December 2 “Caesar”

Caesar

Jesus was born into an Israel smothered in the might and mire of Rome.
She was no longer a free nation as in the days of David and Solomon; she was a vassal state of an evil empire. Roman soldiers patrolled the streets to keep the pax romana, the “Roman Peace.”

“Keep your local religion,” said the emperor, “but have no real king but Caesar. Keep your religion indoors and there will be no trouble. Take it to the streets with treasonous little messiah-bands and there will be trouble like you have never seen. The Canaanite tribes, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, all those who conquered you before, will pale to distant memory under the iron boot of Rome.”

The second Temple, only a shadow of the first, had been replaced by Herod’s Temple. This political gift to the people, shining golden in the sun, guarded a secret, secluded, empty, Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant had been lost centuries before. Now the Roman palace, Fortress Antonia, was attached to the Temple. King Herod was a puppet king of Rome’s choosing. His real job was to keep the cantankerous priests, “prophets,” and zealots from upsetting the delicate balance of tyranny and temple worship.

A Delicate Balance Indeed
Beneath both the tyranny and the temple worship was the threat and the hope of Messiah, a king of the Jews to challenge Caesar in faraway Rome.

  • Messiah was a minor threat to Rome not to be tolerated.
  • The promise of Messiah was a major hope for the remnant in Israel, those who sincerely prayed the psalms, gathered for the feasts and festivals, and called every day on Jehovah, the God Who keeps covenant, “How long, O Lord? How long?”

Among these faithful were an aging priest with a promise from God, Simeon, who duties in the Temple were performed to perfection, the precision of a well-rehearsed faith, and an elderly woman named Anna whose tender heart leapt like that of a bride at the thought of Messiah. Their daily faithfulness in prayer was a towering threat to Rome of which Caesar knew nothing.

Soldiers in the streets, a Roman Governor in charge, a puppet, wicked King on a pretender’s throne, a hollow religion in a golden Temple, this was the world into which Jesus would come. He would sound no trumpets at His approach—angels would sing to shepherds. He would convene no council—wise-men from the East would follow a star. He would ignore the rich and powerful and choose a carpenter and his espoused wife as His caretakers.

If Caesar had known it, he would have been sleepless in his royal chamber and uneasy on his throne for the King of kings was on His way!

Scriptures:
Luke 2:1-3 NKJV
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Luke 20:20-26 NKJV
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Matthew 12:3-8 NKJV
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 22:15-22 NKJV
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your story is so amazing! You came into a world as politically confusing as our world is today—yet You came and brought truth to those who heard You. You came into a world as violent as this one, yet You gave peace to those who welcomed You. You came to our darkness bringing light and to our pain bringing joy. Help me today to continue Your mission: truth, peace, light, and joy to this deceived, troubled, dark and despairing world. Come into my heart as You came into the Roman world. Let there be peace on earth and goodwill to all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
How Should a King Come?
Words: Carol Owens; Music: Jimmy Owens

1. How should a King come?
Even a child knows the answer of course,
In a coach of gold with a pure white horse.
In the beautiful city in the prime of the day,
And the trumpets should cry and the crowds make way.
And the flags fly high in the morning sun,
And the people all cheer for the sovereign one.
And everyone knows that’s the way that it’s done.
That’s the way that a King should come.

2. How should a King come?
Even a commoner understands,
He should come for His treasures,
And His houses and lands.
He should dine upon summer strawberries and milk,
And sleep upon bedclothes of satin and silk.
And high on a hill His castle should glow,
With the lights of the city like jewels below.
And everyone knows that’s the way that it’s done,
That’s the way that a King should come.

3. How should a King come?
On a star filled night into Bethlehem,
Rode a weary woman and a worried man.
And the only sound in the cobblestone street,
Was the shuffle and the ring of their donkey’s feet.
And a King lay hid in a virgin’s womb,
And there were no crowds to see Him come.
At last in a barn in a manger of hay,
He came and God incarnate lay.

Chorus:
And the angels cried: “Glory! Glory to God!”
Earth was silent so heaven rang: “Glory! Glory to God!”
Men were dumb so the angels sang: “Glory! Glory to God!
Peace on earth good will to men, Glory! Glory to God!
Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
“Glory to God! Glory in the Highest!
Glory to God! Glory in the Highest!
Glory to God!”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 1 “Incarnation”

Incarnation

Mystery of mysteries! Wonder of wonders! God in human form; how can it be?
Greater than any natural wonder found anywhere on this earth or in the cosmos is the wonder of the Christchild!—The Creator God, Himself confined to swaddling clothes and lying in a manger! Theologians call this mystery the Incarnation.

The Apostles marveled at this truth:

  • “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld His glory as the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John
  • “…He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men…” Paul

The Incarnation—“The Word Made Flesh”
What does it mean? The implications are staggering:

  • The eternal One entered into time.
  • The One who existed everywhere all at once, now existed only there and only then.
  • The One whose life was impervious to all destructive forces took on a human body that was subject to hunger, weariness, temptation, age, and death.
  • The One who knew everything limited Himself to only what a human can know. We who know so little cannot begin to imagine what it was like for the Son to lay aside omniscience to know only what an infant knows, to understand only what a child understands, to realize only what a teenager realizes, to operate only on the knowledge of a typical young man of the village.

The Apostle Paul calls this humility but there is no word strong enough to express such condescension. He is our example of humility, a goal so high we can never reach it on our own.

The Indwelling Spirit
With the Incarnation, Jesus knew only what people of His day knew except—and it is a colossal exception—that He was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knew all, just as He knows all today. Jesus walked through this life as a human being filled with the Holy Spirit—the perfect example of the life He would provide New Covenant believers to come.

The Incarnation Continues
As we begin our journey through the Christmas story we must remember that, unlike Calvary, the Incarnation is not a “once and for all” truth. It is meant to be repeated in each of us every day. In our humble, holy lives, we too must empty our hearts of pride, rid our methods of power that corrupts, and look for ways to serve not rule.

  • May the artist incarnate eternal truths into works of his/her imagination.
  • May the craftsman invest the presence of the Divine into functional works of his/her skillful hands.
  • May the ultimate reward of both artist and craftsman be the smile of the Lord Jesus felt deep in the heart.

How is this done? Through our humility and the Spirit’s ministry! “Let this same mind that was in Christ Jesus be in You!” Paul demands. We have the Spirit abiding within to help us and we have the “Word made flesh” to guide us.

These December devotions are exercises in incarnation.  I will attempt to lift the characters from the printed page and breathe ordinary life into them.  Join me every morning in December!

Scriptures:
Philippians 2:5-11 Amplified Bible
Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 NASB
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
John’s Testimony of Christ
John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-3; John 1:10-14
From 7 Days of Prayer and the Book of Common Prayer
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I marvel at Your condescension! You left heaven to come rescue the likes of me. Forgive me for ever counting Your love and grace as worthless. Holy Spirit, focus my heart on the manger! Help me sing with the angels, praise with the shepherds, worship with the kings and wonder with all creation at the mystery in the manger! Be born in my heart, O Holy One, as You were in the hearts of Mary and Joseph. Help me incarnate Your eternal truth into my time-locked life. Walk in my footsteps. Speak through my voice. Humble me, humble me, humble me, so that Your life and love may be all that is seen and heard in me. Amen and Amen.

Song:
Down from His Glory
Words: William E. Booth-Clibborn; Music: Eduardo Di Capua

1. Down from His glory, Ever living story,
My God and Savior came, And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger, To His own a stranger,
A man of sorrows, tears and agony.

Refrain:
O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all.
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him.

2. What condescension, Bringing us redemption;
That in the dead of night, Not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender, Laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.

Refrain

3. Without reluctance, Flesh and blood His substance,
He took the form of man, Revealed the hidden plan,
O glorious mystery Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great I Am.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Saturday The Garden Tomb

Tombs

Tombs, when they are closed, hold their secrets.
Stories are finished whether they had a chance to end or not. Voices are stilled, left only to the dubious recordings of memory and subject to alteration by pain and preference. Eyes are closed. The heart is still. If there is a journey of the spirit that sets sail at the moment of death, there is no evidence of it inside the closed tomb.

At the tomb of Jesus, even the angels could not know what was happening after the stone was rolled into place by the soldiers. The holy creatures had stood before the Son of God in heavenly majesty, their angel hearts bursting with worship. He had sent them on countless angelic missions to aid the people of God. They had also served by only standing and waiting. Some of them sang to the shepherds. An army of them stood at the ready during Jesus’ earthly ministry, ready to rescue Him were he to simply kick a rock as a signal for them to charge.

Guardian Angels
As a child and young man, Jesus never called them so they had to watch as those around Him

  • ignored Him,
  • did carpenter business with Him,
  • misunderstood Him, and
  • gave up on Him like His brothers and sisters must have done.

For the last three years, angels had traveled with Him throughout Galilee and down to Jerusalem. They stood by as those He came to save

  • underestimated Him,
  • took freely of His miracles,
  • suspected Him, unsure of His motives,
  • watched with amusement as He grappled with the religious leaders, and
  • went about their lives as if nothing important had happened.

Now angels wept, unable to see into the tomb, having confidence in God but sorrow for their Master.

The Women Who Loved Him
In other quarters, human tears flowed form sources deep within. Just when the women thought there could be no more tears, another torrent of grief would break. They wanted Him back. They wanted to finish the work of caring for Him, at least for His body, all they had left of Him. But it was not really all they had.

In a place in their hearts deeper than the well of their tears, a tender of flame of hope flickered in slight but promising light. Unlike the men, the women had really listened to Jesus. They remembered those strange things He said about three days. Their wounded hearts yearned for tomorrow, the third day.

His Chosen Men
Hiding for fear of their lives, the disciples did not dare gather all in one place. They had broken down into their little clumps of friendships perhaps all in some proximity just in case. Unlike the women who could allow their tears to flow unhindered, the men pushed their grief deeper into their hearts while their minds raced to process some sort of action plan. But with Jesus dead, there was certainly nothing any of them could do.

Meanwhile, the tomb was closed, hiding its secrets.

“He Descended to the Dead”
For centuries, theologians have discussed what Jesus might have been doing on this Holy Saturday. One ancient belief is based on an interpretation of a few verses. It is romantic and appealing to the believer: “Jesus entered the regions of hell, confronted Satan, wresting from him the keys of death, hell, and the grave. He then led the souls in the Bosom of Abraham, Paradise, out of their spiritual prison into the heavenly realms.” Some believe this ardently, others oppose it with equal ardor.

What we all can do as we relive this Holy Saturday and the closed tomb, is join our tears to those of the angels and the women and wonder with the men what we must do next.

Scriptures:
John 19:38-42
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus… Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Luke 16:22-26
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.
Ephesians 4:7-8b 
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
Revelation 1:18 KJV
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I believe the words of the ancient creed! The stillness of the Garden Tomb hid Your deeds on that Saturday. You descended to the dead! You led captivity captive. You rescued the Old Covenant saints! The countless innocent lambs and goats and bulls counted at last for the redemption of the faithful when You, the Final Lamb, the Lamb of God, gave Your life! You hold the keys to death, hell and the grave! You are the Victor! You robbed death of its sting and plundered the grave of any victory. I will be silent today and weep with the angels, but I will weep in hope that tomorrow is the third day! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Were You There?
Traditional African-American Spiritual

1. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

2. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

3. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Friday The Crucifixion

Calvary

Tools of the Trade
The Roman implements of torture and execution were tools of the trade for the soldiers of the Empire. Iron was expensive, whether the sharp bits lodged in the tentacles of the whip that tore the flesh of prisoners or the sharp pointed nails that split the hands and feet of their victims, precious iron had to be cared for and cleaned. A carefully maintained whip and supply of crucifixion nails could do their duty on many a criminal’s back and fasten many a rebel to the wood.

But the Roman soldier knew nothing of germs and microbiotic residue. Each new flogging carried with it all the ones who had gone before. Each fresh use of a set of nails was not at all fresh. But what did that matter? In a few days each one crucified would be just so much rotting meat, food for the birds, until whatever was left was taken down.

Such was the business of a place called Calvary.
This Place of the Skull warned of Roman justice to those who would take up arms, even if only treasonous words, against the Empire. Fear was the theme of this theatre. Guilt or innocence was not an issue; order was the point. Stay in your place, you wretched Jews. Worship your one God in your Temple and tend to your ancient ceremonies and chants. Speak against Rome and Calvary is your destiny.

The Cross of Christ
To this place an innocent Man came, condemned, bleeding from the whip, crowned with twisted branches from a thorn bush, carrying a heavy cross.

  • Soldiers forced Him up the stone-strewn trail to the summit with fresh lashes from their carefully maintained whips.
  • They forced Jesus to stretch out on the cross where the freshly washed nails were hammered through His hands and feet.
  • A mounted soldier backed his well-trained steed, pulling the cross and its prisoner from the ground. For a moment it remained poised against a sky where storm clouds were gathering. One more step backward by the horse and the cross plunged into the hole in the mountain that had been used countless times before.
  • Other soldiers went to work quickly to stabilize the cross with little regard for the blood splashing down on them.

The Gathering Storm
Their work done, the soldiers divided their spoils while enjoying the suffering of another rebel against Rome. They joined those in the crowd in their lame insults, each of which yielded more laughter that it deserved. They all pretended not to notice the dying of the light in the approach of the storm. This tempest was not coming from west to east but from all directions at once. It seemed to be linked to a storm deep within each witness of these events.

Jesus spoke from the cross, His voice lost in the abuse hurled at Him and heard only by those who were listening. Yet His words have lasted longer than any storm, piercing though all of the noisy crowds who still today relentlessly come to mock Him.

At last, with His last breath, He declared. “It is finished.”

And it was.

Salvation’s price had been paid.
All the whips and nails of a hostile humanity proved unable to still His voice or to stem the flow of His life-giving blood. The sin barrier was forever broken so there was no longer any need for God to separate Himself from the people He loved. The veil in the Temple ripped from top to bottom, opening a new and living way. And nothing can ever change this.

Indeed the whip and the nails were infected by all who had known them before and by all of us. They carried the disease of sin and the blood they spilled is the only cure.

Scriptures:
Matthew 26:57; 67-68; 27:1-2; 27-31-40; 45-46; Mark 15:36-38; John 19:30:
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

For Fridays
The Book of Common Prayer
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first He suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord. Amen.

Song:
The Day He Wore My Crown
Words and Music: Phil Johnson

The city was Jerusalem The time was long ago
The people called him Jesus
The crime was the love He showed
And I’m the one to blame I caused all the pain
He gave Himself, the day He wore my crown

He brought me love that only He could give
I brought Him cause to cry
And though He taught me how to live
I taught Him how to die
And I’m the one to blame I caused all the pain
He gave Himself, the day He wore my crown

He could have called His holy Father, and said,
“Take me away, please, take me away.”
He could have said, “I’m not guilty.
And I’m not going to stay I’m not going to pay.”

But He walked right through the gate
And then on up the hill
And as He fell beneath the weight
He cried, “Father, not My will.”
And I’m the one to blame I caused all His pain
He gave Himself, the day He wore my crown.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Wednesday The Garden

Gethsemane

Alone
Like the full Passover moon overhead, an angel from heaven stood watch in Gethsemane.  The sleeping disciples were scattered throughout the grove of ancient olive trees using cloaks and outer garments to keep warm and to soften the hard ground.

Jesus was alone in a way that no one has ever been alone. Sensing the moment and the heaviness of the burden, the angel came near to Jesus as He agonized in prayer. He touched the Lord’s shoulder, imparting strength, a flow of energy as heaven touched earth and earth responded. The strength the moment required was quickly spent in prayer, prayer so deep the blood vessels in his scalp and forehead broke as sweat and blood mingled flowing down His face to drop heavily to the garden floor.

His prayer was the same as before, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me!” His voice was hoarse with the depth of His struggle.

The angel stood by, this time unable to assist his Lord.

The Decision
Jesus was doing what no one else could ever do; He was drinking a cup no one else could drink and He must drain it dry.

“Nevertheless, not my will but Your will, Father, is what I will do.”

In this garden with a watching angel and sleeping friends, the decision was made. Jesus had emptied Himself of heavenly majesty and traded His jeweled crown for one to be made of thorns. He was the only one who could drink from the cup containing the sins of the world, all of them, yours, mine, those of all history and of all the evil deeds yet to come.

The Prize
He had won the struggle and this was the prize. He had been tempted to sin in all points as we have all been tempted yet not once had He yielded. Now, He had won the right to take all our sin upon Himself.  The decision was made that night in the Garden and tomorrow the deeds would be done: trials, beatings, scourging, abuse, insults, and finally a cross and just the right number of nails to pin Him there.

The Kiss
As Jesus prayed, Judas led Temple guards with torches, swords, and binding ropes. The disciples stirred from sleep and tried to fight the intruders but they were a sorry lot of warriors. One blow, that’s all, and a severed ear fell to the ground. Jesus rebuked the disciples and Peter, the one with the sword. His Kingdom did not advance by the sword. While still speaking, Jesus found the severed ear and replaced it to its rightful place as whole as the untouched one. Even a miracle could not prevent the events unfolding in a steel-blue moonlight of Gethsemane.

The disciples fled in terror as the guards led Jesus away. Soon the garden was quiet again with no one but the moon and the angel left to ponder these things.

Scriptures:
Luke 22:39-48
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have felt what it is like to be alone. In the depth of my isolation, You were with me. Your words were on my lips. Your presence was in my heart. Your hope was the song I heard, faint but unmistakable. I was not alone, really. In this week as we seek to somehow appropriate Your love for us, help us feel some of what You felt there in that garden alone, your friends sleeping, your enemies approaching while an angel touched your shoulder. I cannot know the agony of sweat turned to blood. I cannot feel the weight of the world’s sins, only mine. But even here in this garden I can still hear the angels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” Amen.

Song:
Amazing Love
Words and Music: Chris Tomlin

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your sprit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love, How can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

You are my King.
Jesus You are my King.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 28 “Commission”

Commission

Some things are so very real, they can only be seen with eyes of faith.
With repeated appearances to those who had loved and followed Him, Jesus convinced them all that He was, indeed, back from the dead. He gently rebuked those who failed to believe the good reports from the first witnesses. After all, He had told them this was going to happen!

From other sources we know that He did meet with the disciples in Galilee. On one occasion He met with the Eleven and those wonderful women and convinced even the skeptical Thomas that he was back and His power was greater than ever. He could appear and disappear at will and could pass through walls without effort.

We cannot imagine the joy of the followers of Jesus to have Him back. But this was not the end of surprises. There were always surprises with Jesus! It seemed He wasn’t planning on staying. Later they would realize that He had come to earth to complete a two-fold mission:

  1. To show people what their God was really like, and,
  2. To redeem the sins of the world so that we could walk with God in this life.

That two-fold mission had been accomplished and it was time for Him to return to the throne room of God in heaven.

There was one more thing that He had to do: Commission His followers to continue His work in the earth. His story had to be told to the whole world and they, and those who came to know Him through their ministry, were the ones to tell it. He condensed the mission into a single statement and a promise:

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

“Gospel” means “Good News.”

  • In a world in the iron grip of Rome, Good News was needed.
  • In every epoch of time since the ancient world existed, Good News has been needed.
  • Any type of news rooted in man’s character will eventually be found to be corrupt.
  • Any message based on the intellect of man will present only partial solutions since the knowledge of mankind is inadequate.
  • Any hope of staving off disease that rests in man will itself be found infected with sin.

Death rules man as it always had until that day at the empty tomb. The only source of Good News is the Gospel of Christ.

The Power of the Holy Spirit
The Jesus story is not complete without the story of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not commission us to go out in our own power! He sends us the Holy Spirit to make us holy and empower us to be His witnesses. We should expect the demonstration of the Spirit when we tell His story. We will be protected from harm as we go and signs will follow as we pass through this life preaching the Gospel. Demons cannot stop us for we can call on Jesus’ name. The sick will be healed as we pray in Jesus’ name. Wild animals and poison will not even slow us down.

Having spoken His final words to them until the Holy Spirit would come upon them and bring His words back to them as needed, He made His exit into the welcoming skies. Heaven took Him back and He resumed His rightful place at the right hand of Majesty on High.

What did they do then? They waited in Jerusalem until they received “power from on high” and they went out and preached His Story everywhere. The Lord was with them confirming the Word with miraculous signs. Amen.

Scripture:
Mark 16:14-20
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have heard Your call to follow You. I have obeyed that call. I hear Your call to tell Your story, to preach the Good News about You in every possible way. I will fear no demons or dangers, no sickness or setbacks, no opposition or lack of opportunity. I will follow and I will tell. I receive Your Holy Spirit to make me holy, Your power to make me mighty, and Your love to make me lovable. Use me, all of me, my gifts and my gaffs, my head and heart and hands to do your work. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.

Song:
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichol

1. We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light, a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.

2. We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword, and shatter the spear and sword.

Refrain

3. We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us, and show us that God is love, and show us that God is love.

Refrain

4 We’ve a Savior to show to the nations, who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples may come to the truth of God, may come to the truth of God.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 26 “Calvary”

Calvary

Due to its remarkable shape, Golgotha was called the place of the skull.
It was a place where lives were ended in blood and shame. On this day it would live up to its image and name.

Roman soldiers paraded Jesus through the city streets and out of the city gates with whips and curses to the delight of the mob. Perhaps growing weary of the excessive time this duty was wasting, they conscripted a man, Simon from Cyrene, to help Jesus bear the cross. Arriving at the place of execution they offered Jesus a sedative to dull the pain. He refused it. With practiced efficiency the soldiers nailed Jesus to the wooden beams by His hands and feet and lifted Him to the sky. Criminals received the same, one on either side of Him, fulfilling an ancient prophecy.

“And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

The soldiers also nailed the indictment made against Jesus to the top of the cross. It read:

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The crowd, enraged by this proclamation, began to revile Him, taunting Him with cruel words designed to pierce His heart just as the nails pierced his body:

“Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself,
and come down from the cross!”
“He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

The soldiers gambled for what was left of His clothes. It was the third hour of the day.

Six hours later, Jesus replied, not to His tormentors, but to His father:

“…Why have you forsaken me?

Someone soaked a sponge in sour wine and, using a stick, raised to His mouth. He did not drink it. He cried out again with a loud voice and it was over. From other sources we know that all of creation cried out at His death in storms and darkness and earthquakes. Struggling to keep his footing upon the shaking soil and in the driving wind, a Roman soldier realized that this was no criminal.

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Meanwhile, at the Temple
Far away from Golgotha, deep in the heart of the Temple, a heavy veil designed to isolate the Holy Presence of God from an unholy world, trembled and tore from the top to the bottom. The Old Covenant with a loving God held hostage in the Holy of Holies by the sins of mankind, broke out of this confinement. A New Covenant was now in force made secure by the innocent blood of Jesus shed at Calvary. Now the New Temple of God, His dwelling place on earth, would not be in houses of stone, but in hearts of flesh, redeemed human hearts! The church would be His dwelling place in the earth by His Spirit.

At Calvary the women who followed Him looked on as His body was taken down. Unknown to them, a friend on the council, Joseph of Arimathea, arranged with Pilate to have the body of Jesus placed in His tomb. The women rushed to do what they could before the Sabbath began.

Scripture:
Mark 15: 21-41
Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take. Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above:
THE KING OF THE JEWS. With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him. Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.” And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, may I never forget that day, the day You paid the full price for all my sins and those of everyone everywhere. With every voice of thunder I hear, may I remember that storm that day as all creation—Your handiwork!—shook in protest to Your death. Help me remember that when You said “It is finished!” it really was. There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation. As the song says, “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.” Thank You, Lord! Amen and Amen.

Song:
He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels
Words and Music: Ray Overholt

1. They bound the hands of Jesus in the Garden where He prayed.
They led Him through the streets in shame.
They spat upon on the Savior so pure and free from sin.
They said “Crucify Him. He’s to blame.”

Refrain:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for You and me.

2. Upon His precious head they place a crown of thorns
They laughed and said, “Behold, the King.”
They struck Him and they cursed Him
And mocked His holy name.
All alone He suffered everything.

3. When they nailed Him to the cross
His mother stood nearby.
He said, “Woman, behold thy son!
He cried, “I thirst for water.”
They gave Him none to drink.
Then the sinful work of man was done.

4. To the howling mob He yielded He did not for mercy cry.
And when He cried, “It’s finished,”
He gave Himself to die.
Salvation’s wondrous plan was done.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 25 “Pilate”

Pilate cared nothing for the religion of the people. He had two goals: control and peace.
The problem with control was that everybody wanted it. The challenge of peace was balancing all the groups competing for control. As the sun rose and Pilate attended to his morning routine, he had no idea he would make history that day.

The leaders in the Temple held an early morning meeting to prepare their presentation of Jesus to Pilate. How could they present Jesus as a threat, not just to their control mechanisms, but to those of Rome itself? They strengthened the bonds on Jesus’ hands and feet and shuffled Him into Pilate’s court. Hearing their confused case against this beaten, powerless man, Pilate was faintly amused that such a one could cause such a stir. In a voice dripping with irony he asked,

“Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus looked up, his face already showing deep bruises.

“It is as you say.”

It was like a punchline to a joke. Pilate smiled in spite of himself thinking, “Yes, this is the kind of king these miserable people would have!” Choking back his contempt for these accusers, Pilate listened to their conflicting testimonies, accusing Jesus of outrageous but harmless things, matters of great importance to these small-minded leaders but of no consequence to Rome. When Jesus did not attempt to answer their charges, Pilate began to be more interested in this man. He marveled that this one so eloquent in reputation would be so mute in court.

Barabbas
There was a custom at the time of the feast. To appease the people and maintain control without force, a prisoner could be released. They were holding a rebel, named Barabbas, who had committed murder. Pilate offered him to the people. The people, stirred by the priests, called for Jesus instead. Pilate knew that envy was the driving force behind the priests and other leaders. Here was a man they could not control so their fragile peace was threatened. To be sure, Pilate made the question clear:

“What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

As if on a conductor’s cue, a shout of “Crucify Him!” became a rhythmic chant. Pilate’s protests of the innocence of Jesus could barely be heard over the chant. Pilate, for the sake of control and for the hope of peace, released Barabbas and delivered Jesus to the mob. Roman soldiers tied Jesus to a whipping post and did their worst. They took Him to headquarters to mock Him publicly, stripping Him and putting on Him a purple robe. They twisted a crown of thorns and jammed it onto His head. They struck Him with a rod and pretended to worship Him. Finally tiring of their sport, they removed the “kingly” purple robe, put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him off to be crucified.

Neither Pilate nor the cruel soldiers knew that the blood they spilled that day would someday save the world.

Scripture:
Mark 15: 1-20
Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate. Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.” And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled. Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!” So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel that I am a victim of injustice. Sometimes, for the sake of Your Kingdom, I suffer for the sins of others. This is nothing new. The Bible warns us that we will join the “fellowship of Your sufferings”—suffering when we are innocent. However, none of us will ever suffer the level of injustice that You endured that day, not even close! Yet, You share Your strength to endure with us. Help us take joy in this privilege. With it comes the joy of knowing You better. Amen.

Song:
I Find No Fault in Him
Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

They led Christ to Calvary
And He spoke not one word.
Just the cries of lost sinners
Was all my Savior heard.
Then they pierced Him so deep in His side
Until the Blood came streaming down.
And that’s how Jesus purchased my salvation
And I find to fault in Him.

I find no fault in Him, I find no fault in Him,
Yet He was rejected, despised of men.
But I find no fault in Him.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 23 “Trials”

Trials

He was not a violent man, but His hands were bound with leather thongs. He was not a flight risk, hut His feet were bound with iron shackles.
Abandoned by His followers, betrayed by the kiss of a friend, Jesus stood alone before the collected leadership councils of His own religion. Peter followed at a safe distance, stopping in a courtyard where servants of the high priests awaited orders on this strange night. They had built a fire to keep out the chill. Peter joined them, hoping that he would not be recognized. From this secure location, Peter could hear the case against Jesus.

The chief priests were interviewing witnesses to testify against Jesus. They were having a difficult time getting people to agree on what Jesus had said and done. Many of the potential witness were obvious liars who would never get past the Roman authorities. Some misquoted Jesus about the destruction of the Temple and a promise to make another but the details never seemed to line up. In frustration the Chief Priest confronted Jesus.

“Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?”

This brought no response from Jesus. These inept witnesses didn’t need His assistance. The calm demeanor of Jesus unnerved the Chief Priest. He went straight to the point.

“Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

The arena grew suddenly quiet as each participant realized the importance of the answer. In the courtyard, Peter moved to a different place by the fire, seeking safe shadows. Jesus had asked him a similar question in the wilderness. Peter remembered the deep conviction welling up within his heart as he boldly answered. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Would Jesus be so bold? It would be a death warrant. Further witnesses would not be needed. As Peter thought of these things, the expectant silence was broken by the soft but convincing voice of Jesus

“I am.”

Jesus spoke as if there was more He wanted to say. The crowd took a collective breath. At last He continued.

“And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

At this the High Priest screamed and tore his robes. His associates, not to be outdone, did the same. The crowd responded in a deep groan and then a high pitched wail that lasted some seconds before yielding to the uplifted hand of the Chief Priest.

“What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy!
What do you think?”

It was unanimous. The crowd put their words into violence, spitting on Jesus, blindfolding Him, beating Him from the left and then from the right demanding that as a prophet, He should prophesy beneath their fists. The guards, not fearing reprimand from their superiors, took their turns at him with open palms, blows designed to hurt but not kill him.

Peter heard the crowd and felt the heat of their madness. He wished above all things that He could take the blows in the place of Jesus. With a start, he realized then he, indeed, might be next.

Scriptures:
Mark 14:53-65
And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'” But not even then did their testimony agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, so innocent were you of wrong-doing before the high priests and the councils of Your religion! It was a sham as well as a shame. You were bold beneath their blows and assertive amidst their accusations. If their charge was love; You were guilty. If their indictment was for telling the truth; You were guilty. Their inept witnesses could not agree. Your confession of Your identity was the device they needed to condemn You. This means You willingly gave Your life; they did not take it from You! Why? Because You loved us! Still today, You love us. Thank You, Lord!

Song:
Man of Sorrows
Words and Music: P.P. Bliss

1. Man of sorrows what a name for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

2 Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

3 Guilty, helpless, lost were we; blameless Lamb of God was he,
sacrificed to set us free: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

4 He was lifted up to die; “It is finished” was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

5 When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 14 “Lord”

Lord

To be called “Lord” and to actually be LORD are two very different things.
The questioners, the “lords over the people,” were silent. They were out of trick questions and their ranks were divided. Along with the usual divisions over beliefs, there were now divisions over this man called Jesus. Some were close to believing that Jesus may be Messiah. Others were sure that He was not. Still others, the majority perhaps, were somewhere in between. Their strategies used up, their questions exhausted, there was nothing to do then but to listen to the man.

The Subject Was King David
The shepherd king was always a favorite. They sang his songs and some of them played the instruments he brought into public worship. They gloried in the reflected splendor of his victories and they ignored the failures and sins because he was “the man after God’s own heart.” If he failed so terribly and yet was used by God so mightily, perhaps there was hope for them as well.

“How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?”

This question lay at the heart of the search for Messiah. He would not be just anyone; he must be of the house and line of David. However, this was not a controversy. Where was Jesus going with this?

“Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”

No one had ever thought of this before. Yes, Messiah would be Lord, and He would be the Son of David. Was there a contradiction here? Or was this just a play on words? Jesus did not answer His own question, leaving the mystery of the investigation of son-ship and lordship to another time. He made his surprising point to the “lords of the people.”

“Beware of the scribes!”

The leap from King David’s history to the present day was a strenuous one. There were false “lords” right there in the Temple! They were neither sons of David nor of God. They were more akin to the Devil, impostors from the heart out! What were the signs?

  • Pretense—“long robes,”
  • Show-biz—“greetings in the marketplace,”
  • Self-importance—“the best seats,”
  • Corruption—“they devour widow’s houses,” and
  • False spirituality—“prayers of pretense.”

What will be their end? -–“Greater condemnation.” Today we would say, “the hottest room in hell.”

God Resists the Proud
A fundamental truth in the dealings of God with people is this:

James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

God loves people but He hates pride. Pride is the cornerstone of false leadership. Positions gained through pride are ruthlessly guarded by any means available. Violence is always the result, sometimes private like a widow’s house devoured and sometimes in public war.

God Gives Grace to the Humble
The mark of true lordship is humility. Look to Jesus. Look to the disciples after Pentecost. Look to any truly great Christian leader and you will find humility for it is the source of the grace that flows in their lives.

To be called “a leader” and to actually be a leader are two very different things.

Scriptures:
Mark 12:35-40
Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘ Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” And the common people heard Him gladly. Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
James 4:1-6 NKJV
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5-7 NKJV
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your Lordship is that of the Son of David, the Son of God. You are Master of all time and space for they are Your creations. You rule in love and justice and peace. All of our lives are safe within Your Lordship for You care for us. We can cast all our burdens upon You because You can handle them. Holy Spirit, root out any vestige of pride in my heart for I know it is a source of God’s resistance in my life. Replace that pride with humility for Your love and Your grace flows in it. Amen and amen.

Song:
He Is Lord
Traditional

He is Lord. He is Lord.
He has risen from the dead
And He is Lord.
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.