Blessed… As Secure As You Know How

62 The next day, which was the day after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate. 63 They said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will arise.’ 64 Therefore, order the grave to be sealed until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people, ‘He’s been raised from the dead.’ This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate replied, “You have soldiers for guard duty. Go and make it as secure as you know how.” 66 Then they went and secured the tomb by sealing the stone and posting the guard (Matthew 27:62-65, Common English Bible).

My father always told me, “A lock is only meant to keep an honest person honest.” I always knew it wasn’t something original to him. My father was a smart man but words and writing were not really his wheelhouse.

I went in search of who actually coined the phrase. I found one attribute to fantasy author Robin Hobb. She apparently used a form of the phrase in one of her books.

The best I could find was, again, a form of the phrase saying, “A lock is meant only for honest men,” a Yiddish proverb and a similar Jewish proverb, “Locks keep out only the honest.”

Though I still don’t know who first said it, I am also pretty sure I don’t know what the proverb says about God who went past a sealed and guarded tomb to bring about the resurrection.

Of course, I say that tongue and cheek. The truth is, this passage says a great deal about the power and the will of God. God’s will cannot be thwarted or checked by human efforts unless God allows, through human free-will, the divine will be subverted.

In his classic book, The Will of God, the late British theologian Leslie Weatherhead explains that there are three wills of God. They are, first, the intentional will of God, what God wills to happen in the world. The second is, the circumstantial will of God, what God allows to happen through free will. The third is the ultimate will of God, in other words, in the end, God’s will shall shine through.

(My explanation of Weatherhead’s book is by necessity very abbreviated. I am not going to try to explain a book, short though it may be, in one paragraph. I strongly recommend reading the book. It is short and doesn’t take a great deal of time to read through the ideas can cause a great deal of thought, contemplation, and prayer)

God’s ultimate will was the resurrected Christ. The Jews wanted nothing of the sort. Truth to tell, though he acted like he didn’t care, Pilate most likely wasn’t particularly interested in a resurrection hoax circulating the region. Seals and guards were put in place.

Seals and guards were put in place. Seals and guards failed. Seals and guards failed because nothing can or will succeed when pitted against the ultimate will of God.

People may seek to stop each other from doing this or that. Still, if a person is determined, there is a strong possibility they will accomplish the goal they seek. If we, who are finite beings limited in power, can accomplish big things in spite of difficulty, how much more can an infinite God with unlimited power accomplish even against seemingly impossible odds?

As we shall see when we turn the page to chapter 28 tomorrow, Pilate could not stop God. The Jews could not stop God. Stones, seals, and guards could not stop the ultimate will of God.

It seems to me that we need to pray that God will reveal the Divine ultimate will to us. May we always be found living in the will of God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Big Fish… Big Attitude

 

Over the next couple of days, we will wind down what has been a long study of Matthew’s Gospel. much longer than I originally planned but I can’t think of much I would change about the study. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It lasted

Beginning October 1st, we will begin a new blog study, this time on the book of Jonah. I am giving this study the title, “Big Fish…Big Attitude.” I don’t think it will last anywhere near as long as Matthew, if, for no other reason, Jonah is only about a seventh of Mathew’s length. Less material, less time.

I hope you will join me beginning October 1st for “Big Fish… Big Attitude.”

Blessed… What’s the Big Deal?

57 That evening a man named Joseph came. He was a rich man from Arimathea who had become a disciple of Jesus. 58 He came to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission to take it. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had carved out of the rock. After he rolled a large stone at the door of the tomb, he went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting in front of the tomb.

At this point in the narrative, Matthew seems to take a bit of a tangent. Some might say he goes out chasing rabbits. Jesus has died. What difference could it possibly make if Joseph of Arimathea took possession of Jesus’ body? What is the big deal about the clean cloth? Why is a new tomb important? Why do we need to know a large stone covered the entrance. What is the deal with the two women sitting in front of the tomb? Why is Matthew telling us all this? What is the big deal? Jesus is dead. Shouldn’t we, at this point, just move on?

Matthew has some really good reasons for every one of the pieces of information he places in the story. This isn’t going down a rabbit trail. What Matthew does here sets up the next and most important part of the story.

Joseph of Arimathea taking possession of Jesus’ body shows there were more who followed Jesus faithfully than just the (now eleven) disciples. What is more, some of those who followed Jesus at the end, were people of both means and importance. Joseph and Nicodemus to name but two.

Just as was the case of John the son of Zebedee, Joseph did not fear an association with the crucified Jesus. To do something such as Joseph did, asking for the body of Jesus, a convicted criminal in the eyes of most in Jerusalem, could lead to guilt by association. It is a big part of why Peter would deny Jesus. Joseph made no such denials and was willing to do his part for Jesus.

That Joseph placed Jesus’ body in a new tomb is also important. If the tomb had been used, how would one of that era tell Jesus’ bones from the bones of another? It would have required even greater faith. The eye could see the bones of others. Were the bones the bones of Jesus or bones that were already present? Likewise, if Jesus had been treated as most common criminals he would have been buried in a pauper’s grave. Again, you wouldn’t know one body from another.

The large stone was necessary because it made it close to impossible for the disciples to have stolen the body. The stone would keep honest disciples honest.

And the woman in front of the tomb? Matthew shows the depth of their grief. He also seems to show how these women wanted something to happen. We see how they believed something would happen. They sat there. They waited.

There is one more item of interest in this passage. Jesus’ body was wrapped in a clean cloth. We will save that one for a couple of days. It plays a role in the resurrection story itself.

All these things are important for those wanting proof of the resurrected Christ. Matthew is giving them all he had. The rest must be accepted on faith.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Have You Ever Tried to Split a Rock?

45 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 46 At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

47 After hearing him, some standing there said, “He’s calling Elijah.”48 One of them ran over, took a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink.

49 But the rest of them said, “Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.”

50 Again Jesus cried out with a loud shout. Then he died.

51 Look, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, 52 and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised. 53 After Jesus’ resurrection they came out of their graves and went into the holy city where they appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what had just happened, they were filled with awe and said, “This was certainly God’s Son.”

55 Many women were watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to serve him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons (Matthew 27:45-56, Common English Bible).

It is no simple task, splitting a rock. When I was in high school I took a geology class. Much of what we did during our lab time in that class involved cutting and polishing rocks. Even using a power saw with water to keep both the blade and the rock cool, it was still a difficult and time-consuming process. You had to go slow but eventually, you could cut the rock in two.

I have often thought about that when I read verse 51 of today’s lesson. What kind of power did it take to split rocks? The kind that is beyond human capability. We may be able to cut a rock in two, but we can’t really split rocks.

I often imagine a lightning strike into a rock.  That would be enough power to split a rock. Likewise, an earthquake would have the power to split a rock. There may even be something of human creation capable of splitting a rock, but if there is, I don’t know what it might be. Cut, yes. Crush, I am sure. Split, not within my knowledge. And, did it exist in the Biblical era? I seriously doubt it.

When I think about the power it would take to split a rock, much less several, it usually leads me to think about God’s grief. I can only imagine what level of grief a parent might feel at the loss of a child. If we feel such profound grief, would not God feel the same level of grief or perhaps more? After all, we are created in the image of God. And, I would think, a divine broken heart might just generate the necessary power to split a rock.

Something to think about.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Blessed… And the World Went Dark

45 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 46 At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

47 After hearing him, some standing there said, “He’s calling Elijah.”48 One of them ran over, took a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink.

49 But the rest of them said, “Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.”

50 Again Jesus cried out with a loud shout. Then he died.

51 Look, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, 52 and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised. 53 After Jesus’ resurrection they came out of their graves and went into the holy city where they appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what had just happened, they were filled with awe and said, “This was certainly God’s Son.”

55 Many women were watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to serve him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons (Matthew 27:44-56, Common English Bible).

For weeks, many of us heard about the coming eclipse. That particular day I was at my mother’s home in the Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio. My sister was there along with an elementary school-aged girl my sister has kind of adopted as a granddaughter. When the eclipse was at its height, I took the girl outside to show her the old paper trick where you poke a small hole in one piece of paper and then hold it above another piece and you can see the eclipse on the second piece of paper.

It didn’t get dark on us that day. It wasn’t dark anywhere in Texas, or at least that was my understanding. I did see pictures from the Midwest a little later in the day. These were pictures where it was noticeably darker than we typically see at mid-day, even on a cloudy day.

In my imagination, that is how things looked the day Jesus was crucified. It looked like an eclipse, but perhaps darker.

I have often wondered, why did this not get the attention of the Jews or the Romans. As superstitious as the people of that era tended to be, you would think they might be able to put two and two together. We are crucifying Jesus. The sky just became dark. Maybe, just maybe, God isn’t very happy with what we are doing. Perhaps we need to rethink our actions.

We often tend to be much the same way. Perhaps the signs are not as obvious for us, but all too often, God sends us messages that are both obvious and clear and somehow, despite how easy it might be to see, we manage to ignore it and in doing so, we ignore God.

Could it be, when we manage to ignore God, the sky becomes just a little darker? Maybe, but probably not. I do think God became sad that day. And, when God sends us a sign, obvious or not, and we miss the sign, God becomes a little sad because God knows the plans God has in mind for you, they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11, paraphrased).

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

32 As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. 33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 They crucified with him two outlaws, one on his right side and one on his left.

39 Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.”

41 In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. 43 He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” 44 The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way (Matthew 27:32-44, Common English Bible).

Isaac Watts’ famous hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is one of my favorites. Read his lyrics:

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Most of the time when we sing this song, we sing it in a major key. Several years ago I heard the song performed with verses 1 and 2 sung in a major key and then there was a switch for verse 3. It was performed in a minor key and verse 4 switched back to the major key once again.

When you combine Watts’ powerful words, “See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown,” and combine that with the haunting sounds of a minor musical key, the combination can make the hairs on the back of your neck and your arms stand up.

The words remind us of what Jesus did. Today’s scripture reading does the same. As evidenced by Jesus’ head, his hands, his feet, the love that was his life’s blood poured down. In that moment there was a definite meeting at the corner of love and sorrow. And the crown Jesus wore became more valuable than any crown worn by any royalty before or since. This crown came at the cost of divine life. It’s value to us? Grace. The haunting music simply serves to drive the point home. It emphasizes for us, as sometimes we forget, just what Jesus did for you and for me.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… They Shouted Insults at Him

32 As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. 33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 They crucified with him two outlaws, one on his right side and one on his left.

39 Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.”

41 In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. 43 He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” 44 The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way (Matthew 27:32-44, Common English Bible).

We like to think we have come a long way. We have made progress but there is still a long way to go.

And, I remember.

I remember following the arrest of Timothy McVeigh for his crimes in the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the police escorted him from one jail facility to another. Of course, he was handcuffed and shackled. He was wearing a bullet proof vest. He was also completely surrounded by law enforcement officers. Had he tried to run… well let’s just say it would have been a fool’s errand.

All those things, none of them bothered me. For the interest of public safety, they had to keep him in custody. For the safety of a man accused of horrendous crimes, but not yet convicted, they had to protect him.

What I remember most from that day were the insults shouted at McVeigh. I understood it. People were angry over what had happened, and rightfully so. While we certainly shouldn’t convict someone without due process, people were angry. Words may sting but the anger was understandable.

Please understand, I am not trying to compare Jesus and Timothy McVeigh. Many of us would like to think we would not be involved in the insults thrown at Jesus. To the general public of the day, Jesus was a condemned criminal. Insults went with the territory. While we no longer have public executions, the insults thrown at McVeigh do show we, today, are no less likely to be a part of such behavior.

It wasn’t that many years ago that a great number of white people were shouting insults at a black man that most anyone in those crowds would have gladly taken his place. Jackie Robinson took a great deal of abuse. He wasn’t a criminal, he was a baseball player.

All this is to say, before we claim we would never be part of what happened to Jesus, we need to stop and remember the perspective of the Jews. We know the whole story, that is a luxury the Jews did not have. And, even if we weren’t so inclined to start with, the crowd mentality can be something very powerful. And, there is a good possibility we may not be as innocent as we would like to think.

Lord, forgive me.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved