His Name is John!

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Joshua 13-15; Luke 1:57-80


57 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. 58 Her neighbors and relatives celebrated with her because they had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy. 59 On the eighth day, it came time to circumcise the child. They wanted to name him Zechariah because that was his father’s name. 60 But his mother replied, “No, his name will be John.”

61 They said to her, “None of your relatives have that name.” 62 Then they began gesturing to his father to see what he wanted to call him.

63 After asking for a tablet, he surprised everyone by writing, “His name is John.” 64 At that moment, Zechariah was able to speak again, and he began praising God (Luke 1″:57-64, Common English Bible).

I am a Broyles. I am the son of Johnnie and Janice Broyles. I can make contact online with agencies like Ancestry.com and buy their DNA test kit. I can sit around the house with their test tube, filling it with my spit, as I sit and watch TV. Then, in a few short weeks, they can tell me what my nationality might be. Regardless of what comes back in that report, it will probably give me more than I could imagine regarding where my roots might be. That being said, I will still have the DNA of the Broyles clan. I can go to court and legally change my name to Oquinn (Cindy’s maiden name) or Slobberknocker. I won’t have the DNA of an Oquinn or a Slobberknocker because I still have the DNA of a Broyles. I could be adopted by Bobby and Marylou, and I would still be a Broyles, (at least by blood). No matter what, I will always be a Broyles. Being a Broyles is in my DNA.

In ancient times, it was a common practice to use the father’s name (not unheard of today) or some other name in the family for the baby rather than a name that comes from thin air. All the last names with the word “son” attached to them are names coming from that tradition, for example,  “Johnson,” son of John. Another is, “Erikson,” son of Erik. To give you one more example,  Davidson,” son of David

In our lesson, God speaks to Zechariah. Over the years I have come to know when God speaks we need to listen. And, God did speak and Zechariah did listen. When Elizabeth gives birth, everyone wants to know what name will be given the child. When Elizabeth tells them, John, all the folks around are shocked. They seem to try to talk her out of the name and when she doesn’t respond as they believe she should they go to the now mute Zechariah. Surely he will have some sense in this matter. He simply writes down, “His name is John.”

Regardless of the name given John the Baptist, he would still be the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. With his divine name, his DNA wouldn’t change.

There is a piece of DNA we share with John the Baptist. We are all children of God. Science may not have found a “God marker” (my idea). Still, I believe there is one. Beyond being the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist was also the son of God.

Like John the Baptist, I am a child of God. My DNA may show I am the son of Johnnie and Janice Broyles, it may show I am a Broyles, but I am also a son of God and as such, God is in my DNA.

You too are the child of your birth parents but you are also a child of God. I may not know that from a DNA test, but I do know it in my heart.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


And Still, She Praises

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Joshua 10-12; Luke 1:39-56


46 Mary said,

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55, Common English Bible)

Call her naive, after all, she was most likely only 13 or 14 years old. On the other hand, call her spiritually mature beyond her years. She knew better than to even think she could outrun God.

Was she naive? Mary was engaged to Joseph. Being engaged in the Biblical era was about as binding of a contract as a woman could be in, though the woman had no real say in said contract. And, think about how she would sound. “I am pregnant. God did it.” Honestly, would you believe a word she said? I am honestly not sure I would believe her. Those words certainly don’t sound very mature.

To make matters worse, and Mary had to know this, for an engaged woman to have sex with a man was adultery. It was just that simple. As soon as her pregnancy was noticeable tongues would start to wag. It wouldn’t be long before the religious leaders, some of the very ones Jesus would deal with some 30 years later, would become involved. Once they became involved, there would be a call of some kind to stone Mary to death, the penalty for a woman caught in adultery. It would have been lights out for the Messiah before Bethlehem was even on the horizon.

And, still, she sings praises to God.

But perhaps, despite her young age, what we see here is spiritual maturity. Here just might be a young woman who knew if God gave her this task, God would walk beside her and see her all the way through. With the turn-around in Joseph, that is exactly what God did.

Whichever it is, naive or mature or something altogether different, or maybe it was a combination of both, make no mistake, Mary was a woman who truly was favored by God. Was it easy? I don’t know of a mother alive who would tell you pregnancy is easy under the best of circumstances and Mary’s circumstances were far from ideal. Still, she praised God. Joseph was anything but excited with the prospect of a pregnant fiancee of which the baby was not his. Still, she praised God. People around her talked. They talked about her. Without question, people would have talked. It is just the way some folks are. Still, she praised God. She knew she could die. Still, she praised God. She had the frightening responsibility for raising the Son of God. And still, she praised God.

As I read Mary’s story, at least to me, it is easy to see, God made the right choice. She was a young woman who was at least a little naive. But, she was also a woman with a spiritual maturity well beyond her years. She was a woman after God’s own heart, who would follow God’s will, all because she had a heart for God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Stealing From God

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Joshua 7-9; Luke 1:21-38


The Israelites did a disrespectful thing concerning the items reserved for God. Achan was the son of Carmi, grandson of Zabdi, great-grandson of Zerah. He was from the tribe of Judah. He took some of the things reserved for God. So the Lord was furious with the Israelites.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven to the east of Bethel. He said to them, “Go up. Scout out the land.”

So the men went up and scouted out Ai. They came back to Joshua and said to him, “There is no need for all of the people to go up. Two or three thousand men could go up and strike Ai. Don’t make all of the people bother going there. There are just a few of them.” So about three thousand men from the people went up in that direction. But they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down approximately thirty-six of them. They chased them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim. They struck them down on the slope. Then the hearts of the people melted and turned to water (Joshua 7:1-5, Common English Bible).

OK friends, I apologize. I dropped the ball today. Last night I was trying to get Sunday’s sermon done. I worked on it until 3:00 this morning. I started working on this post but was just too tired. I intended on getting up and finishing and honestly, I forgot. It was not until 9:00 tonight. So, I am trying to get it posted and then one ready for tomorrow. For those who are following the “Journey Through Scripture” passages, sorry I am putting more on you in a single day.

Several years ago, the church I served at the time, had a break in. One end of the building, it housed our pre-school, the thieves went in, found cans of shaving cream in the preschool office and left trails of shaving cream all over the preschool. There were other things contributing to the mess, but make no mistake, it was a mess.

Meanwhile, down at the opposite end of the building where the church offices were located, there was plenty of mischief and worse. To gain access to the office the door was kicked in. Because it was a hollow-core door, they left a hole in the door. There was a mess in the main church office. They didn’t leave a mess in my office but they did make their presence known. The monitor for my computer was left face down on the desk, not a big deal but I was pretty upset when I looked in one particular corner and immediately noticed my guitar was gone. It wasn’t the best guitar in the world, but it was a guitar none the less. And, it was MY guitar, it was my stuff.

Other things were taken as well but, this was my stuff and I wasn’t very happy about it. If you know me, you know I love my guitars. I kept an eye on the pawn shops to see if my guitar made an appearance. It didn’t.And, while I love my guitars and I wasn’t happy about losing my stuff, I wasn’t devastated by it either. Somebody took my stuff and I wasn’t happy about it.

Achan took God’s stuff!!! What is more, God wasn’t happy about it. Further, as the Israelites move forward to attack Ai, they underestimate their enemy and fall to them. Joshua prays prostrate before God.

God says in essence, they lost the battle because Israel committed evil in the eyes of the Lord, taking God’s stuff. Before all is said and done, Achan admits his guilt.

I have trouble with this story. The only grace here is, only Achan and his family were killed. Though God was angry with Israel, God gave them grace. Achan, on the other hand, was stoned to death and burned. I understand the need for punishment but a capital offense? It seems to me to be a bit strong.

The thing is, we see far more evidence of grace in the New Testament than in the Old. In the Old, there is more judgment. There is more punishment. It is much more difficult to see God’s love.

Regardless, God does love us. Grace is given to us. But, we also have to know, just because grace is present, it does not relieve us of the consequences of our actions. We hope for grace. We should expect consequences.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

P.S. I made it for March 21st with 8 minutes to spare!

Going in Circles

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Joshua 4-6; Luke 1:1-20

Businessmen Going Around in Circles


11 He made the Lord’s chest circle the city, going around one time. They went back to the camp and stayed there overnight. 12 Joshua got up early in the morning. The priests lifted up the Lord’s chest. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets made from rams’ horns were going in front of the Lord’s chest, blowing trumpets continuously. The armed soldiers were going in front of them. The rear guard was coming after the Lord’s chest, blowing trumpets continuously. 14 They circled the city one time on the second day. Then they went back to the camp. They did this for six days.

15 On the seventh day, they got up at dawn. They circled the city in this way seven times. It was only on that day that they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time, the priests blew the trumpets. Then Joshua said to the people, “Shout, because the Lord has given you the city!17 The city and everything in it is to be utterly wiped out as something reserved for the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute is to stay alive, along with everyone with her in her house. This is because she hid the messengers we sent. (Joshua 6:11-17, Common English Bible).

Just about every week, at least during the season, Cindy and I watch NASCAR. I have one friend who often teases me about watching a “sport” where all they do is go around in circles, never really going anywhere. He says, “All they know how to do is turn left.

I know where he gets it. In The Free Dictionary‘s section on idioms it says, “If someone goes around in circles or goes round in circles, they achieve little because they repeatedly deal with the same point or problem.”

Not everything that goes in circles falls into that category. Every week, at the end of our worship service, my congregation gathers into a circle (sometimes it looks more an ameba than a circle) for the benediction. It allows us to see each other, to look into each other’s eyes.

Another place of practically going in a circle, as it were, is walking or praying the labyrinth. Some people often mistakenly call a labyrinth a maze. Though similar in appearance, a labyrinth is not a maze. In a maze, there are wrong turns one can make. In a maze, one finds any number of dead ends. In a maze, one can find themselves lost. The bigger the maze, the bigger the problem.

With a labyrinth none of those things are true. All paths lead to the center and back out again. You follow the path and as long as you remain on the path it is impossible to get lost. You pray as you walk the path, spend as much time in the center as you desire, then pray when coming back out again.

There is one more time I can think of when walking in circles is a good positive thing, when God tells you to do so. That is what our lesson today is all about. It is just about time, according to God, for Jericho to fall to the Israelite army. Jericho was a mighty, fortified city. To take the city would not be an easy thing to do or that is what the Israelites thought. But, they were about to learn a lesson that would stick with them, for about 15 minutes. Well, probably, if we see things a bit more literally, a bit longer than that but the Israelite’s memory was never long where God was concerned.

If you know God wants you to take over a city or something else, you would think, “OK, let’s get to it.” But, that isn’t always the way God works. God sent Joshua out to take care of things God’s way. On the first six days, they went out, carrying the Ark of the Covenant around the city with soldiers going before and after, trumpets blasting and in general making quite a bit of noise. They circled the city once each day and then went back to camp and waited until the next day.

I am sure it had to be a bit disconcerting to the residents of Jericho. But, they had faith in their wall. They had faith the wall would protect them. What they really needed was to have faith that a living God would protect them. That, the residents of Jericho did not have.

When the seventh day arrived. They went around the city six times. As I read the story it sounds to me like they were silent the first six times. Then, on the seventh trip around, the trumpets blew and the people shouted. The end result was that the city walls fell and everything and everyone in them. Well, there was one small handful of people who survived Rahab (see yesterday’s post “Bad Girl, Big Faith“) and her family. A promise was made and that promise was kept.

God always keeps promises.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Bad Girl…Big Faith

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Joshua 1-3; Mark 16


Before the spies bedded down, Rahab went up to them on the roof.She said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land. Terror over you has overwhelmed us. The entire population of the land has melted down in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Reed Sea in front of you when you left Egypt. We have also heard what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites on the other side of the Jordan. You utterly wiped them out.11 We heard this and our hearts turned to water. Because of you, people can no longer work up their courage. This is because the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below. 12 Now, I have been loyal to you. So pledge to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal loyally with my family. Give me a sign of good faith. 13 Spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers, and sisters, along with everything they own. Rescue us from death.” (Joshua 2:8-13, Common English Bible)

Let’s not mince words. Rahab was not the kind of girl a guy would want to bring home to meet the family. She was a prostitute. Even in a considerably more liberal society than that which existed in Rahab’s day, we still would not be very welcoming of a prostitute to Sunday dinner. Most of us, should we encounter someone like Rahab on the street would either ignore her or…. well, you get the idea.

In many parts of the Middle East, then and now, prostitution is and was considered a capital offense, at least for the woman. What is clear to some Biblical scholars is, she was apparently very good at what she did and she was popular among the upper class of Canaan. At least to some degree, it would seem feasible when the King of Jericho sent word to her to send the spies out. That he seems to have known something of Rahab would indicate that she was well known for a woman in her line of work. That being said, the exact details of her work will remain unclear.

What is clear, however, is that Rahab knew the information the Hebrew spies were seeking. It is also clear she wanted no part of her or her family getting caught in the crossfire between the Hebrew forces and the forces of the King of Jericho.

Rahab went out on a limb. She told the spies that she knew of the work of God already done and to hear her explain it in our lesson, she and all she knew were scared senseless. She shared her information as a way to save her family from the rush of the Israelite army.

The spies came to an agreement with Rahab. In return for her information, the spies would protect Rahab and her family from the army. As we continue reading through Joshua, when we reach chapter six in a couple of days, Joshua sends the spies back into Jericho to bring Rahab and her family out. Joshua would allow Rahab and her family to live because of the information she shared.

Legend holds that after Rabah and family joined the Israelites, she converted to Judaism and married a prominent leader, officially ending her days as a prostitute.

Rahab risked everything to help Israel. Had she been caught, there would be little doubt the King of Jericho would have her executed. I feel certain she feared that possibility. And, as far as the king was concerned, few would actually miss her. At the same time, she clearly feared the advance of the Israelite army. So, she stepped out in faith and made the Israelites very possible task (after all, they did have God fighting for them) a whole lot easier.

God honors promises. In this story, God honored the promises others made, the two spies and it gave new life to a woman who probably felt pretty beaten down in life. It was new life for her and her family. Though the world will remember few prostitutes within a short time of when they are gone (if it actually lasted any time at all), we still remember Rahab today. Faith, big faith, is a powerful thing.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Why Jesus? The Way

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14 “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.”

Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. 12 I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. 14 When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion,[a] who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.

18 “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them” (John 14:1-21, Common English Bible).

Lost on a back road in Alabama, a motorist asked the way to Montgomery. An old farmer, sitting on a fence, looked down the road, scratched his head and gave explicit instructions. Half an hour later, after carefully following the farmer’s directions, the motorist found himself back at the starting point. The farmer was still sitting on the fence, in placid contemplation of the landscape.

“What’s the idea?” the motorist asked, “I did just what you told me, and look where I wound up!”

“Well,” the farmer explained, “I didn’t aim to waste my time telling you how to get to Montgomery till I found out if you could follow simple directions.”

Sometimes life can be like that. It isn’t that we have someone giving us wrong directions, guiding us to a place we never wanted to go. It’s more like we make a wrong turn and find ourselves hopelessly lost and dependent on others to lead us the way and unfortunately sometimes it’s the wrong way.

This morning we are concluding our sermon series “Why Jesus?” The first week we asked the question, “Who Is This Man?” We remembered that sometimes it isn’t Jesus of the Bible we are following. Instead, it is our own version of Jesus, brought into being by our own imaginations to suit our own needs. Two weeks ago we moved on to a new idea and we talked about the company we keep and the fine line we walk. On the one hand, we keep with other Christians so we don’t follow those who lack faith in Jesus Christ down a wrong road and one day we wake up and look around. We can’t see Jesus anywhere, why? Because we made a wrong turn following others. Yet on the other hand, how can we make disciples of Jesus Christ if we never are with those who don’t know God? Last week we talked about the need for forgiveness. And where does that come from? It comes from Jesus who forgives us just as we forgive others.

This week we are moving on to talk about the path we must follow. It is a way that can be difficult. It is a way others will never take. Jesus said, according to Luke, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” Taking up a cross in no way sounds easy. Yet it is THE WAY we are called to move through lives.

In the lesson, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Some folks in other denominations see salvation as a single event. You accept Jesus and that’s it. For us, as United Methodists, salvation as a journey. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, said for us to, “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” To work something out means we don’t instantly have an answer. We are going to have to work at it.

Take one of those evil math problems my wife loves so much. If you have to work the problem, it means you didn’t know the answer to start with. There are some things where I know the answer and others I do not. I have to work at it., research it, and come to a conclusion. Sometimes that can happen quickly and other times, well, in this case, to work it out takes a lifetime.

In 1968, Dionne Warwick Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” written by Burt Bacharach. The song says, “Do you know the way to San Jose, I’ve been away so long. I may go wrong and lose my way. Do you know the way to San Jose?  I’m going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose.” When we get lost and ask for direction. I rewrote the lyrics to that song to fit better into our context.

“Do you know the way to Jesus Christ
I haven’t followed in so long I’ve lost my way.
Do you know the way to Jesus Christ?
I’m going back to him to have his peace in my heart it has to stay.

Life can be so hard and confusing
We get pulled first one way and then the other
In a day, maybe two
You just won’t see the Father,
Walking on life’s wrong paths, they flash right past
We bundled life, up into things
The thrill we have, it just won’t last

You can really talk to Jesus Christ
Just bow you’re head, he listens all the time
As Christians breathe, we all should pray the same old way
Through faith in Him, I’ve left behind all of my grime.

I was taught to Him I’d pray
I’m going back to Him
Living in his way, I will not stray.

Fame and fortune are both magnets
They can pull you far away from your faith
With God inside you’re not alone
Turn back to Him, I really cannot wait.
Then you’ll see some brand-new traits.
What a friend I have in Jesus Christ
Do you know the way to Jesus Christ?

Jesus says, “I am the way.” When we must find the way. We look to Jesus because he is the way and we really need to find our way.

Jesus said, “I am the truth.” What does that mean? In his John wrote:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

 The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name,
he authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1-5, 9-14, CEB)

            If we believe in God, what God does is the truth. What John is saying in that passage is, Jesus is God. John doesn’t use the word Trinity but the first verse supports the idea. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John is telling us Jesus was here from the beginning and Jesus is God. In other words, Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.

In John 19, as Jesus stands before Pilate who asks him, “37 “So you are a king?” Pilate said. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.

            In the movie, A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays Col. Nathan Jessup is on the witness stand during a court-martial. Tom Cruise plays Lt. Daniel Kaffee. Jessup asks Kaffee, “What do you want.” Kaffee responds, “I want the truth.” Then Jessup famously responds, “You can’t handle the truth.”

            Jesus proclaims he is the truth. If we accept that Jesus is the truth, that means, we, who are people of faith, can trust in what Jesus, what God says. If you don’t believe Jesus is the truth, there is already a major trust issue.

            Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus says “I am the truth.” And, as people of faith, we can handle the truth.

            Finally, Jesus says, “I am the life.” Jesus gave His life for us and Jesus is our example of how we should live as people of faith.

            In 1 John he writes, “God is love.” We are created in the image of God. That means we are created in love and we are to live out our lives in love. We are called to live that way, to take up our crosses and follow Him. That is our life.

            In his classic book, In His Steps, Charles Sheldon introduces the concept of “What would Jesus Do?” His idea? We live our lives as closely to Jesus’ example as possible. To do so, Sheldon says we are to stop before we do anything and answer the question, “What would Jesus do.” Then we must live out the answer.

            If Jesus is, the way, the truth, and the life, and we believe he is and that we should live by his example, continually asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” becomes central not only to our faith but the way our faith is lived out in our lives.

            One day, we will all stand before the Father who just might say to us, My Son is the Way, the Truth and the Life. How do you think you did with all that? My answer today and always, thank God for grace. I fail and I always will, just hopefully in different ways. The key is, pick yourself up and try again. Try to live, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus did, and He calls us to do the same.

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

They Yelled Insults at Him

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Deuteronomy 32-34; Mark 15:26-47


29 People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? 30 Save yourself and come down from that cross!”

31 In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe. Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him. (Mark 15:29-32, Common English Bible).

No one likes it when we are the victim of insults. No one likes it when others yell at them. If you combine the two, it can be particularly painful. The old childhood chant, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The first half of that is absolutely true. In fact, if you are in a land where stoning is a real-life punishment lived out, well then, stones can do more than break bones, they can kill you. And, while the words cannot physically kill you, they certainly hurt inside. We may sometimes say they do not, but, we know they often do.

In today’s lesson, Jesus is already nailed to the cross. He is already enduring what was probably the worst punishment we humans have ever created. Stoning would be pretty bad but chances are pretty good that it won’t take long for someone to land just the right rock and you end up dead. After all, David did it with Goliath with one rock.

In crucifixion, the crucified will eventually die from the body being slowly robbed of oxygen. Suffocation is the end result. The victim would pull themselves up by the very hands and feet that were nailed down. They would raise up and hold themselves up for as long as they could bear the pain. It wasn’t long before they would be forced to lower themselves down once again, making breathing increasingly difficult and the periods of holding themselves up by the hands and legs grew shorter and increasingly more difficult.

For Jesus, as if this wasn’t bad enough, as people made their way past where Jesus hung dying, they would shout insults at him. “He said he would tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days. Why don’t you come down and save yourself?” As Jesus hung there, I can’t help but believe, some of these people were among the crowd shouting “Hosanna to the King” only five days earlier.” Now they chose a rebel and killer over him.” and were insulting him as they walked by him. You would think that within their humanity there would be some shred of decency and compassion. But no, that wasn’t what they were to show the world, the history books, the Bible and the readers of each.

They were by no means alone. The Pharisees, the chief priests, and the legal experts were pretty proud of themselves by this time. They too were “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” With all they had already seen, I doubt seeing Jesus free himself from the cross would make them believe either. If they were going to believe, they already would have done so.

Then there were a couple of others, possibly only one other, who were insulting him as well. Mark says the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus were insulting him as well. Luke says one was insulting the other was saved as he hung on the cross. We can’t possibly know if one of the two was right and the other was wrong or if it was a matter of perspective or timing or just what. What we do know is, two more, two who were dying, well…

All this is to say, we deserve more than we will receive because of grace. Remember, the chief priests and legal experts were among the most religious of their day and tried exceedingly hard to keep the law and yet what we see from them, in this story and others, is they committed sin. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God. They helped crucify Jesus.

The crowd of people passing by and hurling insults at Jesus were probably, at least for the most part, reasonable, law-abiding people. If you asked them, they might have even said, “I’m a good person” in the way we often hear people say today. And yet, we see, beyond any doubt, they are committing sin. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God. They too helped crucify Jesus.

Then there were the other two crucified with Jesus. There was no doubt they were sinners. With each insult, they committed sin. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God. And yes, they also helped crucify Jesus.

But, we also need to remember this: We are just like them. When we shout insults at those around us, we yell insults at God. We sin. When we fail to show love to our neighbor, we fail to show our love to God. We sin. When we fail to live in the love of God, not only with God but with our neighbor (and remember, Jesus’ point was, we are all neighbors), we sin. When we do anything that fails to make the world a better place, we are falling short of the glory of God. That means, we too, help crucify Jesus.

Perhaps that is why my favorite piece of Scripture, not even a full verse (not my favorite passage, chapter, or book in the Bible, that is Romans 8:37-39, Romans 8, and Matthew respectively) Luke recorded, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23-34). That is, according to some, Jesus giving grace to those who were gambling for his clothes. Others might argue it was Jesus giving grace to all who were insulting him and causing him to be on the cross to start with. Either could be the case, but I like to think, it was Jesus asking the Father to forgive all of us who placed him on the cross.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved