Blessed… Why Are You Hitting Yourself?

And they answered, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spit in his face and beat him. They hit him 68 and said, “Prophesy for us, Christ! Who hit you” (Matthew 26:66b-68, Common English Bible)?

These guys are supposed to be the religious elite of their day in Hebrew society. They were the guys who strived to live by the letter of the law. They knew every aspect of the law, tried to follow it but even more than that, they expected everyone else to follow it, even in parts of the law where they themselves fall short.

Then there is this lesson. Well, this lesson and much of this chapter. In yesterday’s lesson, they were willing to accept lies as testimony that testimony meant being able to convict Jesus, get him executed and out of their hair.

When I read this lesson, particularly the part that says, “They hit him and said, “Prophesy for us, Christ! Who hit you,” my immediate thought was “How childish.” 

As I continued to ponder the lesson my mind went back to Saturday mornings when I was little. At least on occasion, my sister and I would run into my parent’s bedroom early on Saturday morning, probably earlier than they would have liked, for a bit of fun and laughter and my dad would tickle us. As part of the fun, my dad would grab me by the wrist and lightly slap my thigh with my own hand. He would ask, “Why are you hitting yourself?” Of course, I wasn’t. He was using my hand to “hit” me. I remember playing the same game with my kids when they were small.

That is where the “High Council” has sunk, playing childlike games, childish games with a man they wanted to be executed and were not going to rest until it could be so.

I never considered my dad’s game bullying. I never felt as though I was bullying my boys (in fairness, they may have seen it differently). I didn’t consider that “game” bullying. Perhaps it was because I was never bullied as a kid. The first time I was challenged to think about that was while watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory when Leonard is talking about his high school bully.  He says, “Yes I know why I was hitting myself.”

My mind when back to that old episode of Big Bang Theory as I was thinking about this lesson. The Pharisees were not only being childish, they are being bullies. They hit a man who could not defend himself. I think that is the definition of a bully.

To me, this part of this chapter serves as a great reminder. When we have the upper hand, it is pretty easy for us to sink into childish behavior. Perhaps it is even easier to become a bully. Neither is what Jesus calls us to do.

We are supposed to be about love. We are called to live. Childishness and bullying just don’t fit the bill.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… They Spat in His Face

The high priest said, “By the living God, I demand that you tell us whether you are the Christ, God’s Son.”

64 “You said it,” Jesus replied. “But I say to you that from now on you’ll see the Human One[g] sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He’s insulting God! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, you’ve heard his insult against God. 66 What do you think?”

And they answered, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spit in his face and beat him. They hit him 68 and said, “Prophesy for us, Christ! Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:63b-68, Common English Bible).

When I started thinking about this post and I read the words “Then they spit in his face…” and my initial thought was, “I will use a picture of one of the Pharisees spitting in Jesus’ face.” I couldn’t find one. As you will understand when you read the next paragraph, I am glad I didn’t find one.

Then I thought, I will just use a picture of someone being literally spat upon. That I did find. I decided against that because, after finding several pictures online, they were all disgusting. I would imagine that is the point. I couldn’t bring myself to use such an awful picture.

How much must one human being hate another in order to literally spit on someone created in the image of God? I do understand that not everyone is a believer in Jesus or even in God. But, in the case of today’s lesson we are talking about people who at least liked to claim that they were faithful. These were the people who were at least trying to do it right. They were attempting to live by the letter of the law. They were trying hard to be faithful, And, they were failing miserably.

The Pharisees and members of the high council would have known that humans, all humans, are created in the image of God. They would also know of “The Great Shema of the Torah – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” They also knew that other law, you know the one that was like “The Great Shema of the Torah.” It is that one that implores us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This wasn’t a suggestion. The Pharisees of all people would have known this to be a commandment (not one of the ten) and therefore something they should strive live. As people who wanted to live by the letter of the law, they sure missed on this one.

I remember a few years ago when the Sadaam Husein regime fell a few years ago and locals were running wild, tearing down anything they could find that even suggested praise of the tyrannical dictator. I remember seeing people stopping at a statue of the late dictator and removing their shoes and used the shoe to give the dictator a beating.

What I learned from that is, beating someone with your shoe is the ultimate disrespect in Iraq. Receiving someone’s shoe is a high insult, just about the highest of insults. Spitting in someone’s face is probably a close comparison.

It just serves to remind me, when we show someone the ultimate disrespect, we certainly are not acting in a way of love. When we miss the mark on love of neighbor, John reminds us that we can’t love God and not love God’s creation. And, when we spit in the face of a neighbor or otherwise disprespect them, we are also disrespecting God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Blessed… Sometimes It’s Better to Say Nothing

57 Those who arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest. The legal experts and the elders had gathered there. 58 Peter followed him from a distance until he came to the high priest’s courtyard. He entered that area and sat outside with the officers to see how it would turn out.

59 The chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 They didn’t find anything they could use from the many false witnesses who were willing to come forward. But finally, they found two 61 who said, “This man said, ‘I can destroy God’s temple and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood and said to Jesus, “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?”

63 But Jesus was silent Matthew 26:57-63, Common English Bible).

There is a story told in my wife’s family when one of her brothers talked his way into a bit of trouble. It started out with the telling of a story. Cindy’s mother then asked of one of her brothers, “Do you have anything to add?” Cindy’s brother then said something. When he finished, her mother said, “And?” and the brother added more to the story. Things continued that way until the whole story was out in the open.

Cindy’s mother had no idea what the brother had been up to but he didn’t know that. Thinking his mom had already heard all about it, each time she said, “And?” he would continue with more of the story. The short answer is because he didn’t know that sometimes it’s better to just be quiet, he, in essence, told on himself.

For those of us who like to talk, and I am one, it is a hard lesson to learn. When I first went into the ministry I had the delusional idea that I could talk with anyone about my politics. I majored in political science for my undergraduate degree. I was used to having open political debates. When I entered the ministry it didn’t take long for me to learn I will usually be better off if I just learn to keep my mouth shut. It was a lesson I had to learn again in the last election cycle. It is a lesson I am still trying to learn.

In our lesson for today the Pharisees in general and Caiaphas, the chief priests and the whole council were looking for a way to bring charges against Jesus so they could put him to death. And, they were willing to accept false testimony in order to do so.

It took a little while but they finally found two people who were willing to say, “Jesus said, ‘I can destroy God’s temple and rebuild it in three days.’” Jesus just stood there. He said nothing. In truth, it wouldn’t have mattered what he said. They were determined to find a way. If they were going to kill him anyway, what would be the point in talking?

There is a lesson in that for us. Sometimes, because of our faith, and sometimes for other reasons, there are people out there who, with determination in their hearts, seek to discredit us, or worse. There are times to defend things and there are times we should let it go because perhaps we will make things worse (I am not saying that is what Jesus would have done) or added fuel to their fire. If they are determined to have their way, maybe we should let it go. The truth will come out in the end.

Maybe what we need is, to let God do the talking for us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… One More Miracle from the Prince of Peace

51 One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53  Or do you think that I’m not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve battle groups of angels right away? 54 But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” 55 Then Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like a thief? Day after day, I sat in the temple teaching, but you didn’t arrest me. 56  But all this has happened so that what the prophets said in the scriptures might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Jesus and ran away (Matthew 26:51-56, Common English Bible).

All four gospels tell of the high priest’s slave having his ear removed by a sword. Only John identifies the slave as one named Malchus. Matthew, in our lesson today has his focus on Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Luke has his focus primarily on the miracle. Healing is exactly where I would expect this physician to focus his understanding. This was a miracle right up Luke’s alley.

Jesus is in the garden. He has spent the last bit of time in prayer, asking the Father to remove this burden from him, but Jesus always includes, “Not what I want, but what you want.”

All the disciples with the exception of Judas, who was now making his appearance. He led the priests and the guards straight to Jesus so they could arrest him, all for a few bucks (or whatever their slang word for money might have been). Now Judas kisses Jesus, making the betrayal complete. The guards move forward and a sword is drawn, John says Peter drew the sword,  and the slave’s ear is cut off.

Jesus immediately goes into protection mode. He doesn’t want people to get hurt and with Roman soldiers probably present, he knew things could escalate quickly. Additionally, such a battle in the physical world was not Jesus’ way of doing things. It just doesn’t match up well with his ideas of forgiveness, grace, turning the other cheek and love.

Luke tells us a miracle took place next. Jesus healed the slave’s ear. What a display of compassion for one’s enemies. It was one of the last lessons Jesus taught in a physical way. It was him truly living out the idea of “Prince of Peace.”

Here is the deal to me. How could anyone, witness what happened to a slave named Malchus walk away from that place still wanting Jesus arrested and crucified? Though Matthew doesn’t talk about the healing, it is still important and noteworthy. An ear is cut off, Jesus picks it back up, places it back on the man’s head and it reattached and heals. That would classify as a miracle.

Nothing more is said of Malchus in the Bible. We know little that came to him. There is an old Italian legend that says Malchus is confined under a mountain and walks around a column. The legend says that his continuing life is punishment for his role in Jesus’ arrest. It says with each step he takes Malchus moves a little deeper into the ground and when his body disappears completely, the end of the world is at hand.

I prefer to think that Malchus grabbed the miracle he was given, repented and moved forward as a believer. As a first generation member of The Way, he would have been fairly important. Additionally, he had a great story to tell.

For me, this story is about Jesus’ compassion. He stopped those who had ideas of violence. Jesus demonstrated that even in our darkest hours, we are called to live in compassion and love. Our faith should never leave us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Blessed… On Free Will

47 While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss.” 49 Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello, Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him (Matthew 26:47-50, Common English Bible).

Some argue that in our lesson for today Judas didn’t have a choice. It was his destiny to betray Jesus. It was the reason he was placed on earth.

That thinking would mean that Judas’ whole purpose in life was to betray Jesus. It was the only reason he was placed on the earth.

Those who believe in predestination would say, “Yes, that is correct. Judas was predestined to betray Jesus.”

I have a great deal of trouble with that line of theological thought. If God is love, and Scripture in 1 John tells us that is the case, then how could “love” predestine a person to carry out an act that is evil?

The way I see it, Judas had a choice. To say Judas had no choice then we are left with two alternatives. Either God is directly responsible, because God pulls all the strings, for evil in the world, or God cannot exist. I reject both ideas.

When we read the Gospel narrative, Judas had devoted a significant portion, three years, of his life to following Jesus whom he believed to be the Messiah. Judas has an epiphany of sorts. He came to realize Jesus could not be the Messiah because, in Hebrew understanding, the Messiah was going to come and throw the hated Romans out of the country. Here we find Jesus, not only talking about his death, he is talking about his death by the hands of the Romans. He can’t be the Messiah if he is dead, can he?

Actually, Judas was right in that assumption. What Judas never understood was the idea of resurrection, the idea of overcoming death. Jesus had to die in order to rise again. You can’t have Easter without Good Friday.

So, coming to a conclusion in his mind that Jesus cannot be the Messiah, Judas decides he is going to have something to show for these last three years. He takes the money from the Pharisees and tells them where Jesus is and then, to make sure they knew the right man to arrest, Judas gives them a sign, he would kiss the man on the cheek.

When Judas is before Jesus, Jesus has a simple sentence to say, but in this sentence we see Jesus telling him to exercise his free will. “Do what you came here to do.” It isn’t, “Do what you have to do.” Do what you have to do would imply predestination. Do what you came here to do implies he had a choice, it implies free will. Or, at least that’s how I see it. Judas made the ultimate decision of free will. He betrayed Jesus.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… A Prayer and It’s Answer

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious.38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41  Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”

43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. 44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. 45 Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46  Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.” (Matthew 26:36-46, Common English Bible).

Three times Jesus went off alone to pray. Three times he prayed the same prayer, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”. The first two times he seemed to not get an answer. The third time there was an answer and clearly, the answer was “No.”

“The time has come for the Son of Man (Human One in the Common English Bible) to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Let’s go. Look my betrayer is at hand.” Clearly, the answer to Jesus’ prayer is “No.” Well, at least that is the answer to the first part of the prayer. Jesus leaves an opening with, “Not what I want but what you want.” God shows what is necessary.

Many times we pray with the expectation that God will give us what we want, when we want it. I know, there is that verse where Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in my name will be given to you.” But what if we pray for something that is clearly outside of God’s will? What if I prayed for the opportunity to do harm to another person and I prayed this in Jesus’ name? To expect God to give us this is pretty foolish.

In this lesson, Jesus prays within the will of God. He does it when he says, “Not what I want but what you want.” And, if the Father would say “No” to Jesus, what would ever give us the idea that all God’s answers to us would be “Yes.” The truth is, sometimes God’s answer is “No.” But, we all should keep praying anyway. Jesus did.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

 

Blessed… Exhausted

He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41  Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup is taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want” (Matthew 26:40-42, Common English Bible).

Imagine it is Thanksgiving Day. You have just finished the stereotypical huge family meal. There is the turkey, green bean casserole, fluffy pink salad, rice dressing (you can have the cornbread dressing), cranberry sauce, rolls, and whatever else is part of your family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal. Then it is all followed up with a big slice of pecan pie (OK, if you really want it you can have pumpkin pie but I don’t understand why when there is pecan pie there!). Now, settle into the couch or a recliner and start watching a Thanksgiving Day football game. Go ahead! Stay awake! I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU!

To stay awake it is going to have to be a really, really, really good football game. Even then, for most of us, staying awake after that huge Thanksgiving meal is just not possible. I have tried going out and walking. It just delays the inevitable. I am going to have a nap after my Thanksgiving meal. I can’t help it. It is going to happen.Wait! What am I saying?

Wait! What am I saying? It happens just about every Sunday afternoon. Football may or may not be what is on television. And, I can usually find a way to stay awake through the Texans game but either before or after, a nap is something that will almost always happen.

We are often critical of the disciples for falling asleep when Jesus wanted them to pray. I feel pretty certain they had really good intentions. I don’t think they went out there with him thinking, “I have in mind to really disappoint Jesus. When he asks me to pray, instead of doing as he asked, I think I will just curl up and have a nap.”

Here is a good question for you. Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? Come on. Be honest now. Besides, you aren’t lying to me, you are lying to yourself.

I have a tendency to think that if you truly haven’t the most likely explanation is, you don’t pray when you go to bed at night. At the very least you don’t allow yourself to get comfortable while you are praying.

As I think about the disciples that night, they had the perfect storm of falling asleep going. They had just finished a big meal. They had been out on a walk. They began a quiet, usually sedentary activity in prayer. The result became disciples who faded fast, fast asleep.

If we can’t manage to stay awake on Thanksgiving afternoon, why do we expect the disciples to be so much different than us? Jesus did have the same big meal, the same walk, and the same sedentary activity. But, Jesus was in a high-stress situation. As for the disciples, they didn’t realize enough of what was happening and about to happen to be in a state of stress.

I think the real key is, if we are to stay awake in prayer, we need to pick times when we are less tired. Additionally, maybe we really need to seek a posture of prayer where we aren’t quite so comfortable.

Maybe then, we will manage to stay awake and pray with Jesus.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved