All posts tagged Lent

Would I Recognize Jesus?

Was Jesus just a good moral teacher, or is he really the Son of God?  Over 2000 years after his death, there is still debate about the true identity of Jesus.

Even in his own time, there was little consensus.

Surely, his own family recognized his true divinity, right?

Not exactly. Jesus’ family even questioned his sanity.

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” – Mark 3: 21

But surely, the religious leaders recognized his spiritual authority, right?

Hardly. Rather than concluding he was crazy, they declared he was downright evil.

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” – Mark 3:22

No, it wasn’t the religious elite that recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  Instead, it was the unexpected – the uneducated, the fisherman, and even the prostitutes.  An unlikely group of followers.

I like to think of myself as educated. Even enlightened! Yet I wonder if I would have recognized Jesus 2000 years ago. If Jesus had asked me– as he asked Peter – who do you say that I am?  What would I say?

Many days, Jesus is right in my midst, but I still don’t recognize him.   There are too many distractions blinding me.  Work. Home. Errands. Relationships. Duties.  In the midst of it all, I even worry that I’ve lost my spiritual sight. 

But today, on Maundy Thursday, I’m going to try hard to see him.  I’m going to look.  I’m going to listen.  I’m going to think about the bread and the wine and ask God to open my eyes.

I want my heart to burn. 

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When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began  to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us….?”  Luke 24: 30-32

Is It the Real Jesus or Fake Jesus?

Jesus enters Jerusalem with a bang.  After riding in on a donkey, did he keep a low profile and fly under the radar?  Not exactly.

Based on the gospel accounts, by Tuesday, Jesus was causing a scene in the heart of Jerusalem – in none other than the temple courts.

In fact, Jesus got angry, knocked over a few tables, and even disturbed the peace.

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. – Matthew 21:12-13

Ouch!  So much for not making waves.  Why was Jesus so angry?  Some would say that he was fed up with the religious system – a system that had become broken and corrupt.  A system that was charging the poor for “acceptable” temple sacrifices.  A system where the religious leaders made the rules and lined their own pockets.  A system where outward appearances had become more important than inward character. 

Sometimes I ask myself if our religious systems portray the real Jesus.
I’ll never forget the first time I watched our church’s passion play with my then 3-year-old daughter, Abby.  She was completely taken with Jesus.  And she kept asking, Is that the real Jesus or the fake Jesus?
It’s a good question.  I think Jesus asked the same question when he looked at the religious people of his day.  Were they real or fake?  Did they act religious on the outside, but on the inside, were they filled with selfishness and greed?

When we look at our own Christian institutions today, do we find piety for the sake of piety —  a set of outward “rules” and an obsession with appearances (while the inside of the cup is full of hypocrisy and greed)? 

Or, do we see something that looks more like Jesus – humility, grace, and generosity to those in need?

In Abby’s words, do we look like the real Jesus or the fake Jesus?

Let’s Get Ready For Holy Week!

The rest of this week, I plan to blog about Jesus. For those of you who read the blog and don’t share my faith, I’ll likely get back to more light-hearted rants next week. But this week – the final week of Jesus’ life on earth — I just can’t help myself.

This week, it’s all about Jesus.

I’m part of a church that really knows how to celebrate Easter. We fast during Lent, put on passion plays, light candles, and roll out the red carpet on Easter Sunday. My kids are so excited they can hardly contain themselves. Sure, they love the candy and Easter eggs, but they know that Easter is about something much more important — an eternal sacrifice and a risen Lord. (Besides, my girls are pretty freaked out by the Easter Bunny – just like Tooth Ferry Terror.)

For me, it’s not really about the ritual of Easter. It never has been. It’s a celebration of a person. It’s about mourning the loss of your best friend, only to find out that he’s not only alive – he’s right here in your midst.

And he laid his life down for you so you can be by his side for all eternity.

This week is the most important week in Christian history. Yesterday, we celebrated Palm Sunday. Jesus leaves Bethany (where he has just raised Lazarus from the dead), stops in a little village to pick up a donkey that had never been riden before, and enters Jerusalem.   This is the only time Jesus rides on an animal during his public ministry.  Up until now, he walked everywhere (pretty interesting, huh?).

He must be up to something.

The road from Bethany to Jerusalem is only about two miles, yet this final week of Jesus’ life takes up more space than all the other events of the four New Testament gospels (combined). The plot thickens, Jesus enters Jerusalem to face his accusers, and ultimately faces death.

Will you join me on the journey?

On In Around button

Confessions Of A Rule Breaker

I’ve never been very good at following rules. After all, rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?

Fortunately, I serve a very patient and gracious God.  Which is why I really didn’t have a guilt trip over the fact that I broke my “no-coffee” rule during Lent.  That’s right.  After I had the nerve to post my coffee fast on the blog (with my friends and family cheering me on), I slipped up during the 40 days of Lent.  And I didn’t even feel guilty about it!

It was one of those weak moments.  It was also premeditated.  I had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to drive out of town, and I told myself the night before, I am going to have a cup of coffee tomorrow.  Sure, I could have prayed for strength.  I could have driven right by the Starbucks.  But I didn’t.  Instead, I thanked God for that cup of coffee as I savored each sip.

I don’t think a cup of coffee has ever tasted better.  I felt like King David eating the consecrated bread from the temple.  When the Pharisees scolded Jesus’ disciples for picking wheat on the Sabbath, Jesus made it clear that he was more interested in our inward character than our outward appearances.  Sure, we can appear to be “holy” if we’re going through the motions and acting “religious” but Jesus explained that even King David justifiably broke the rules:

Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.

Then he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.  – Mark 2: 25-28

In other words, the rules are made for my benefit, not God’s.  I don’t think God really cares if I broke my made-up rule of no coffee during Lent.  Yes, it was an exercise in discipline for my benefit, not his.  I do think God cares about the state of my heart, and I’m more than grateful that he has brought me into a relationship with him through his risen Son.

Besides, I could never follow all the rules.  Thank God I don’t have to!

(Remember, for all you coffee lovers out there, we’ll have a Starbucks gift-card prize on Friday’s blog – details to follow!)

Why Did He Do it?

Prior to his death, Jesus had a handful of followers.  Maybe a couple hundred at best.  He had been rejected by the religious leaders, the powerful, and the elite.  And on Good Friday, his only followers outright deserted him. 

That’s right, on Good Friday, Jesus’ disciples were running scared.  One of his closet friends – Simon Peter – even denied Jesus publicly not once, but three times.  And when Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, they instead fell asleep.  And worse yet, one of his own betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have every person you know – every close friend and family member – abandon you prior to your death?

Most of us have at least someone in this world we can count on.  Someone who will never reject us or betray us.  Someone who stands by us, even when no one else will – a parent, spouse, friend, sister, brother, son, or daughter.

But not Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross alone.  And not only was Jesus completely deserted, he was facing a brutal, painful death. This would have been reason alone to back out and say, “enough is enough.”

So why did he do it?  Why not call it quits, throw in the towel, and beam up to heaven?  Surely, if he was God, he could have stopped the pain and torture.  He could have called a legion of angels to rescue him, or rained fire from heaven on his accusers.

But instead he chose to stick it out – even willingly. 

Why?  He did it for you and for me.  It wasn’t suffering for the sake of suffering.  It was suffering – the ultimate sacrifice of giving one’s life — for your sake and mine.

Why would God allow his only Son to pay the ultimate price for nothing?  In considering who Jesus is, consider this – his death is meaningless unless it served a greater purpose.  Could that greater purpose be to bring you back to God?

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13