My Fig Leaves

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Now that I have your attention…in publishing my blog my objective has always been to be transparent in confessing personal faults, failures, challenges, etc. so that maybe one or two readers might be spared the pain of learning lessons others have already benefited from. Some weeks are more difficult to post than others depending on the subject matter or the freshness of the wounds or hurt.  This may be one of those weeks.

We all have heard the story countless times.  God tells Adam to stay away from just one tree but instead he yields to a tempting Eve and disobeys a directive meant for his benefit.  Genesis 3 reads that Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness and sewed together fig leaves to cover their exposure.  But then something deeper happens that we often overlook.  When God is calling Adam out of the garden Adam’s reply is that they were afraid and hid so that God would not see that they were naked.  However, Adam and Eve had already created and were in fact wearing their fig garments when they heard God’s voice.  So we must ask if Adam was afraid of exposing his genitalia or was he hiding something much deeper?

The fig leaf has always been used figuratively as symbolic of covering something up that may be distasteful or embarrassing. In more recent times the fig leaf is used metaphorically as an attempt to cover up something that is only a token gesture as the object being covered is still obvious and for the most part exposed. Fig leaves can be as long as ten inches and as wide as six inches.  However when they are cut from the tree they exude a sticky gel like substance that can be quite uncomfortable when coming in direct contact with skin.  To go to the lengths of covering up one’s “nakedness” with something so uncomfortable must somehow relay the desperation of attempting to hide something really ugly or shameful.

I am a shirt guy.  I buy shirts like women buy shoes. I have easily 200 shirts in various closets.  I’m a shirt whore. But I also have some fig leaves that I wear in certain situations so that my faults and failures are not overly exposed.  Allow me to explain. The mother of my sons and I divorced in 1996.  Say what you may about the reasons that led up to that painful decision, the divorce for me represented a failure-something I lost control of and did not cultivate enough to save.  It was perhaps my first fig leaf.

I have been blessed with three young men as sons who are unique and individual whom I love dearly.  But I was not a great father. I worked too much, I was absent for certain events, I didn’t spend nearly enough quality time with them, and I could go on.

Three fig leaves.

I was blessed with an opportunity to own my own business but in less than two years was forced to give it back to the creditors because of fierce industry competition and mismanagement on my part.  I am still paying the price for that failure and increasing my fig leaf wardrobe. Through obstacles and life challenges I have not handled well I have developed or rather allowed to surface a deep resentment, a sometimes bitter attitude, an unexplainable anger and deep feelings of frustration and doubt even when trying to rely on my faith in God’s grace and strength as my only recourse. Yet another fig leaf.  I could relay many similar stories of past mistakes, miscues and missteps that have added to my hidden fig leaf closet. I have much to hide, much that I fear admitting to the world and much I am ashamed of for fear of being exposed. My loins, my legs and most of my torso are covered in unseen fig leaves.

When God called out to Adam He knew exactly where he was hiding and why.  And as Adam had tasted of the tree of he Knowledge of Good and Evil, he most likely knew God was on to him.  Any attempt to cover his nakedness before God was futile.  It was just a token gesture of modesty before a God who sees everything beneath.

Jeremiah 23:24; “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I don’t see him?  Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?”

Hebrews 4:13: “There is no creature hidden from His sight but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

God knows us inside and out, our fears, our lusts, our hurts, our doubts-nothing remains hidden from Him.  Any attempt to cover ourselves is futile.  But perhaps what is more significant is the thought process or reasoning behind our fear of being exposed to Him. Through the sacrifice of His Son and the dispensation of unending grace through our belief in the same we are set free from the chains of guilt and shame of our shortcomings.  While our approach should be one of humble reverence and confession, our lifestyle should not resemble sackcloth and ashes, or sticky fig leaves.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God”…Romans 5:1

“My grace is sufficient for you and my power made perfect in your weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly (and not hide behind fig leaves) about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me”. 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Some of us may be in a season where we are not only covered in fig leaves but are hiding in the belly of a dark cave.  We may be facing questions with no answers, situations with no solutions and a future where we can’t see any ray of light because of present darkness. The tears may be uncontrollable, or you may have few left. The intangible faith in an unseen God may be a real struggle for some, but the hope and the promises of a loving and merciful God can not be withheld from us even when we hide.  Clothing  trends may come and go but fig leaves have never been fashionable.  Be clothed instead in grace and mercy, an ensemble that all believers share and is never out of style.

 

 

 

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Judas Syndrome-Subtle Betrayals

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The character Judas Iscariot has always fascinated me for some reason. Not much is written about him in the New Testament and little else is available through tradition or other writings. The theories about his life and motives span both sides of the spectrum. Some consider him to be the seed of the devil for his betrayal of Jesus while other sects look to venerate him as a saint, crediting him with putting into motion the chain of events that is our redemption and reconciliation. And yet others believe his role was to be viewed as an example that no one is safe from the snares of personal greed and temptation, even an Apostle of Jesus. Whatever your view, Judas Iscariot makes for controversial study.

We know his name in Hebrew means “Praised”. We know that he was from Judah, the only one of the twelve with all others being from Galilee. We know he was the treasurer of the twelve, responsible for the money and necessities of the group.  But what else do find in Judas that may be shockingly familiar?

In Matthew’s account Peter, in his explanation of how prophecy was fulfilled by Judas’ betrayal, describes Judas as “being numbered among us and having a share in the ministry”.  This does not suggest a passive but a hands on involved role, the evangelizing, the bearing witness to the miracles of Jesus first hand, the intimate instruction by the Master and even possibly the faith and partnership with the Apostles as they performed their own miracles in Christ’s name. We have no reason to believe that Judas started out as anything but a fully engaged “on fire” Apostle of Jesus. But along the way Judas fell prey to greed and temptation that he chose not to resist. Judas had a love for money.  We see that in his false narrative as he protests the anointing of Jesus with the expensive perfume.  We are told that he stole from the group treasury funds.  Materialistic greed is a powerful and addicting cancer that even the strongest can’t always escape.  The character of Judas is not one void of all redeeming qualities doomed from the start but one that in spite of the knowledge of Christ fell victim to his own desires.

It is possible that the act of the betrayal itself was merely motivated by profit and greed? Consider how many times we are told in the New Testament that Jesus “escapes” through the crowd because it wasn’t yet His time.  Did Judas believe that Jesus would simply escape again as in times past and that he would reap a reward of silver with no harm being done?  One has to wonder at the remorse Judas displays when he realizes that this time Jesus is indeed apprehended and taken into custody.  His immediate response is one of sorrow and regret as he returns the money and takes his own life feeling unworthy to carry on as an Apostle. The act of his suicide suggests to us that in the end he did not believe the words of Christ pertaining to resurrection and eternity so even his faith and intimate knowledge of Jesus was overcome by his greed and desires. Throughout all history perhaps no one individual was ever elevated to as high a status and yet lowered to a more detestable state than Judas Iscariot. How can one hear first hand the teachings of Christ,  share everyday life and fellowship with Him, observe Him as he heals the lame and raises the dead and even partakes in the initial ministry outreach of Christianity and still fall with so great a fall?  How could one man chosen to be one of the twelve that would see and hear things the rest of us can only imagine, one who literally sat in the presence of God in the body of Jesus who basked in His glory for a three year period, betray Him for any price, let alone a paltry thirty pieces of silver?

And now for a tough question-are we any different than Judas Iscariot? Judas did not harbor the typical hatred of a traitor but rather loved Jesus to the end, betraying Him with a kiss of brotherly affection. Do we openly proclaim our love and devotion for Jesus while in possession of an unforgiving spirit?  Do we praise and worship on the weekends but cuss out drivers throughout the work week? Do we hold onto every possession without thought for the desperate and needy? Do we practice subtle betrayal in our actions when no one else is around?  Do we have an intimate enough knowledge of Christ that compels us in holy awe and exhorts us to acquiring the character of our namesake or do we hang our Jesus outfit in the closet until the next weekend?  Do the thoughts we fail to take captive, the desires we allow to exist in secret or the actions we take when angered serve as betrayals of God’s grace and Christ’s redeeming work? I wonder, and I shudder at the thought. God have mercy on us.

Scripture is full of good news and hope for everyday life, but there is one passage that tends to be haunting to me.  Matthew 7:21-23 says this:

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

The Message Translation spins it this way:

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Subtle willing betrayals-secret sinful desires-dormant but breathing temptations, just like Judas. “Father, observe and restore our motivation to be like your Son Jesus in all we think and do, and to genuinely reflect His character in our lives so that we are not deemed guilty of His betrayal through our actions and unbelief”

Peace.

The Heart is Compelled to Celebrate Christmas

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In just a few days the world will pause to remember the day when God the Son laid aside His Heavenly Kingship and entered into the world He created to set into motion the divine plan of redemption and reconciliation conceived from the beginning.  But sadly too many will get caught up in the wrappings of the holiday through business, through commercialization and even through religious debates as to the validity of our commemoration, and will completely miss out on the heart and the reasons we pause. Defense over “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” will stir indignation and false piety; the worn argument over leaving Christ in Christmas opposed to those who use Xmas; the ever aging debate over the pagan roots of the holiday and why like Halloween, “Real” Christians would never participate in such secular distractions.  I’m confident Christ is pleased at how diligently we defend Him and promote the model of love He displayed by coming into our world to save us from, well, us.

Christmas brings back so many joyful memories for me from my younger years, and most all of them center around the central figure of Christmas, the Christ Child. I can’t tell you the number of times I played Joseph in the annual church Christmas play.  I recall being part of a multi-level living Christmas Tree set up outside in the cold parking lot of an Indiana mall as we sang carols about none other than Jesus in near zero temps.  I remember as a teen in our youth group taking part in a Madrigal Dinner performance complete with costumes and yes, even tights (because back then I made tights fashionable for men).  I did the Santa thing with our kids and enjoyed every minute and memory made.  The snow, the songs, the plays, the animated Christmas displays downtown, the lights-all part of Christmas memories no one can take from me or diminish through theological orations of gross holiness infractions served up by some who are guilty of brutality through overbearing policing. We get through deeper study that the birth was most likely not a December event.  We understand that the shepherds being outside with the flock indicate a season other than Winter.  We know the timing of the Census and the calendar of Jewish festivals create doubt for a December nativity.  But are these things really essential on our choice and reasoning to remember?

Throwing off the wrappings, the controversy and the distractions, let us merely examine the wonder and the reason of the Incarnation of the Christ child on that Holy night. Jesus, the Word and creator of all things made according to John 1, saw His creation in turmoil. Mankind had perverted everything good about life.  Sin had separated us from Him and there was not enough time or livestock available for the continuing of sacrifices required according to Jewish custom to atone for our sinful ways. A promise had been made to never destroy the population as in the days of Noah, so a new covenant had to be established, one that was final, all inclusive and everlasting, and yet still meet the requirements of bloodshed. Enter Jesus-literally! The time was right and the need never greater. God’s entry into our planet was done in the most unusual, abnormal and uncharacteristic way possible.  He didn’t come into existence suddenly in the synagogue-He didn’t just appear before Kings and religious leaders. He picked a young teen aged girl from a city of poverty and disease and a man who had many of the same struggles we do today, fear, doubt, jealousy, weakness, to be the earthly vessel and parents of His Son. The news of his birth was not proclaimed to the rabbis in the temple-it was proclaimed to the shepherds, the outcasts of society, the indispensable protectors of flocks from wild predators who had little family or means.  Jesus didn’t come with prenatal care in a lavish facility worthy of  king’s birth, but rather a holding stable for animals-the local kennel if you will for all the visiting guests from other countries who had converged on Bethlehem that night. But in that blessed event is the fulfillment of all the carols we sing to this day recalling His birth. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining til He appeared”. “Peace on earth and mercy mild-God and sinner reconciled”. “Come and behold Him, born the king of ages”. “Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping”. The plan was set into motion.

While we rejoiced, God the Father was broken, knowing that in the blink of an eye this baby boy so innocently portrayed in a manger would be maliciously beaten and scourged and left to die on the Roman cross of crucifixion. In order for the perpetual sacrifice to be made for us, God had to become one of us-the Word becomes flesh and lives among us. The Lamb of God was born only to die. The virgin birth secured His separation from all things sinful so that He who knew no sin, could become the flawless sacrifice-the lamb without any blemish, to die blameless just as he was born. There was no other way for us to be restored to our creator because of our sin, than through the death and blood of one of us who was perfect-Jesus the Christ child. It was truly a cradle to the grave implementation of a divine plan by which we would be forgiven, redeemed, restored and made spotless before Him who made us.  At last we who were made in His image could once again appear like Him, reconciled into the lineage of Christ. We sing “Glory to the newborn king” so that we can sing “my sin, oh the joy of this glorious thought-my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more”! This my friends is Christmas!

I am a wretched man, like Joseph, who struggles with pride, impatience, temptation-living everyday in a sinful world. The message of Christmas is that He who knew me before I was conceived made provisions for my shortcomings and afforded me forgiveness, salvation and everlasting life with Him in a kingdom yet to come, and it all started on that first Christmas morning 2000 years or so ago in Bethlehem, whatever night it was. You’re damn right I’m going to celebrate it-I’m going to sing songs about it-I’m going to enjoy a special church service to reflect on it-I’m going to have my family over and share in a great feast and offer up prayers in remembrance of it and even exchange gifts, remembering that the greatest gift of all was given freely on that first Holy night to all who choose to receive it. There are lights on my house, angels on my tree, a nativity in our family room, and Christmas shows on the TV. I will live according to the book of Romans knowing that some keep certain days as more holy than others but all being acceptable when done to the glory of God.  My only regret is that we only mark one day each year to remember the essence of our faith.  If it were left to me the lights would never come down, the carols would never cease and the magic and joy felt in December would never diminish in January. “For unto us a savior is born-unto us a Son is given, and He is called Jesus”.

It is my heartfelt wish and fervent prayer that my family, my kids, my grand kids and friends find in their hearts this season the wonder and the joy and the core of all things Christmas, and that they make merry in full acknowledgement of the hope born to us on that special night.

Merry Christmas to all!

Only Eating the Good Stuff

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My wife and I live in Las Vegas, the all-you-can-eat buffet capital of the world!  An inexpensive but quality buffet is one of the oldest marketing tools employed by the local casinos to get customer in the door.  Always positioned near the rear of the casino the ploy is to get you to drop some coin as you pass a myriad of slot machines either on your way yo the buffet or on your way out after gorging yourself to the point of having to stop and take a break, conveniently on a stool by a slot machine.

We have our favorites based on location and offerings.  We seldom go right for the food but take a slow walk from end to end to see what the fare of the day is before beginning to fill our plate with only what we want. I’m big on pasta and can make a meal just at the Italian station.  I’m not a huge fan of oriental and might skip that station completely.  Plain steamed vegetables, you know, the one that are good for you, are not my favorite.  I prefer those that are loaded with extra goodies-bacon, cheese, cream, you get it.  and who can’t make a meal on just the dessert bar!  From pies to cakes to ice cream to fresh pastries to cookies to cobblers-oh just the thought!

How cool is it to go into such an eating establishment and go right to just the foods you enjoy the most and completely bypass those that you really don’t prefer or leave a bad taste in your mouth. We can overdose on sugar and carbs and leave out the important proteins and important nutrients needed for our health if we think they taste nasty.  This is ingrained in us in the baby stage.  I recall when our kids were infants we would mix sweet fruit with their vegetables just so they would eat them.  Bad habits carry over into adulthood.

As believers in Christ many of us are guilty of much the same approach to scripture.  There are literal thousands of Christian denominations in the world today because some place more emphasis on certain aspects of scripture and some completely disregard other aspects.  We have turned the Word into an all-you-can-eat but pick only what you like buffet.  We hand pick passages to support doctrines like picking food from an a la  carte menu.  Many groups lobby that certain part of scripture has become socially irrelevant to the times and must be ignored.  Others have stepped into the dangerous realm of suggesting the Word be changed or updated, something God warned against toward the end of the Book.

I have to be honest here and say that I’m blown away by Christians advocating and lobbying against God’s words with a puffed up arrogance and pride that would frighten most believers.  I’m grateful for the torn veil that allows me direct access to the throne of God, but when I approach him, I still know He is God and I tremble in reverence and awe.  I could never be so convinced in my beliefs to attempt to prove God wrong.  We are told two things in scripture-God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that His Word will never pass away.  Who are we that we should treat the Bible the way we treat a buffet?

 Like the foods I shy away from, this post will most likely leave a bad taste in the mouths of some and may even be received as biased or hateful.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As I was reading today in 1 John I came across the scripture that mentioned “snatching” some from the fire.  If you are one who believes that part of God’s law does not apply to you or that you are somehow above it, then maybe you need to be lovingly snatched from the fire.  You can’t eat mercy and grace but leave yourself deficient on forgiving; you can’t consume mass quantities of blessing but skip the suffering station; you can’t digest the Olsteen dessert bar but forgo the Mother Teresa meat station of works at the same time.

Ironically enough scripture is described in the New Testament as “meat” for mature believers.  Thank God the Word is indeed all you can eat and digest!  You just can’t skip the sections that don’t taste good!

Football in the Cow Pasture

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As we eagerly anticipate the long overdue start of the NFL season this weekend, I am reminded of perhaps the funniest comedic routine I’ve ever heard.  It is an old recording performed by the late Andy Griffith as he is describing in great detail the first time he ever witnessed a football game.  If you haven’t heard it and need a laugh, google it and prepare to bust a gut.  The game was being played in a cow pasture.  His final observation was that the object of the game must be to run with the little pigskin from one end of the pasture to the other without being attacked or “a steppin’ in sumthin'”.

I can completely relate to this.  My dad grew up in the small town of Quitman, Mississippi. He was raised on a massive farm with acreage, ponds and cow pastures.  Directly across the road from the house was the larger pasture.  As kids we visited his childhood home at least twice a year.  Since we all loved football, and since the closest spot of grass was the pasture across the road, we would eventually end up over there playing football.  As you might imagine there were cow mines all over and it was very difficult to concentrate on running or catching a pass and being aware of where you were stepping.  You just couldn’t avoid “a steppin’ in sumthin”.

Some of us in the faith live our Christian lives like playing football in a cow pasture full of opportunities for us to step in it.  We feel we have stronger resolves than we actually do.  We think we aren’t subject to temptations and distractions like those other people.  We wear our faith like a coat of teflon thinking evil influences or suspect environments won’t stick to us.  Maybe in our alone time we get on the computer and scan videos dangerously linked to porn sites.  Or maybe we have that one drink knowing we are subject to over indulgence. Maybe it’s leaving after your third heaping plate at the harmless all-you-can-eat-buffet.  It might be that innocent conversation on social media with someone you would never want your spouse to know about.  It could even be as innocent as the destructive lyrics to your favorite secular music.  All these examples represent cow patties, fresh, hot and smelly, right in the area where you are playing and usually unavoidable.  It’s just a matter of time before the foul scent of your misstep announces to the world your arrival and your most recent activities. Scripture reads “be sure and know that your sins will eventually reveal your character” , my interpretation.  Like Taco Bell, you can’t easily rid yourself of the stench of fresh cow dung-trust me on this.

We live in a world that smells foul and we travel a road surrounded by pastures.  We can see and smell the eminent snares from our path without veering off into the actual pastures where we will surely be soiled by corruption and temptation greater than we can handle or escape.  Thankfully God left for us instructions on avoiding these dung hills in His Word;

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14)

“Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim 2:22)

As the Day of our Lord approaches the intensity of warfare against the saints will increase exponentially and the battles will become more numerous.  We have to take seriously ever threat, every opportunity, every snare that lands in our path and overcome them by a daily renewal of our minds and a regular diet of scripture so our spiritual immune systems are constantly being nourished for battle.  It all starts and ends in the mind.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”  Phil. 4:8, Message Bible

Enjoy your football season, just watch out for the land mines in your path.  Go Colts!

What Really Caused the Death of Jesus

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Each year at about this time we in the Christian faith pause to remember, to commemorate and to celebrate the horrific events surrounding the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Roman cross of shame. It is a time for us to focus, in as much as our minds can comprehend, the level of love shown us by God the Father who gave up His son in order that we might be reconciled to Him through the once and forever sacrifice for our sin. It is the supreme love story that prose or song has yet to be able to fully capture, and that even Hollywood, with all its special effects can’t adequately portray. 

Throughout the years I have studied Roman punishment, specifically the scourging and the crucifixion. There is not enough keystrokes that can describe the horrors of what Jesus endured that day. The lashes He was given were enough to kill many men. The Romans had this down to a science knowing just when to stop to prevent death through blood loss and shock. Death on a cross was an extended torture in most cases lasted days, with the condemned person eventually yielding to death by asphyxiation. The breaking of the legs was to prevent the person from pushing themselves up to relieve the pressure on their lungs and diaphragm so they could breathe, thus causing them to suffocate. Yet Jesus died within hours, not days. Was Jesus just a weaker specimen of a man? Did he die from the physical pain alone from the torture He received before the cross? Did God just have mercy on Him and relieve His Son from suffering?  

We can only speculate, but this week in my studies I was led to something that I knew, but didn’t fully appreciate.  It’s no epiphany-it’s been there all the time-it just took fifty-two years for me to grasp it, and when I did, it was overwhelming!  I have read Isaiah 53 many times in my life, and most of you are familiar with some of the passages. But this week, as I read it for the 100th time or so, I read it differently. Let me attempt to explain. Verse 4 reads “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities..”  I had always interpreted this as a description of the physical beating at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Is that the fullness of this verse?  The New Living Translation of this says that He was wounded and crushed for our sins, again something we’ve heard all our lives, but have we indeed really heard? Verse 6 says that God, His Father, laid upon Jesus, His Son, the guilt, the shame and the punishment for the sins of all mankind! Wow-how was that possible?

I remember vividly growing up as a young boy the feeling I had knowing I was about to be punished, back in the day before it was considered a crime to whoop a child’s butt for disobedience. Those dreaded words, “just wait until your dad gets home”, hearing the phone conversation between your parents, counting down the hours in total fear of knowing that when your dad came through the door, you were going to receive upon your backside the punishment for your crime-the anticipation alone really was all the punishment necessary and was almost always more terrifying than the punishment itself. The hours in waiting seemed like days! Consider then the fact that Jesus, being man but with the full knowledge of God, must have felt the terror of the punishment He was going to eventually endure for years, not hours! I can’t fathom possessing the knowledge of the price that was to be required, and carrying it His entire adult life. That alone would kill a weaker man. 

But there’s more. Consider for a moment verses 8-10, again from the NLT: “But who among the people realized that He was dying for their sins-that He was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and He never deceived anyone. But He was buried like a criminal and put in a rich man’s grave. It was the Lord’s good plan to crush Him and fill Him with grief”. God the Father carried out the punishment and torture of His own Son for the Sins of the world!

The sins of the world-the magnitude of that statement can’t possibly be over exaggerated. Think for a minute about the most horrendous criminals or dictators to ever walk the earth through World History. How does one begin to categorize them?

Stalin is responsible for 27 million deaths. Mao Zedong as attributed with over 70 million! Kim Jong II killed 20 million. King Herod killed innocent children in hopes of killing Jesus. Then there is Adolf Hitler, who records show killed more than 6 million of God’s chosen people! God exacted punishment for these and other historic atrocities that day on the cross, and Jesus bore the guilt and shame for them, Hussein, Manson, Bin Laden, and the list goes on and on, and includes me. Jesus took the blame, the overwhelming “wait til your Father hears” guilt, the heaviness of shame and the ultimate punishment on His shoulders that day on the cross! My hands tremble and my words are few at the thought. Every murder, every theft, every rape, every lie, every convenient abortion, the martyrdom of every believer, including His Apostles, every hostile act of war between countries, every act of disobedience man ever perpetrated going back to the garden of Eden and Cain killing his brother Abel, and every sin that will ever be committed for time to come, including every individual denial of the deity of Jesus the Christ was placed upon Jesus the man as He hung on the cross. God so severely crushed His own Son that He couldn’t look upon His shame and would not even respond when Jesus cried out from the cross “why have you forsaken me?’. 

Why did Jesus only last a few ours on the cross? I would offer that the weight and guilt of the sins of all history broke His heart and His spirit. He paid a price that can’t be comprehended so that we might be called the Sons of God. This is one of those times when there are no words!  How do we receive such an awesome gift without the full realization of the priceless nature of the same?  

And yet the tragedy remains that many for which he was chastised will go to their deaths never receiving the grace, the mercy or forgiveness provided on that day we celebrate this week. Many will make their semi-annual pilgrimage to their local church to watch a play or hear some music about these blessed events and then return to their every day lives without ever being changed by the story. And sadly it’s true that many of us in the faith will go about the busyness of Easter without ever receiving the full revelation of Christ’s Passion in our lives. God, forgive us for not knowing-Jesus, forgive us our inability to fully comprehend! Grant us this Easter season a full revelation of the events we celebrate and may we carry in our hearts the magnitude of this offering all the year through.