Our Anger at God’s Compassion

Jonah 4:1-4 (NIV)
Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion

4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

The book of Jonah contains only four chapters. Sunday school lessons and even sermons are built around the first three chapters of this book. You know the story of Jonah. In the first chapter, the word of the Lord came to Jonah, commanding him to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against its wickedness. And we all know that Jonah “ran away from the Lord and headed to Tarshish.” God then sends a “great fish” to swallow Jonah, and from inside the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed to God for forgiveness. God commands the fish to free Jonah and the “word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” to go to Nineveh and proclaim God’s message. Jonah obeys God this time. The people of Nineveh repent and God does not bring destruction upon them. End of story, right? Wrong!

In chapter four we find that Jonah is still angry because God has chosen not to destroy the Ninevites, an enemy of Israel. Jonah cannot believe that God would have mercy and compassion upon a group of people that Jonah dislikes. Jonah even goes so far to “pray” to God that it would be better for him to die than to stick around and witness God’s compassion upon the Ninevites. This time, Jonah prays to the Lord out of anger instead of distress. And God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah expected God to show special favor only to the Israelites. It’s likely that he even desired God’s wrath upon those who were enemies of Israel. Jonah wanted revenge against those he believed were undeserving of God’s mercy. However, God admonishes Jonah’s way of thinking and declares his own gracious kindness and divine compassion upon the Ninevites. God, not Jonah, is in control!

How often do you become angry when God bestows mercy and compassion upon people who are unlike yourself? How often do you judge other people because of the way you perceive them? God’s mercy and compassion extends to all people and God demands for us to be caring and compassionate to everyone. We are called to be a witness of God’s everlasting love and mercy; we must not judge those we are called to witness to or care for.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 Peter 3: 8-9: Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Christ Is Risen – Easter Sunday

The Empty Tomb: John 20: 1-22

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

  “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

   Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

   She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

On this glorious Easter morning we awake to a world that is filled with hope instead of despair. A morning that is full of light instead of the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Christ is risen and He is victorious over evil.This Easter morning we join with believers throughout the world in proclaiming: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen indeed!

 

 

 

Holy Saturday Passion Week

Today is called Holy Saturday and it is the day after Good Friday. Holy Saturday is also  called Black Saturday. It is the last day of Holy Week, in which we await the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning. On Holy Saturday we remember the day that the body of Christ lay in the tomb.

From the book of Matthew we find this event happening on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. Matthew 27:62-66: The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

John 16:20-22: I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

On this day, I am certain that the disciples were confused and scared. Jesus had been crucified and all may have seemed hopeless and lost. We know that the disciples often struggled in their walk of faith and on this dark day they probably could not begin to comprehend what was about to take place the next morning. The despair that they must have felt and the guilt of abandoning Jesus would have been a heavy burden to bear. They probably could not see or imagine – the light and the hope that would forever change the world – come tomorrow morning. Even though it may have seemed that evil had prevailed we know that evil will never prevail against God’s Kingdom. Tomorrow we can say with complete joy and confidence that – Christ is risen – Christ is risen indeed!

 

Friday of Passion Week

Jesus’ trial took place in two stages: a Jewish trial and a Roman trial, each of which had three parts. For the Jewish trial these were: (1) the preliminary hearing before Annas, the former high priest; (2) the trial before Caiaphas, the ruling high priest, and the Sanhedrin; and (3) the final action of the council, which brought to a conclusion its all-night session.  The three episodes of the Roman trial were: (1) the trial before Pilate; (2) the trial before Herod Antipas; and (3) the trial before Pilate continued and concluded. [1]

The first trial occurred during the nighttime hours before Annas. In the second trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus is pronounced “worthy of death.”  Matthew 26:67-68: Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” The third trial occurred immediately at daybreak and the council condemns Jesus and leads him off to Pilate.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

Still early in the morning, Jesus goes before Pilate. When Pilate realizes that Jesus is a Galilean, he sends him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction. Luke tells us that when Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Luke writes that Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies (Luke 23:11-12).

Pilate then examines Jesus and cannot find a basis for a charge against Jesus. Pilate wanted to release Jesus but the crowd kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:20-21). Herod then speaks to the crowd for a third time telling them that he will have Jesus punished and then released. “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.” So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Jesus is crucified (from approximately 9 AM until Noon)

Mark’s gospel gives us the following account of Jesus’ crucifixion. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get (Mark 15:21-24).

John 19:25-27: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Luke 23:44-49: It was now about the sixth hour (noon) and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (3pm), for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Jesus Burial

 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Jesus’ body would have been wrapped and placed in the tomb before sunset, when the Sabbath would begin and no work could be done.

[1] Zondervan NIV Study Bible, 2002, page 1559

Thursday of Passion Week

Thursday – The Last Supper and Gethsemane: Jesus prepares himself and his disciples for his death and gives the Passover meal a new meaning.

Luke 22:7-23: The Last Supper: 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

 10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

 13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet: John’s gospel tells us that “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). John tells us that the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. After the meal, Jesus gets up and begins to wash his disciples feet. Jesus tells his disciples, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). Jesus tells his disciples that they should also wash one another’s feet. Jesus knew that his disciples needed a lesson in humility and love for one another. In the foot-washing scene, Jesus gives us an extraordinary lesson in humility.

The gospel of Mark tells us that after they had sang a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26).

Gethsemane: Mark 14:32-42: 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus Arrested: Mark 14-43-50: 43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

   48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

Before the Sanhedrin: Mark 14:53-56;64b-65:  53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

This concludes the events of Thursday of Holy Week.

Wednesday of Passion Week

Wednesday – A Day of Rest and Silence

For Jesus, Wednesday was a day of rest and he most likely remained in Bethany throughout the day and also spent the night there again. The Gospel accounts are mostly silent in regards to any activity by Jesus on Wednesday – although Luke tells us that Jesus was teaching at the temple each day of the final week of his life – Luke 21:37-38.  Jesus, knowing what he was about to endure, probably spent time in the company of his friends only two days before he is to be crucified.

One can hardly imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind on this apparent day of rest. In two days, the “light” that came into a dark and fallen world would be crucified. Jesus would take on the sin of the world and suffer a painful and agonizing death on the cross at Calvary. As I write this today, I am painfully reminded of how much pain and suffering Jesus endured so that my sins and your sins could be forgiven. It gives me greater strength to approach life differently, to live a life that is focused on following my Lord and Savior without hesitation. Jesus reminds us that we are to take up our cross daily and to follow him. That is a calling that we as followers of Christ should not take lightly.

There was much activity going on by those who were plotting to kill Jesus. It could have been on Wednesday that Judas went to the chief priests with an offer to betray Jesus. Matthew 26:14-16: Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” so they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – only two days from the cross at Calvary.

Tuesday of Passion Week

According to the Gospel accounts, these events took place on Tuesday of Passion Week.

A day of controversy and parables: In Jerusalem, Jesus eluded the traps set by the priests. On the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus taught in parables and warned the people against the Pharisees. He predicted the destruction of Herod’s great temple and told his disciples about future events, including his own return.

Jesus engages in conflict with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem: Mark 11:27-33: They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”  Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”   Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Jesus then began to speak to the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders and he spoke to them in parables. Jesus tells them the parable of the tenants, a parable that exposed the planned attempt on Jesus’ life, and God’s judgment on those who were planning it. After Jesus told this parable, the gospel writer Mark tells us: “Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away” (Mark 12:12).

Luke 21:37-38: Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

This concludes the events of Tuesday of Passion Week.[1]

 



[1] NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing, Passion Week Chart, pages 1556-1557

Monday of Passion Week

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Matthew 21:10 reveals to us that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “the whole city was stirred.” Many in the crowd, who were waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna in the highest,” (Matthew 21:9) would turn against Jesus and would shout “crucify him” (Matthew 27:23) only a few days later. Mark tells us that after Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he went to the temple and “looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve” (Mark 11:11).

Mark 11:12 tells us that on the next day they left Bethany, (“the next day as they were leaving Bethany”…) And then in 11:15, Mark records, “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there.” According to Mark’s Gospel, the clearing of the temple took place on Monday.

Mark 11:15-18 (NIV): On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”  The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

In the evening Jesus and the Twelve leave Jerusalem and return to Bethany (Mark 11:19). It is likely that Jesus spent the night at the home of his friends; Mary, Martha and Lazarus. It was Lazarus that Jesus had raised from the dead after four days (John 11:38-44).

According to the Gospels, these events took place on Monday of Passion Week.

 

 

Living a Thankful Life

Psalm 100 (NIV)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Last week, I had the honor of participating in a funeral service that celebrated the life of a wonderful lady in our church. Several years ago, she had written down the scripture verses that she wanted to be used at her service. My assigned passage was the Psalm 100 text above. This Psalm was a very fitting passage to use in describing her life and her close relationship with God.  She spent a lifetime giving praise and thanksgiving to her Lord for life’s blessings and struggles. Yes, she was the type of Christian that would praise God especially during tough or challenging times. She knew that God would use those difficult times to further refine and mold her into the kind of Christian that He created her to be.

I have contemplated and struggled with this Psalm 100 passage all week. If I am honest, I must admit that I often fail to give God the proper praise and thanks that He is so worthy of. I tend to forget that it is the Lord who has created me and I belong to him. “We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” While we strive to be self-made people, we must remember that we are first and foremost, God-made.  If we claim to follow God, we must yield our lives to Him, so that he can refine and mold each of us as we traverse life’s challenges and struggles. As the psalmist reminds us, “Worship the Lord with gladness.” Can you be thankful and worship God each day in spite of what that day holds?

I don’t know what challenges and difficulties you may be facing at this very moment. Maybe you have prayed and prayed to God and you just can’t feel God’s presence or direction. It could be that God has given you an answer but it’s not the answer you wanted or hoped for. Life throws so many challenges and disappointments our way and we sometimes feel helpless, hopeless, or lost. We feel the weight and the burden of this world upon us and it eventually begins to wear us down. If you feel this way you are not alone, many other Christians are struggling with these same fears and doubts. Continue to pray and talk to God, asking for discernment and strength for the journey ahead.

Psalm 27:1 (KJV): The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 is my favorite go-to verse when I am feeling discouraged or afraid. If you don’t already know this verse you may want to write it down or even memorize it. Remember that God has promised to uphold you with His mighty strength and mercy. “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). Trust in God and continue to seek His faithful presence in the midst of your hectic and worry filled life. May God’s blessings be upon each of you.