Jesus Suffered So For Me

Day after day, week upon week, I suddenly am overwhelmed with with the injustice, the bigotry, the killing of seemingly innocent lives. This past week has been so filled with these heinous acts that I just have to stop to remind myself that God is in control. No matter what I wish was the reality all around, these things are not in my control. I can pray, and I do. I can stand up for what I believe to be right, yet I am still not the one in charge. Thus I pray.

Sweet sisters and brothers, I have another post almost ready to go. I have been writing on the silence of the Lamb of God as He was being accused, judged, retaliated upon. Instead, though, am sharing something that is not mine, yet still on the Lord’s silence. This season before Resurrection Sunday, I have been reading a couple of devotional books to remind me of all that Christ has done for me. Words (other than God’s Word) are not enough to focus my heart upon Him but they are reminders, guides, prayers to point me to the One Who changed my life 28 years ago.

From “An Ocean of Grace, A Journey to Easter with Great Voices from the Past,” Tim Chester writes an introduction each day accompanied by the writing of a church father from ancient days, a Christian such as Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and so many more.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God,…. 1 Peter 3:18a

Tim Chester says: “A swap has taken place: Jesus takes out judgment and gives us his reward. The 3rd-century church father Cyprian reminds us that we see this great exchange in every aspect of the story of Christ’s passion.” (Mr. Chester changed part of the Treatise IX of Cyprian into a prayer, as I looked up the original.)

Precious Saviour,

even before Your very passion and cross, before they had reached the cruelty of death and the shedding of blood,

what infamies of reproach You patiently heard, what mockings of contempt You suffered.

You had used Your spit to heal a blind man; yet for us You received the spittings of insulters!

In Your name the devil and his angels are beaten; yet for us You suffered beatings!

You crown martyrs with eternal flowers; yet for us You were crowned with thorns.

You give victory palm branches to those who overcome; yet for us You were struck on the face with palms.

You clothe us with immortality; yet for us You were stripped of Your earthly garments.

You give us heavenly food; yet for us You were fed with bitter gall.

You hold the cup of salvation; yet for us You were given vinegar to drink.

You are guiltless, the just One; indeed, You are innocence itself and justice itself, yet for us You were counted among transgressors, and truth is suppressed with false witnesses.

You shall judge; yet for us You were judged;

You are the Word of God; yet for us You were led silently to the slaughter.

When You hung on the cross, the stars were confounded, the elements were disturbed, the earth quaked, night shut out the day, the sun withdrew his rays that He might not be compelled to look upon the crime.

You did not speak, nor did You resist, nor did You declare Your majesty.

To the very end You bore all things with perseverance that in You a full and perfect patience might be consummated.

And after all these things, You still receive Your murderers if they will turn and come to You; and with a saving patience, You close Your Church to no one.

Those adversaries, those blasphemers, those who were enemies of Your name, if they repent of their sin, and acknowledge their crime—You receive them, not only to the pardon of their sin, but to the reward of the heavenly kingdom.

Who can be said to be more patient, more merciful? Even those who shed Your blood and are made alive by that blood—so great is Your patience.

“Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps, who did no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth; Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not, but gave Himself up to him that judged Him unjustly.” 1 Peter 2:21-23

Empower us, who have placed ourselves in You by faith, who have clothed ourselves with You, who are on You, the way of salvation; empower us that we may follow Your example. Cyprian (c 200-258)*

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your sacrifices and love, again and again. And more than anything, thank You for taking my sins to the Cross, forgiving me, and guiding my steps. Teach me, show me, guide me, hold me near. For You, I am forever grateful. Please take all the violence, the murders, the crimes against humanity around this world, the lying and cheating, and forgive the cruel perpetrators of their evil ways just as You forgave Your murderers at the Cross. Draw the living victims, their families and friends near to You today, giving them comfort and healing. Forgive us each and all for all that we do and say against You. In Your Precious and Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

Photo/graphic: Gods411.org

Photo: Writings of Cyprian: Archive.org

*Cyprian: “Treatise IX. On the Advantage of Patience,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, eds. A Roberts & J. Donaldson (Eerdmans, 1979), p 486 with alterations by Tim Chester in Week 3 Sunday, “The Stars were Confounded,” An Ocean of Grace, A Journey to Easter with Great Voices from the Past, Tim Chester (The Good Book Company, 2021)

Agony, Sweat, Blood

As Resurrection Sunday, April 4, 2021, nears, I am pondering different aspects of the hard walk Jesus took for me, for many such as myself. He took my sins to the Cross where He was nailed, NAILED, to a cross and left to die. It is a horrible way to die in the reading I have done. There is another piece of this that has given me questions and that is the sweat that “became like great drops of blood.”

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:41-44

Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray, to be alone, although some of the apostles were nearby. Jesus was in agony. He needed strengthening by an angel. He asked His Father to remove the cup. Yet He prayed for God’s will to be done. This is hardly the Jesus I read about…healing, loving others, having compassion for the dying, giving water to the woman at the well. Yet, it is the same Jesus.

ἀγωνία

agōnia

  1. a struggle for victory
    1. gymnastic exercise, wrestling
  2. of severe mental struggles and emotions, agony, anguish

Jesus was human. Jesus knew what was to come for Him. He knew sin. He knew why He was on this earth. In His humanness, He had been tempted.

C. H. Spurgeon writes so decisively: The temptations were, doubtless, of the very foulest character, but they left no speck or flaw upon him, who remained still the fairest among ten thousand. The prince of this world came, but he had nothing in Christ. He struck the sparks, but they did not fall, as in our case, upon dry tinder; they fell as into the sea, and were quenched at once. He hurled the fiery arrows, but they could not even scar the flesh of Christ; they smote upon the buckler of his perfectly righteous nature, and they fell off with their points broken, to the discomfiture of the adversary. *

This is our Jesus. Jesus answered each temptation with the Word of God. Jesus knew each and every one of us so very well. He knew we were fallen and He had come to save us. The only way to do that was to take our sins to the Cross where He would be crucified. He knew these truly agonizing realities. He loved us and hated sin. We was willing to be our Savior yet had to pay the price of death on that awful Cross.

As Jesus came to the Garden of Gethsemane, He took three men with Him and spoke some solemn words to them:

And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” Matthew 26:37-38

And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” Mark 14:33-34

Jesus said those words out loud…that His soul was “very sorrowful.”

C. H. Spurgeon prays: O blessed Saviour, how can we bear to think of thee as a man astonished and alarmed! Yet was it even so when the terrors of God set themselves in array against thee. Luke uses the strong language of my text-“being in an agony.” These expressions, each of them worthy to be the theme of a discourse, are quite sufficient to show that the grief of the Saviour was of the most extraordinary character; well justifying the prophetic exclamation “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which was done unto me.” He stands before us peerless in misery. None are molested by the powers of evil as he was; as if the powers of hell had given commandment to their legions, “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king himself.” *

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. Lamentations 1:12

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Lamentations: Lamentations 1:12-22 Jerusalem, sitting dejected on the ground, calls on those that passed by, to consider whether her example did not concern them. Her outward sufferings were great, but her inward sufferings were harder to bear, through the sense of guilt. Sorrow for sin must be great sorrow, and must affect the soul. Here we see the evil of sin, and may take warning to flee from the wrath to come. Whatever may be learned from the sufferings of Jerusalem, far more may be learned from the sufferings of Christ. Does he not from the cross speak to every one of us? Does he not say, Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Let all our sorrows lead us to the cross of Christ, lead us to mark his example, and cheerfully to follow him.

God, please forgive me. Not only have I sinned, but I so hurt my Jesus. I am so grateful that He loved me then and still loves me, that He would die for me that I may have life eternally. Yet, knowing and feeling just a tiny bit of the agony I caused Him crushes my heart and soul…even this day as I type. I am so sorry, so sorry, Lord Jesus. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44

θρόμβος

thrombos

in the sense to thicken; a large thick drop, esp. of clotted blood

Luke, the author of both Luke and Acts, was a physician. “Of the four gospel writers, only Dr. Luke referred to Jesus’ ordeal as “agony” (agonia). It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer ‘his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (Luke 22:44). Only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat (idros)—a much used medical term. And only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat as consisting of great drops of blood (thromboi haimatos)—a medical condition alluded to by both Aristotle and Theophrastus.1 The Greek term thromboi (from which we get thrombus, thrombin, et al.) refers to clots of blood.Bible scholar Richard Lenski commented on the use of this term: ‘As clots,’ thromboi, means that the blood mingled with the sweat and thickened the globules so that they fell to the ground in little clots and did not merely stain the skin. 3” (by Dave Miller, Ph.D.) **

“A thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, does occur in humans. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis,6 this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture,7 thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress.8 During the waning years of the 20th century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors. The most frequent causes of the phenomenon were found to be “acute fear” and “intense mental contemplation.”9 While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile,10 which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.” (Dave Miller, Ph.D.) **

After reading about this condition and the way human bodies can react to extreme stress, to that which Jesus faced, and He absolutely knew what He faced because of Who He was, I am so humbled. Before I knew Christ as my Lord and Savior, yet as I was beginning to understand why I needed Him, the guilt and shame began to wipe over me. I needed to acknowledge those feelings, as Christ endured so much for me. So very much.

Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:3-4

No, I have not. But Christ did. I am overwhelmed in what began as a simple word study on the sweat and blood combining. Yet the agony became the focal point, the sweat and blood attached. I am in awe at my Christ. I am so sorry for all that I caused Him. This has brought me to my knees. I know too that when I am weakened, He is strong. Even Christ needed strength when He was weakened, tempted, wanted His Father to take the cup. Jesus went alone to Him in prayer, humbled on His knees. He called upon the Name of the Father, to Whom He trusted and knew wholly. His earnest prayer led His body reacting in a way I did not understand until now. Thenthere seems to be a sense of calm about Jesus after praying. How could that be? Look at what He faced! And Jesus knew what He faced. Yet He goes to His friends who were sleeping and calls to them:

And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:45-46

And then the crowd came with Judas amongst them:

While He was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48

And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against Him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:50-53

Jesus seemed calm, not filled with joy or any such emotion, but He seemed to calm the storm encircling Him. He healed the man’s ear. He spoke to the priests. He had asked Judas a question before Judas would take action.

Jesus had prayed. He knew how to pray for He taught us. And Jesus knew the outcome of all that was to come. Prayer can draw the calm and peace down upon one who needs that at the very moment they are needed.

LORD, I come to You with pain in my soul for all that Jesus had to endure for me. I am sorry for the human race’s disobedience to You since the beginning of time. We lost so much, yet we gained the Savior, the Lord, the One and Only Trinity Whom we can call upon at any time knowing that we are heard. I thank You for forgiving me in all of my weaknesses and failings, for all of my sin. Satan has beat me up many times, yet I so desire to be obedient to You and You Alone. I am loving the grace and mercy You have showered over and upon me by Your salvation in the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:10-11

May I follow in the footsteps of my Christ, carrying my cross, holding fast to my Savior till my day comes to live in eternity with Him. In Your beautiful Name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

P.S. May I recommend reading this whole sermon! It is so full of power and Truth. ~ C. H. Spurgeon: A Sermon (No. 493), Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 8th, 1863, by the REV. C. H. SPURGEON At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *

References:

1 William K. Hobart (1882), The Medical Language of St. Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1954 reprint), pp. 80-84.

2 W. Robertson Nicoll, ed. (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:631; M.R. Vincent (1887), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint), 1:425.

3 R.C.H. Lenski (1961), The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg), p. 1077.

6 A.C. Allen (1967), The Skin: A Clinicopathological Treatise (New York: Grune and Stratton), second edition, pp. 745-747; “Hematidrosis” (2002), Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, p. 832, https://goo.gl/U192fY.

7 R. Lumpkin (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.

8 See R.L Sutton, Jr. (1956), Diseases of the Skin (St. Louis, MO: Mosby College Publishing), eleventh edition, pp. 1393-1394.

9 J.E. Holoubek and A.B. Holoubek (1996), “Blood, Sweat, and Fear. ‘A Classification of Hematidrosis,’” Journal of Medicine, 27[3-4]:115-33. See also J. Manonukul, W. Wisuthsarewong, et al. (2008), “Hematidrosis: A Pathologic Process or Stigmata. A Case Report with Comprehensive Histopathologic and Immunoperoxidase Studies,” American Journal of Dermatopathology, 30[2]:135-139, April; E. Mora and J. Lucas (2013),Hematidrosis: Blood Sweat,” Blood, 121[9]:1493, February 28.

10 P. Barbet (1953), A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books), pp. 74-75; cf. Lumpkin, 1978

** Dave Miller, Ph.D. @ Apologetics Press

Photos/Graphics:

Jesus Praying painting @ Early Church History

Photo of blood: @ TruthWatchers

C.H. Spurgeon Quote/Graphic: @ Tim Challies

Not My Will-graphic on photo @ Walking in Sunlight

The Free Gift

Resurrection Sunday will be on April 4, 2021. As it nears, I sense, deeply within, the death and resurrection of Christ once again.

But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9

During seasons of Lent, I do not give up anything physical as many do during this time before “Easter Sunday.” I actually desire to dwell in the Word, Christ’s dying and His death, and His resurrection. Christ went to the Cross carrying all of my sins with Him, nailing them to that Cross, just as He was nailed there, nails through the palms of His hands, through His feet. He took my place. Although He nailed my sins to that Cross, I am still a sinful human being. I still do, think, and feel things that are of that original sinful nature.

“But Jesus took them. That is what you said, didn’t you?” you might be thinking to yourself.

Yes, He did, but that does not leave me to never sin again. I do sin still and always will…until I die. BUT…I am forgiven and have been given the gift of His mercy and His grace. I know that I have sought Christ as my Lord and Savior, receiving Him into my life. I have sought His forgiveness and He has forgiven me. I know that I am His and He is mine.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the One Who was to come. Romans 5:12-14

Jesus Christ is the Second Adam. He was the One Who was to come. And He is yet to come once again, the Second Coming! Hallelujah! He will come to take me Home if I have not already left this earth via death.

This chart below really clarified that which I sort of know but now know better:

There are two Greek words from Roman 5 that I am pondering this day: trespasses/transgressions and gift. Through these words, I see more clearly the gift Jesus gave to us by His death on the Cross.

παράπτωμα

paraptōma

(Some Bible versions use “transgressions” while others use “trespass.”)

  1. to fall beside or near something
  2. a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness
    1. a sin, misdeed
  3. a side-slip (lapse or deviation), i.e. (unintentional) error or (willful) transgression:—fall, fault, offense, sin, trespass.

I transgress. I fall. I offend another. I trespass upon another by not living correctly, and not being a light in this world. I sin.

Yet I am forgiven.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that One Man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the One Man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15-17

χάρισμα

charisma

  1. a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own
  2. the gift of divine grace; the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith,
  3. the gift of faith, knowledge, holiness, virtue
  4. the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith
  5. grace or gifts denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit

Merriam-Webster Dictionary included the following: The Greek word charisma means “favor” or “gift.” In English, it has been used in Christian contexts since about 1640 to refer to a gift or power bestowed upon an individual by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church. (This sense is now very rare.) The earliest nonreligious use of “charisma” that we know of occurred in a German text, a 1922 publication by sociologist Max Weber. The sense began appearing in English contexts shortly after Weber’s work was published. Today’s English definition of charisma is: A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm; n. Personal magnetism or charm.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Jesus came to die in my place, giving His all to save me from going to hell where I would be separated from God for eternity. Had I not accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 45 (or at any age, for that matter), I would have been living this life on earth away from God (which I truly did for the first 45 years of my life, although I did not understand that reality during those years). Then that would have extended for all of eternity. Oh my! But I have been forgiven! Thank You, Jesus.

Christ, the Righteous One, the sinless One, gave Himself to die for my sins….your sins, my friend.

Hallelujah!

Romans 5:12-17

Thank You, Jesus, for loving me, for drawing me to Your breast. You have given me life through Your death on the Cross. You paid the ultimate price for one such as I, for many such as I. Thank You, Lord. By Your righteousness, Jesus, You justified me, acquitted me of my sins, pardoned me of all my unrighteousness. Thank You does not even say all that I feel in my heart towards You, for You are The Gift that God gave to me so that I may drink from the Living Water and eat the Bread of Life forever and for always. You are my life. I am with You forever. While saddened that You had to die for me, I am rejoicing in You for the hope, the love, the grace, the peace, the faith, and the life I have in You. I am decreasing in this life while You increase in my life. I cherish You for You are my Gift. You are the Light of my life. Thank You, my Lord. I am so grateful to be Yours. In the Holy Name of Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Photos and Graphics:

Romans 5:8 @ Flickr/Joshinpowers

Adam – Christ @ Bible Book Club

Purple-Wrapped Gift @ PublicDomainPictures

Cross/Romans 5:12-17 ~ created by me @ WordArt

Lighted Gift @ FreeImages/Tracey Brown

Offended

“And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” Matthew 11:6

Do I question Jesus as to Who He is or what He does? Do I doubt His authority? Does Who He is offend me? Does what He say offend me?

I have answered those questions with a resounding, “YES!” before I knew Him. I knew of Jesus and during those many years (except as a child), I did question His very existence. I thought He was a good teacher, a kind and gentle man. But I certainly did not trust Who some said He was. I mean, they said He was born to a virgin! He performed miracles! He chose 12 men to be apostles who followed Him all over the place. Why would I believe Him? Why would I trust Him with my life? Besides, if I did, I might have to change…change the way I did things, or even change my thoughts. Goodness, no!!! Yes, I took up an offense!

In Matthew 11, John the Baptist was in prison and questioned Jesus:

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the One Who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” Matthew 11:2-6

σκανδαλίζω

skandalizō

I. to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend

  • to entice to sin.
  • to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.
  • to cause to fall away.
  • to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority (Matthew 11:6, Mark 6:3, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 13:57-58)
  • to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another

from Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Some think that John sent this question for his own satisfaction. It is true he had borne a noble testimony to Christ; he had declared him to be the Son of God, the Lamb of God, and he that should baptize with the Holy Ghost, and sent of God, which were great things. But he desired to be further and more fully assured, that he was the Messiah that had been so long promised and expected. Note, In matters relating to Christ and our salvation by him, it is good to be sure. Christ appeared not in that external pomp and power in which it was expected he should appear; his own disciples stumbled at this, and perhaps John did so;…. Note, It is hard, even for good men, to bear up against vulgar errors. **

(John’s doubt might arise from his own present circumstances. He was a prisoner, and might be tempted to think, if Jesus be indeed the Messiah, whence is it that I, his friend and forerunner, am brought into this trouble, and am left to be so long in it, …. **

(Others think that John sent his disciples to Christ with this question, not so much for his own satisfaction as for theirs. Observe, though he was a prisoner they adhered to him, attended on him, and were ready to receive instructions from him; they loved him, and would not leave him. Now, they were weak in knowledge, and wavering in their faith, and needed instruction and confirmation;….)  **

Are worldly influences persuading us that Jesus is not who we are expecting? Is there someone greater or different? I think that the world around us does draw us away from the One Who has, indeed, come to save us because the world wants Him to be someone/something else.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Mark 6:3

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Matthew 26:31

And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:57-58

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. Mark 8:31-32

It seems easier for us if Jesus would look like the world, to do things as the world does. We squeeze our description, our “Jesus-likeness” from our minds, into a box filled with expectations.

The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven to test Him. Mark 8:11

Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to Him?” John 10:20

The Israelites wanted a king, a king who would conquer and save.

But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Luke 24:13

Maybe our eyes are shut and we miss Him altogether.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. Luke 24:15-16

We want to know Who He is and to know this with clarity, intelligibility, and purity.

So the Jews gathered around Him and said to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John 10:24

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the Cornerstone. Acts 4:11 (Psalm 118:22)

We want to know Him, yet we do not trust because we do not know Who He is.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not among My sheep. John 10:25-26

I see Jesus caring for the poor, the afflicted, the sick, the demon-possessed. These acts should draw me to Him, not send me away for He cares and loves the lowly and meek.

“If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” John 10:37-38

The Cross offends. The Cross scares people because of the depth of it’s meaning. Jesus the Christ went to the Cross. He bled for each and all of us for we are sinners. We are disobedient to the Father. He sent His One and Only Son to draw us unto Him, to teach us the Truth. Jesus went to the Cross for the sins we committed. He was sinless. Jesus died for us, nailing our sins to the very Cross from which He hung.

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is a Truth that many run fast and hard away from. I did…for many years. I carried the heavy burden of my sin too and did not know what all that weight was on my back.

Rather than acknowledge Jesus as their Savior, the Jews dealt with Jesus in ways of their own:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. John 10:31

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. John 18:12

And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” Mark 15:13

I reached a place in my life, at age 45, when I could no longer run, nor hide, nor carry the weight of my sinful burden. I turned to Jesus. I repented of my sin. I could no longer face myself in a mirror because I saw no good in me through anything I was or did. I gave myself to Jesus. He cleansed me and made me brand new. The weight was lifted from my shoulders. Jesus has given me a new heart, a heart that loves Him and only Him. Through Him, I can live anew and love anew. Oh my! Freshened. Refreshed.

We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6

These words made no sense to me at one time in my life. Now, I can clearly see that my sin was cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

This is so OFFENSIVE to so many in this world.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

Yet, through the Word of God, prayer, quiet times, the Lord calls me to be near Him. He knows me and will not let me fall back into the world. I stay close to Him in obedience. I do not want to be a stray sheep.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.” John 10:27-30

Father, I pray I am able to be true to You, to the Truth of the Gospel, to all that is of You. I want to be a reflection of You. I desire to transmit Your love to those I come in contact with, while opening my heart to others about Jesus. I do not want to be offensive yet the Cross, the Gospel, Jesus, You can be offensive to many. It is through me where some may meet up with these, thus possibly making me offensive, like body odor. They may stand back, run away, protest, deny. Reactions can be many. Lord, please guide me and show me Your ways in which to walk as I share my faith in You. I love You so. I pray in the Saving Name of Jesus. Amen.

** Matthew Henry: Commentary on Matthew 11

Cornerstone drawing: https://www.ulpanor.com/2017/11/23/hebrew-vs-aramaic/

Cross: Adam Zdebel @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/zdebel/. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Burden of this Cross

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Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.   Matthew 16:24

ἀπαρνέομαι

aparneomai

to forget one’s self

lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests

disown, abstain

Jesus’ words strike a hard cord in me.  I am called to follow Jesus because I have chosen His way over mine, yet I still want to do things my way, guide the direction of my own life, take my own chances.  Then I hit a wall and it hurts.  I run on empty, unable to go anywhere in life except down by the pull of gravity.  In order to follow the Lord, I am to deny myself, releasing my desires and hopes for His, His alone.  When I am in step with Jesus, all that He desires for me are those things I need.  An interesting piece of God’s puzzle for my life is His desires for me are often just what I desire for myself.  I’m not losing after all.  The relationship with Christ is far more important so that I walk rightly with the Lord.

αἴρω

airō

  bear (up)

place on oneself

to carry

My burdens can be worries, anxieties, physical pain, other people’s lives and their concerns, hurting people of this world, and so much more.  All can weigh heavily upon my heart.  The Word tells me not to be anxious, not to worry.  He is faithful and is with me.  He feeds and clothes the birds; He will do the same for His children.  So I lift those weights and take them to Jesus.

σταυρός

stauros

a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment)

figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial

by implication, the atonement of Christ:—cross.

The cross is what Jesus was placed upon for His crucifixion.  It is a horribly cruel punishment and eventual death.  Scourging comes first.  The one being crucified must carry his own cross.  Jesus did this part of the way until Simon was compelled to carry it the remainder of the way.  Jesus would hang upon the Cross until death.

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.  Luke 23:26

The cross is that which will kill this earthly life.

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I carry a cross, laden with burdens.  I place it there at the feet of Jesus.  He died for my sins.  Why do I continue weighing myself down?  Jesus has taken it all to the Cross.  Part of the definition of cross, in Greek, is self -denial.  I deny myself, being exposed to death, reproach, suffering, trials, punishment.  I am no longer mine, but His.

I am learning as I do that which Jesus asks of me: denying things of the self, lifting up that which weighs me down, carrying the cross to Jesus Who has already taken my burdens upon Himself.  It is in the doing, the actions of denying, lifting, and carrying to Jesus that I begin to find a clearer, deeper meaning to all that He is asking of me.

ἀκολουθέω

akoloutheō

to be or become the disciple of another as to faith and practice

to follow his teaching

Following Jesus is key to my walk in this Christian life.  When I am His, I desire to be near and to know the path upon which He leads me.  I release all burdens, knowing that He is caring for me.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

As Your child, LORD, I depend upon You.  When I feel alone, or struggling with concerns, You are right here.  You are yoked with me.  You know my physical pain, the concerns that touch my heart regarding others, my anxiousness over provision for this earthly life.  Your grace is truly sufficient, Sweet Jesus.  Sometimes I feel wrung out and worn out.  The Word says in Matthew 27, verse 39-40: And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’  But You hung on that Cross, LORD, and paid the ultimate price for me, releasing me to walk with You always. You have given me eternal life.  How much more could I ask?  What else is there to ask?  Forgive me when I am selfish.  Often, when I deny myself, I must turn around and deny myself again, LORD, because I am selfish.  I just am, but am also very sorry.  I carry my cross to You so that I may follow You.  “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”  (Matthew 10:38 ESV)  I do not want to be called “unworthy,” LORD.  Thank You for walking with me on this journey even when I fail You.  Your forgiveness, Your love, Your gentle nature give me the hope in this life that my physical eyes cannot see, yet the eyes of my heart know hope for You are the Hope.  I love You, Jesus.  I pray gently in Your Name.  Amen. 

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Graphic:  by American/Dutch web designer Catherine Reijans, founder of KATINK web design; https://thinkingmuseum.com/2013/10/30/thinking-museum-on-think-katink/  (but the actual think-Katink web design site is no longer connected, but I want to give her credit where it is due)

Cross:  http://www.themescompany.com/2012/04/17/cross/

Sheep and Shepherds

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1

רָעָה

ra`ah

shepherd

to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension, to associate with (as a friend):—× break, companion, keep company with, devour, eat up, evil entreat, feed, use as a friend, make friendship with, herdman, keep (sheep) (-er), pastor, shearing house, shepherd, wander, waste.

occurs 173 times in 144 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV

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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

ποιμήν

poimēn

a shepherd (literally or figuratively):—shepherd, pastor

occurs 18 times in 17 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV

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Sheep do not have the ability to survive on their own.  They:

  • graze the same area until the pasture is destroyed.
  • pollute the same ground until it breeds dangerous parasites.
  • drink whatever water is available, clear or contaminated.
  • are fearful and become aggravated which can lead to improperly digesting foods.
  • are timid.
  • and can be stubborn.

They need a shepherd.

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Christians are compared to sheep quite frequently in God’s Word.

We wander down paths of our own devising rather than follow God’s way for our lives.  We delve into false beliefs.  We drink from unhealthy waters, figuratively.  We can be stubborn and fight against God’s best.

Looking at the natural habits of sheep when left on their own can be a reflection of ourselves.

Jesus is our Shepherd.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  He created me and you.  Who better to care for me, for us?  He cared more than anything for the likes of me when He went to Calvary.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6

We are capable of doing right, yet often fail in our attempts using our own strength.  We drink waters of the world rather than the Living Water.  We live in fear rather than trusting in Him Who is trustworthy.  We wander away from our Maker and do not listen for His still, small voice directing us in the way in which we should go.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matthew 9:36

Jesus is our faithful Shepherd, gentle, caring, and, yet, stern.

A shepherd owns his sheep and marks them with his special mark to determine ownership.  He will cut a notch, a distinctive mark, into his sheep’s ear while placing one ear on a wooden block.

In the Old Testament, Exodus 21, this was also done to a slave in a Hebrew household who chose, of his own free will, to become a lifetime member of that home.  His master/owner would take him to the door, put his ear lobe against the door post and, with an awl, puncture a hole through the ear.  He was marked.

1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.  Exodus 21:1-6

We, as Christ’s, bear the mark of the Cross.  Jesus has authority over me.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24

We need the Good Shepherd, the One Who truly is our Shepherd.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  11 I am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 I am the good Shepherd.  I know My own and My own know Me, 15 just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.  So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.  John 10:7-16

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Father God, You gave Your One and Only Son to pay the price for my iniquities.  Thank You so very much.  

As one of Your children, I so want to please You.  Carrying my cross daily and following Jesus is my call.  And I want that to always be my call.  I am grateful for being willing and able, for the sake of the Gospel.  I follow.  It is a privilege, LORD.  A privilege.  

As a sheep, I would wish that I were not so vulnerable, but I am.  It is by staying in Your Word, by listening to and for You, by praying, that I can remain in Your fold.  I know that the good Shepherd guards the gateway so that I remain safe.  He watches for the wolves, protecting me.  I am dependent upon Jesus and look to Him.  I am sorry for my past periods of straying away.  I am here now.  I must stay close for His protection is vital to my life.  Thank You, Father.  I lift up in prayer those who stray or are lost or have not yet found the Shepherd.  May they hear Your Voice and come to You before it is too late.  I have family and friends in those places and I so want them with us in Heaven.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.  

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Photo of shepherd and sheep

Photo of John 10