Friday, March 28, 2014

Pressed Down and Shaken

I've often wondered why Jesus didn't go back to Bethany and celebrate the Passover with Lazarus and his sisters. Why stay in Jerusalem where his enemies were? Turns out that's where everyone was to eat the Passover meal according to Deuteronomy 16:5-6.
And at the end of this particular Passover Jesus takes his disciples away from the upper room to a garden called Gethsemane, which means the place of the oil press. The Mount of Olives was filled with olive trees that extended down into the garden called Gethsemane where the olives were pressed to produce oil. Doesn't sound much like a garden does it?

What an interesting location, right? But the disciples knew this place well. A little statement made in John 18:2 tells us they went there often. And, according to A Visual Guide to Bible Events, people went there to get away from others, to get some privacy.

On this particular night, after a long day of activities and preparations, rather than learning more from Jesus they were asked to pray. But, they failed to stay awake long enough to pray for Jesus as he himself wrestled in prayer. Can you relate to falling asleep if your stomach was full and the night was late and you had trouble focusing on words to pray?

On the other hand, Jesus prayed hard. So hard in fact, that he did something they may never have seen before. He sweated blood. After two millennium of others experiencing the same thing medicine calls it hematohidrosis, or hematidrosis. By description it can happen in several locations on the body, not just the forehead; it can occur with a wide range of blood coloring; and usually occurs when under a great deal of stress.

Knowing you're going to die when you take your next big step is a great deal of stress. But being tempted one last time can add to that stress also.

You see, just up the hill from the garden was the way into the Judean Wilderness. Jesus could have gone up there and hidden from the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the Roman Guard. He could have been free and clear of the brutality that would soon come to him. But then he would have failed. His human nature would have won out and he would not have given us the greatest gift that has ever been given.

Instead he chose to kneel in the garden, crying out to his heavenly Father, "Take this cup." In the end he bowed to the will of the Father. In many ways, waiting there for his punishment he had the last of his human nature pressed out of him in a place known for pressing out oil. Oil that would be used to light lamps that would show the way. Oil that would be used to make bread for an offering.

Jesus showed his followers the way to the Father. He continues to show us the way. He was Son of Man when he was taken to the high priests but more importantly he was the innocent, sinless Son of God when he was beaten then nailed to a wooden cross.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Donkey?

Remember I once said there were meanings behind meanings? Well, there are a few things around Jesus entering Jerusalem the last week before his crucifixion that at one point in my life didn't make sense to my modern mind. Like, why ride the colt of a donkey downhill after resting for a short while? And why didn't everyone take seriously the proclamations they made about Jesus when he rode into town on the donkey? For that matter, why didn't the Roman guards take offense when the people laid their cloaks on the ground in front of Jesus as the people proclaimed him a king?

Maybe you've heard the answers before, but I thought I'd review them for those who hadn't heard them.

Bethphage is where Jesus waited for the disciples to return with the donkey and colt. In that day, that was where the city limits of Jerusalem began. And in order to fulfill the prophecy found in Isaiah 62 and Zechariah 9, Jesus as the Messiah king had to arrive into Jerusalem riding the colt. So that's what he did.

And you know what. The people knew that. In fact, part of the Passover season was celebrating and role playing the soon coming Messiah who would bring a peaceful kingdom. In other words, the removal of the Roman occupiers. So, celebrations were happening throughout the city in various ways. In the eyes of the Roman guard, the entrance Jesus made was only one of the many celebrations going on.

The words the people shouted, ". . .Son of David. . .," associated Jesus with Solomon, who also rode in the exact same way when he came into Jerusalem to be made king. And, both of them were fulfilling a prophecy that had been given to David. And since this was part of what the Messiah King would do, the people added to their reception of Jesus the placing of their cloaks on the ground. Which, by the way, was what people did to greet a king. . .it's akin to rolling out the red carpet.

Oh and as far as the palm branches go. . .that's a symbol of the Jewish nation as well as a symbol of peace. Remember they were thinking the Messiah was bringing peace from the Romans.

So if this was all going on, you may wonder why the Romans didn't get alarmed by the crowd around Jesus and what they were yelling and doing. There were several reasons. First, if Jesus wanted to be king and usurp Caesar he would have ridden a horse not the colt of a donkey. And his people would have been armed in some manner other than palm branches. Also, remember there were many people coming into the city shouting praises to God who was bringing them a king. What was one more celebration in the eyes of the Roman guard?

But in the long run Jesus knew more than the people who celebrated his entrance into Jerusalem. Whether they knew or believed him to be the true Messiah, the people fell into the plans of the Almighty. Jesus introduced himself that Passover season as the Messiah who had arrived to be the sacrifice for their sins, their protection from the angel of death. Without their failure to understand who he truly was, or to hold on to the truth that had been presented to them, he would not have been able to die on the cross for me and for you.

Friday, March 7, 2014

When Did Lent Begin?

We are now officially in the lent season. For a long time I didn't connect the religious significance to the lenten season. I thought it was a form of self-induced punishment enforced by some religions when Easter was approaching. But I've learned the truth over time.

Lent is a time of reflection, fasting something that means a great deal to you while asking God for forgiveness of wrong doings. A time to prepare for the upcoming celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. A time to remember what Jesus did so that we can accept the promise of a free ticket to heaven. And though I say free ticket, it wasn't free. A price was paid.

As I reflect back on Jesus and his sacrifice for me I read about Lazarus. Did you know this happened at the start of what we call the "lenten season"? Did you realize this was the straw that broke the camels, or rather pharisees' back, so to speak? Once he raised Lazarus from the dead the pharisees who felt threatened by him were out for blood.

In case you don't remember Lazarus, his story is found in John 11. After being dead for four days Jesus brings him back to live yet another day. Not only does he reek, but the people of that day believed his spirit should have been long gone. Which is what made this resurrection unique. All the others had been dead only a short while when they were raised up.

Add to that, the town where this took place was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. So of course, some of the witnesses ran off to tell the religious authorities. Which only puts Jesus on the get-rid-of-him-now-radar of the pharisees as well as getting more attention from travelers. All of this causes Jesus to travel to Ephraim in order to allow the pieces to fall into place. . .the next step to completing his reason for living an earth born life.

In this first season of reflection Jesus took time to prepare for what he was about to do. Thirty-three days later he enters Jerusalem with loads of people looking for him and watching him enter Jerusalem in a most interesting way. It's a great example of how we should take time to reflect when we know we have something big on the horizon of our life.