- 2020Apr 08
"'What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?' So they weighed out 30 pieces of silver for him" (Matthew 26:15).
Wednesday of Holy Week was a quiet day.
But that doesn’t mean nothing happened.
This is Day 4 of Eight Days that Changed the World. The key word today is conspiracy. The church has traditionally called this day “Spy Wednesday,” as the plot to trap Jesus races forward.
Seeing the crowds flock to Jesus, the religious leaders bide their time, looking for an opportunity to arrest him. Filled with hatred and envy, they have already decided Jesus must die. But how will they do it?
Enter Judas, the most mysterious of all the disciples.
As far as we can tell, Judas saw all the miracles Jesus performed. He was in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm. He saw the Lord turn water into wine. He helped pick up the leftovers after Jesus fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. He must have been standing there when Lazarus came out of the tomb.
He heard it all.
He saw it all.
He walked with Christ every day.
He was one of Jesus’ handpicked men.
He knew the Son of God personally.
Make that list as long as you like. Add one other fact. No one ever suspected him. Peter never said to John, “Hey, Judas seems a little shifty to me.” Bartholomew evidently never wondered about his motives. James never suspected he was pilfering from the money bag. As late as the Last Supper, when Jesus predicted someone would betray him, no one pointed at Judas and said, “He’s a traitor.”
What happened to him could happen to me. What he did, I could do. If I think otherwise, I have missed the point of this story. Judas is a lot like us, and we're a lot like him. He was as "in" as any person could ever be, and yet he betrayed our Lord.
What would it take for you to sell out the Son of God?
Would you betray him for money?
Would you betray him for a better job?
Would you betray him to keep the job you have?
Would you betray him to save your own skin?
Would you betray him to save your family?
These searching questions are easier to ask than to answer. Do not to take them lightly. There’s a little Judas in all of us. If we think anything different, then we’re more like Judas than we know.
My Lord, I pray for a faith so real and so deep that it cannot be bought or sold for any price. Amen.
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- 2020Apr 07
“Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
Religious types are always big on authority issues.
Who are you?
Where did you come from?
Who gave you the right to teach here?
What school did you attend?
Where is your diploma?
Why didn’t you ask us for permission?
Who do you think you are, anyway?
The religious gatekeepers felt threatened by Jesus because he didn’t fit into any of their categories. First, he came from Nazareth and not from Jerusalem. Second, he came from a poor family. Third, he didn’t have the right rabbinic credentials. Fourth, he didn’t show much regard for man-made rules. Fifth, he didn’t quote an endless stream of rabbis when he gave his sermons. Sixth, he stirred up the countryside with his miracles. Seventh, he seemed like a troublemaker. The throngs that greeted his entrance into Jerusalem proved that he was a public menace and a disturber of the peace.
You’ve got to get rid of troublemakers, or they will make trouble for you. That line of paranoid thinking led eventually to the plot to kill Jesus.
This is Day 3 of Eight Days that Changed the World. The key word is controversy. On this day Jesus faced the Pharisees and the Sadducees as they attacked him openly in the temple courts. The Jewish leaders didn’t attack his character because there was nothing to attack. So they went after his authority.
Since Jesus was sent by the Father, his authority came from God. That’s why he didn’t have to appeal to human tradition or to the opinions of fallible men. He spoke the truth because he is the truth (John 14:6). All authority in heaven and on earth is vested in him (Matthew 28:18).
Nothing has changed in 2000 years.
Some people like Jesus, but they don’t want him as Lord.
Others fear him, but they will not yield to him.
Some hate him, and they reject his authority.
Following Jesus will always be controversial.
Follow him anyway.
Religious types feel threatened by the Son of God. They have problems with Jesus because he doesn’t fit their categories. But never mind them. As Jesus himself said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
Jesus is the Final Authority. Follow him, and ten thousand years from now, you’ll still be glad you did.
Sovereign Lord, you are the still point in our turning world and the solid rock beneath our feet. We trust in you, and we will not be moved. When the kingdoms of this earth have crumbled to dust, your words will still be true. Amen.
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- 2020Apr 07
My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17).
Jesus would not put up with some things.We know about his compassion for the hurting and his outreach to the forgotten. But he has little patience with religious people who use religion to hurt others. By taking a whip to the money changers, he revealed the emptiness of the Israelite system of worship. God always intended that his temple in Jerusalem should be a house of prayer for all nations. Even though it was uniquely the Jewish temple, all nations were invited to pray there. But no prayer could take place because the profiteers had completely taken over the outer courts. They made their money charging exorbitant fees to buy animals for worship and to exchange money into the special temple currency. Naturally, they marked up prices during the “high season” around Passover.
It was a crook’s paradise. It was easy money because the cheating was done in God’s name. Jesus despised what these profiteers were doing. Injustice is always wrong, but injustice in the name of God is doubly evil. He took a whip, waded into the crowd, and overturned the tables. He ran the money changers out of business.
I read an article by an author who offered a wry observation on human nature. Anything that can be corrupted already is; we just don’t know how. Experience suggests that he is probably right. After all, the Bible says that “all men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). That doesn’t mean everyone lies all the time, but it does mean that lying comes easily to all of us.
Monday of Holy Week is all about cleansing. This strange story shows us why Jesus had to die. It was not enough to overturn the tables and drive the money-grubbers out. The hearts of the people must be changed. For that to happen, Jesus must die. Now Jesus turns every believing heart into a temple where he reigns as Lord. Through him, the weakest believer enters the presence of God.
Don’t miss the message of this passage. Jesus loves us so much that he will overturn the tables and shake us up so that once again our hearts belong to him.
What a Christ we serve!
He loves us too much to leave us as we are.
Shake us up, Lord Jesus. Overturn the tables of greed, sloth, pride and lust. Do whatever it takes so our hearts will be fully in tune with you. Amen.
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