View of the Cross - Centurion 5

Luke 12:16-21

It has often been said that no one has seen a tombstone which read, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” But there is also a saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, while all play and no work makes Jack a duller boy. What do these two thoughts have in common? Their point is that we cannot invest ourselves in one thing or another so completely that we miss what is important.

To teach that lesson Jesus presents a parable about a successful farmer. What is the man planning to do? What will his attitude be (verse 19)? What is Jesus’ comment in verse 21?

It would be easy to talk about the evil of riches and greed in reference to this parable. The man thinks he is secure because he can expand his barns, but in fact he will die. Then what is the purpose to all of his work?

But I am not certain this parable is as simple as that. The ground of the rich man produced a good crop. He had a good year and saw a profit; so what? Good for him. What is important is his attitude.

He will say to himself, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” There is no indication that his focus was entirely on wealth until that point. Now, he is distracted from living a good life by living “the good life.” He has allowed his wealth and a life of leisure to distract him from what is more important.

And Jesus comments that this is how things will be for “anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” We can store up “things” for ourselves without storing up riches for ourselves. We can fill our lives with so many things that are important to us that they distract us from experiencing Jesus in our lives.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted by other interests – money, work, sports, hobbies – we are failing to be rich toward God. We are failing to focus on the goodness we should be doing, the service to God and fellow man, to mercy and compassion. We fail to experience Christ because we have been distracted.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to be rich toward God?

View of the Cross - Centurion 4

Matthew 26:36-40

When traveling any distance at all Peggy and I have an agreement that we can let the passenger know when we feel drowsy so that we can change spots and allow the driver to rest. The occasion rarely comes up, and I believe it is because when we are driving we realize that our awareness is very important for the safety of ourselves and our family.

When faced with something very important most people can control their physical needs enough to deal with the situation. But sometimes physical needs overtake us. I think next to Peter’s denial of Christ this situation is one of the most well-known instances where the disciples let Jesus down.

What did Jesus want from his disciples? Why did he bring only three of them further into the garden? What is Jesus’ struggle? How did the disciples disappoint?

Jesus went to the garden to spend some time in prayer to prepare himself for the sacrifice of the crucifixion he was about to face. He wanted these close and dear followers to stay near to give him support, but the disciples were distracted from their experience of Jesus by the physical needs they were facing. Jesus knew what was ahead and knew he had to struggle with his own temptation to avoid what needed to be done.

But the disciples were not aware of the importance of what was ahead. Had they known what Jesus was going through they might not have fallen asleep.

However, there are many people who know all about Jesus who allow themselves to be distracted by physical needs. Many won’t come to worship because it is too early, or too dull. Others are off enjoying some relaxation and can’t be bothered with committing time to God.

What about you? Do you take your faith seriously enough that you can suppress your physical needs enough to spend time experiencing Jesus? Or do your physical requirements take precedence over Christ?

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain your physical needs don’t distract you from your faith?

View of the Cross - Centurion 3

John 6:60-66

The other day while driving through our small town I recalled the night Peggy and I came to be interviewed by the church we now serve.

We were not aware at the time that our decision had to be made then and there. It was an agonizing time, trying to decide what to do without our family, even our own children, with us to help us make the choice.

But we trusted that it was what God wanted. Everything seemed to indicate it. We chose to accept the appointment and have been blessed because of it.

What guided us were the words of God and the faith we were encouraged to have. It was not easy, and our faith can be challenging at times, but we need to avoid the distractions of being challenged by our faith.

Jesus has just explained that he is the bread of life and that his blood is the blood of salvation. How do those who heard him react? What does Jesus say about his teachings in verse 63? What challenge is presented in verse 65?

When we think of Jesus and his teaching we often think of the growing number of people who heard and believed and then followed. Few are familiar with this passage, a time when the teachings of Jesus were just too much for some to accept. They had difficulty accepting what Jesus presented. They allowed themselves to be distracted by what they could not fully understand. They could not trust, and so fell away.

There are so many teachings in the Bible that are easy to accept and easy to preach on. It is easy to hear the comfort of the 23rd Psalm. It is easy to hear Jesus say, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

But all that is taught is not easy to hear. All that Jesus taught is not easy to obey. But we should not be distracted by those things that challenge us, those things that confuse and confound us. We must persist in our faith and focus on our experience with Jesus trusting in his wisdom.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to remove the doubts you may have in your faith?

View of the Cross - Centurion 2

Philippians 3:12-14

Today was the first day of track practice for our middle child. Last year at the beginning of track season he had a bad habit of turning to see who was trying to pass him. That is a big “no-no” in track. I recall giving him some coaching, explaining that to do well you must keep your focus straight ahead and not turn around to see who might be running up behind you or moving to pass. Whatever is behind you is not important.

Paul takes that same concept in this letter to the church in Philippi and applies it to faith. What comment does Paul make about his own faith in verse 12? What is the key concept in verses 13 and 14?

While running track, time is incredibly important. First place and second place can often be separated by small portions of a second. If a runner gets distracted and turns his head to see who might be passing him, he can slow enough to lose the race.

This same approach and image applies to our faith in Christ. If we will be faithful followers of Jesus we need to keep our hearts and souls focused on the teachings of Jesus and the laws of God. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted. If we are distracted, even a small bit, we can be like the centurion and miss the glory of Jesus. We can pass up the wonder of experiencing Christ.

Paul points out that he is no expert on faith. He is like us. He has not achieved his goal. But he is working on achieving his goal, of being a true disciple, of becoming more perfect in his spiritual life.

One essential comment is that as he works toward his perfection, Paul is like a runner. He ignores what is behind him. So it should be in our faith. Our past mistakes, our past failings, our past life is something to be forgotten and ignored. Instead, we keep our souls set on God’s goals.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can we rid ourselves of the distractions of our past?

Centurion Views the Cross 1

Matthew 27:50-54

I remember a particular vacation trip when I was a child. My mother was intent on mailing home postcards to friends but she needed to find a post office to buy the stamps. My dad told her to look for a post office and he would be happy to stop. So, as we sped along the road, time and time again my mother would say, “There’s one!” and point behind us. Once we had passed the post office it was a little too late to stop.

As our examination of different views of the cross continues we come to the centurion, the Roman officer in charge of the squad of men who executed criminals. In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, what happens as Jesus dies? What is the importance of the temple curtain being torn? Why do you think holy people rose from their graves (verse 52)? What realization do the centurion and the guards come to?

Today’s passage begins with the death of Jesus. He cried out a final time and his spirit left him. Then amazing things happen; the temple curtain opens, a symbolic reminder that the separation between sinful man and holy God is removed. There is an earthquake and holy people who have died experience the resurrection we can all expect. And that is when the centurion realizes that Jesus truly was the Son of God. But it is a little too late at that point.

Why did he miss out? The centurion was caught up in doing his job, performing the duties of an executioner. And being focused on his work and his obligations to the government he served, he missed out on seeing who Jesus was until it was too late.

We may not be surprised that the centurion missed Christ’s holiness. He was, after all, a Roman soldier who probably had never encountered Jesus. But we may be surprised that so many people called “Christians” miss out on who Jesus is because they are distracted by the many things in their lives. It is important that we experience Jesus and that we be aware of these experiences. The focus of our faith should be on Christ and who he really is. We should not allow ourselves to be distracted in our lives, to miss out or have a wrong view of the cross.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remove or overcome the things that distract you from Jesus?