And today he is looking for under-shepherds who truly care about his sheep. Are you one of them? Am I?

If so, we must be prepared to lay down our lives for others. We must demonstrate our love of Jesus by loving the way he loves. A leader without love is a follower of the lawless one. The lawless one leads his flock into devastation and destruction. He is the father of lies. He hides in the darkness. But his days are numbered. His deeds and those who follow him will be exposed.

For the sake of good government we must chose our leaders wisely. For eternal life we must choose the ultimate leader, the good shepherd, Jesus Christ the righteous Son of God. He, alone, is our Savior and Lord.

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Good Friday

Painting by homilist

 

He Opened Not His Mouth

What price did Jesus pay for our salvation? He paid with everything in his being. He paid it all. From Isaiah we read:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.   (Isaiah 53:7-8)

By his own volition, Jesus allowed himself to be crushed like grapes to that we might have new wine. He was brought before Pilate by the Jewish authorities, having been cleared by the high priest Caiaphas. From today’s Gospel reading:

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”   (John 18:28-31)

The authorities were asking Pilate for one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised. But Pilate realized that they had no real case against Jesus. He was reluctant to proceed beyond a certain point:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”   (John 19:1-7)

As we can see, Pilate did not want to do what they asked. He suspected that the charges were trumped up. That is what lying people do to cover their own iniquity. He was shocked by the demand for crucifixion:

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”   (John 19:8-11)

The courts have become rubber stamps. They are manipulated and controlled by evil people with evil intents. Nothing has changed down to this day. God the Father allows this to expose this great evil.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.

When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;

through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;

he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.   (Isaiah 53:13-12)

The crushing had to take place. There is no redemption of our sins without the cross. Yet, some churches want to rush to the resurrection narrative. But there is no resurrection without the crucifixion:

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”   (John 19:16-22)

The execution was carried out only because God the Father required it and only because Jesus was obedient to the Father, even to death upon a cross. This terrible execution had to be done to atone for all of our sins:

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.   (John 19:28-30)

It was finished. The price for sin was paid. The opening of heaven was complete for all who would believe. Reading from Hebrews:

The Holy Spirit testifies saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”

he also adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.   (Hebrews 10:16-18)

We have looked towards the cross today. What is our response? The psalmist wrote:

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules over the nations.

To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the Lord‘s for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.   (Psalm 22:26-30)

Our response to the cross determines whether or not this Friday is good. Such a high price was paid. Unless we are willing to reap the benefits, Jesus died in vain for us. He was crushed for us so that we might also be crushed. We can no longer live for ourselves. Our confidence before the judgment seat of God cannot be based on anything that we are or can do.

Satan is still our accuser. Who is defending us against this accuser? Are we still defending ourselves? Or are our mouths closed so that the Lord Jesus Christ can defend us? Mazy it be said about us in the courts of heaven: “They opened not their mouths.”

If we allow Jesus to defend us, then a whole new world is opened up to us. Reading from Hebrews:

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   (Hebrews 10:10-25)

Amen! Amen! Thanks be to God who gives us our victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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