Priests View the Cross 5

Luke 22:66-71

Several years ago an Australian native told us the story of how he encountered some tourists on the side of the road. They were looking at a koala bear that had been injured. “Don’t touch it,” he warned. But the tourists wanted to help.

“Don’t touch it,” he warned again. But the poor bear was so cute.

“Don’t touch it,” he said. What harm could a little koala do? So the tourists picked up the bear, and the koala slashed at one of them with his claws. Leaving a stunned and bleeding tourist behind, the Aussie said, “I told you not to touch it” as he drove away.

I am sure almost every one of us has been in the situation where no one will listen to what we are saying because they just can’t believe it, or they choose not to believe it. In this passage Jesus is in one of his final confrontations with the religious leaders of his society. What do they want to know of him? Why is Jesus reluctant to answer? What answer does Jesus give? How do the priests respond?

The council of elders look as if they genuinely want to gather information. They appear to truly want to know if Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God. But we can see by the end that they didn’t really want to know.

This passage seems to sum up the whole of Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders of his time. They liked to ask questions, probing and interrogating everyone, but they would never allow themselves to be asked any questions.

And it didn’t matter if Jesus did answer the questions. They weren’t actually listening for an answer. It would appear that they had already made up their mind about things and were just looking for an excuse to rid themselves of Jesus.

Just as in the previous passages we have examined this week, these leaders were presented with the truth of God, the truth and reality of Jesus. But they chose to ignore what was told them. They chose to stick to the narrow vision they had and reject a wider, more wonderful view of God and His mercy. Their view of the cross, their view of God, was not a straight view.

I believe God is constantly presenting us with new insights and revelations about Him, His love, and His kingdom. Will we open our minds to hear the answers He has for us, or will we refuse to listen to God so that our comfortable faith cannot be changed in any way?

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to be certain you listen when God speaks to you?

Priests View the Cross 4

John 9:28-34

One of my favorite stories is of my father who was fixing a boat motor for a friend. My dad told him to get a certain part to replace what wasn’t working. But the man at the dealership said that such a part was not available since no one could remove it from the motor. But my dad removed the part from the motor, handed it to the man, and said, “This is what we need.” He had done what everyone said couldn’t be done.

The passage today is just a small section from John 9. The entire chapter of John 9 is the very involved story of Jesus healing a blind man and the reactions that the healing receives. I recommend reading the whole chapter if you have time.

The priests have interrogated the man healed of blindness and ask him to repeat the story, but he refuses. How do the Pharisees respond to this in verses 28 and 29? What logical argument does the man give in verses 30 to 33? What is the solution for the Pharisees?

I have always found this story to be amusing. Jesus heals a blind man and no one, it seems, can accept that it happened. Who did it? How did he do it? Why did he do it? Are we sure this man really was blind?

Instead of celebrating the miracle, instead of rejoicing in the goodness of God, the religious leaders got caught up in trying to understand what went on. And a large part of their frustration and anger was that this was something out of their control.

The final solution was to simply get rid of the problem. Throw the man out!

Don’t we do that in our own worship communities? Sometimes it seems more important to us that we sing properly, sit properly, and dress properly. If God performed a miracle we would complain that there was too much noise or that the carpet got dirty. We would miss the joy of God’s work.

When a new believer comes to God we should celebrate this change of heart, and not get bogged down in the “who is this?” and “why are you here?” of the matter. Let’s be careful to watch for the amazing work of God and not simply throw out what we do not understand.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How do you react to the impossible?

Priests View the Cross 3

Luke 5:29-32

In one episode of the old “M*A*S*H” show there was a patient who thought he was Jesus. One of the doctors confronted him and asked, “If you are Jesus, why are you in a hospital?” The man answered, “I’m Jesus. Where am I supposed to be?”

It’s a silly sitcom, a show that by today’s perspective seems very sophomoric and out-dated, and yet in that episode, in that line, we have a truth of our faith. “I am Jesus. Where am I supposed to be?”

Where is Jesus in this passage? Who objects to this and why? What is Jesus’ response?
Levi, also called Matthew, a tax collector who is now one of the disciples, is hosting a banquet, a huge dinner in honor of Jesus. And this tax collector has obviously invited his co-workers, his peers, those people who are his friends. And the religious leaders object to this. They do not like the idea of associating with people who are not spiritually pure, with people who may have an unsavory or unacceptable background.

But Jesus explains that he has come to save these people, not the ones who are already on the right path with God. He has come to associate with sinners so that he might save them.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law did not have an accurate view of the cross. They saw God and His grace and love as being only for those people who were good enough to get it. But God’s love is for all people, and those who are living a life far from what God wants should not be shunned or avoided, but should be ministered to.

Jesus did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but to call the sinners to repentance. They are the ones who need the mercy more than the righteous.

We need to be willing to associate with people who are not of our faith. What do we accomplish if we have contact only with those people who are in our church? If our faith is strong and our love for God is pure, we should be able to go out into the world and deal with those who are living a life far from what God wants. And we should be able to resist being drawn into their sinful ways, and instead lead them to a holy way of living.

DAILY CHALLENGE: If you are to be an imitator of Jesus, then where are you supposed to be.

Priests View the Cross 2

Mark 3:1-6

“I’ve got my eye on you.” This is an expression we have all either heard or used ourselves. If we suspect someone of being a troublemaker, or we anticipate problems with another, we will keep our eye on them, watch them closely for any opportunity to attack or correct them.

Such was the situation with Jesus. He had been stirring things up by performing healings and teaching concepts that the religious leaders may not have agreed with. Now they were watching him for any chance to attack.

What problem did “the man” in the synagogue have? How did Jesus handle the situation? What was the response to his question? How did they react to the healing?

It is interesting to note that one of the commentaries I have points out that those people in the synagogue who were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus were watching him closely, not to see if he could heal the man, but if he would heal the man. They knew he could. They were watching to see if it would happen on the Sabbath.

Jesus presents them all with the truth of the matter. Is it okay to do good on a holy day? Isn’t it better to help someone rather than harm?

But there was no answer, even though they knew and we know what the answer is. What is important is the fact that they were going to use whatever Jesus did as ammunition against him.

At the heart of it the question addresses our view of the cross. Is it important to do good and help others? Or is it more important to do things the “right way?”

Unfortunately, we have many people in our place of worship that have similar attitudes. They seem to overlook the goodness of the fact that other people are coming into the presence of God to worship and deepen their relationship with the Almighty. Instead they are caught up in who they are, what they are wearing, how they are behaving, and so on.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Jesus was “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” How would he feel about yours?

Priests View the Cross 1

We apologize for the late publication of the 10/2 Grow, however, schedule and workload prevented timely completion of the devotion.

Mark 12:18-24

As we enter into the season of Lent, that forty-day preparation for Easter, we will be examining the different views of the cross. More accurately, we will be looking at the various ways of seeing God. What motivates or influences the different perspectives, and more importantly, are any of these views or attitudes the correct one?

In one of his many stand-up comedy routines George Carlin related about how he and his friends in parochial school would ask ridiculously hard questions of their priests. “If God is all-powerful, can He make a stone so large even He cannot lift it?” The questions were meant o stump the priest and to stall for time, to distract the teacher from assignments or work, or they were simply asked out of boredom.

This same sort of attitude seems to be exemplified in many of the encounters Jesus had with the high priests and religious leaders. Many of their inquiries seemed to be intent on trapping or fooling Jesus rather than uncovering any truths. In this section from Mark, what complex situation is put forth? What do you think their motivation is in asking the question in verse 23? How does Jesus resolve the entire issue?

The Sadducees, an aristocratic sect of religious leaders, did not have a correct view of the cross. They did not necessarily see God, or at least Jesus, as the powerful and mysterious God of the universe. They saw Jesus, it would seem, as some sort of sideshow in town, some upstart who needed to be put in his place with difficult questions.

These Sadducees did not believe in resurrection or an afterlife, yet they approached Jesus with a convoluted and impossible scenario involving the afterlife. Their intentions were to trip up this teacher, to confuse him, to make him look foolish.

But Jesus swept it all away with a simple and wise response. He simply pointed out that they did not know what they were talking about because they didn’t know the power of God.

What is our approach to God? What is our view of the cross? Do we see God as someone who can be outwitted? Is God an entity that needs to be tricked or one which can be tricked, allowing us in a sense to slip in to heaven through the back door?

We can sometimes fall into this category when we think we understand the Bible, but encounter passages we cannot understand. Instead of accepting that God’s power is beyond our ability to understand, we work out some twisted and intricate approach or solution. We forget the power of God.

Perhaps we need to thoroughly know the Scriptures. And perhaps we need to realize that God has powers beyond our comprehension.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How would you describe the power of God?