Where are Your Eyes?

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 26:47-50, 57-66; 27:11-26 (day four)

Jesus had already spent time in prayer before the arrest in the garden. (Matthew 26:36-46) He had once again confirmed with God that He must suffer and die for the sins of the world. It was settled in His mind. He was willing, if it was God’s will. Now, as He faced His accusers, He answered only one question…”are you the King of the Jews?” “It is as you say,” He said. Once He had answered that question, there was no other need to respond. Jesus saw the bigger picture…He would not be distracted by accusations and defenses that would not matter. It was unnerving to Pilate, but Jesus’ eyes were on the cross. Where are your eyes? Are you singularly focused on the will of God? Is it settled in your mind what God wants of you? Don’t be distracted…pray, discern, and then obey!

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Bullet

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 26:47-50, 57-66; 27:11-26 (day three)

“Friend, do what you came for.” We can read this as if Jesus were telling Judas, as we might phrase it, “Just get this over with.” After all, here was a betrayal by a (publicly apparent) friend. But was Jesus biting the bullet here? Certainly our Lord possessed courage, toughness, and–as evidenced by the term “friend”, which he used without irony and with absolute sincerity–love. But the “let’s do this” frame of mind would necessitate his holding something in reserve in order to bring off the crowning feat of victory. That sounds satisfying, but we need a Savior, not an action hero. Jesus spoke to Judas of sacrifice, not grit. In Paul’s grand language, Jesus “emptied himself.” He didn’t bite the bullet. He took it. Do you know he did this for you?

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Right Fighting

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 26:47-50, 57-66; 27:11-26 (day two)

When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 

It seems that arguing by way of shouting is not a new concept. What can we, as modern civilized people, learn from this exchange between Pilate and the mob? Civil discourse is one of the greatest attributes of mankind. The free exchange of ideas between thinking, thoughtful people. This, however, is not the way we behave. More often than not, and this has been great exacerbated by social media, we spew vitriol in every direction and refuse to engage others. Where does this lead? Great division.

Pilate, a pagan, was trying to do the right thing. Can we be so blind in our convictions that we refuse to see the true path of righteousness. Fighting to be right led the Jews to crucify Jesus, what will it get you?

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Wrong!

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 26:47-50, 57-66; 27:11-26 (day one)

A COMEDY of errors.  That is what we call it.  Narrative work.  Usually a play. One mistake leads to another and another.  Absurd.  Hilarious.

Our reading this week is a TRAGEDY of errors.  Many people rejecting, refusing loyalty to Christ and for many different reasons.  Caiaphas from envy.  Judas from his love of money.  Pilate from political expediency.  Different motivations.  Same decision.  Jesus is betrayed and rejected and condemned to die.

“God. . .has glorified His Servant, Jesus, the One whom you. . . disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.  You disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.”–Acts 3:13-14.

Did the participants, that day so long ago, think they were doing right, acting appropriately?  Did they have reasons for their actions?  Yes, probably.  (Don’t we?)  But, for all of their excuses and self-justifications they were still morally and eternally wrong!

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Is work worth it?

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day seven)

“You go and work in my vineyard and I will pay you what is right.”–v 4.

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”2 Corinthians 5:10.

Is work worth it?  From a cost-benefit analysis?  Why should a person strive for excellence if, at the end of the season, everyone gets the same trophy?  What motive can be found for  physical, spiritual, or professional effort?  Isn’t the wiser course to just “do enough to get by”?

Followers of Christ know the answer.  We work because our deeds will be judged. Evaluated.  Rewarded or rejected, received or refused.

Matthew 20 is a conversation on this important subject.  God will “judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.” As evidence, He will point to our response when He offered us a job.

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And He Didn’t Even Have a Portfolio

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day six)

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

Truly, amazing! What grace! What generosity! Something incredible happened while Jesus hung on the Cross! A conversion took place; one of the convicted felons next to Jesus repented and believed. Jesus, on the spot, gave him a place in his Kingdom. No drug test, background check (that would have come back all-wrong), no references, and not even a request for him to reveal his “good works” portfolio, and yet Jesus says, “You, come with me. I have a place for you in my Kingdom for all eternity.”

Can you imagine the response of the chief priests, lawyers, and scribes if they could have overheard this declaration to a convicted, law-breaking, criminal? “Him, paradise?! Never! God surely would cast him out! He is nothing! A vagrant! He has done nothing worthy of God’s approval! If anyone deserves God’s approval, it would be us!”

When even the least of these, the last, say “yes” to Jesus, the fullness of God’s grace is theirs for the taking. They don’t even need a portfolio of “good works,” and neither do you.

 

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While There’s Still “Daylight”

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day five)

This parable is chocked full of good news!! The landowner is SO kind and generous. He is faithful to keep his promises. He rewards his workers from his perspective.

However, the most wonderful news to me, is the fact that during this parable, the landowner goes out five times during the day to hire workers. He calls out to workers and they respond. Evening comes and they are all brought to receive their reward.

If we think about the symbolism, we are still in the “daylight”. The Lord continues to call disciples/workers out from the crowds. Does that place a burden on your heart? Do you sense the urgency of time? Know anyone that needs to hear Him call?

While there’s still “daylight”: Will you share the gospel with them? Will you pray for their salvation? Will you encourage them to come experience Preaching/Singing/Bible Study/Fellowship and be in His presence?

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Look in All the Right Places

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day four)

It seems to be a regular theme for Jesus…”So the last shall be first, and the first last.” (v. 16) We find it in Matthew 19:30, Mark 10:31, and Luke 13:30. Each gospel passage where we find this phrase, is a different instance or story…but each story relates to heaven and eternal life. It seems that the life we live on this earth materially, will not always give an accurate picture of our waiting reward in heaven. Many on earth appear to be richly blessed…they have wealth, and influence, and status. Others come from very humble…even impoverished…lifestyles. Some have an enviable, easy life, while others face constant persecution and hardship. It is not the material wealth and blessing that determines eternal life in heaven. Our reward in heaven will be based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. Eternal life is promised for those who give their all to Jesus. Heaven is not earned…whether we ‘work’ long or short, we cannot earn eternal life. It is a gift of grace and mercy from a loving and generous God!

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Merit

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day three)

“Are you envious because I am generous?” If the universe is a meritocracy, it’s only sensible to make sure you gain an edge over others. But if in fact we live by way of mercy, wouldn’t you hope that God is generous to those without a leg up? We are dependent on God’s generosity, which flows from his mercy. Sometimes we might see someone and think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It’s a small step, though, from thinking you’re better off to thinking that you’re just better. Perhaps we would train our minds toward Christ if instead we think, “Because of the grace of God, I have no less of God’s attention than that person.”

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Attitude of Gratitude

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day two)

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last. 15-16

I did it again this weekend. I was driving through a part of town that I hadn’t explored before and I began coveting. The neighborhood was beautiful. Well manicured trees lined the streets and the houses were all in good repair and very large. My first thought was, why can’t I live here? I work hard, I stay out of debt, I tithe regularly, so why not? I confess, this is something I have always struggled with. I have equated good living and hard work with things. Always, always, I am reminded by the Spirit to have an attitude of gratitude. If God really dealt us what we deserve based on good work or clean living, wouldn’t we all come up pretty short? The truth of the matter is that in my assignment God has ALWAYS provided exceedingly more than I could ever ask or imagine. That will look different for each of us, because each of us has a different role to play. So, I repented, I thanked God for his abundant provision, and I was grateful to be serving the King.

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