Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death. I will therefore flog him and release him.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified. And their shouts prevailed. – Luke 23:20-23 NET
Some things never change. Those who yell long enough and loud enough usually get what they want… or at least what they think they want.
I’ve never really liked the story from the Bible about the two guys on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24) Something about it just didn’t seem right. These guys were disciples, Jesus comes along and walks with them, and they don’t even recognize him. It makes them sound clueless. Dumb. Like not sincere followers. If you read the story carefully though, you will notice it really wasn’t their fault. The Bible says that their eyes were kept from recognizing him. So was Jesus playing a joke on them? That doesn’t sound right either. These are the reasons I never liked this story, until this morning.
This morning, it was different. As I read through the story again, I gained a new perspective on the blessing Jesus shared with these guys. He wasn’t playing a joke on them. He was blessing them. They were kept from seeing him as Jesus. But why?
Imagine two walks, the one they had, and the one they would have had if they had recognized Jesus from the start. If they had recognized Jesus when they met him on the road, they would have been in awe. They would have worshipped him. They would have feared his power and praised his greatness. It would have been wonderful for sure, but it would not have been at all like the walk they had. What if Jesus wanted something different?
Imagine the walk they had. Three guys met on the road and walked along together talking about their experiences. The new guy taught them about the scripture in a new way. They listened, they discussed, they questioned and contemplated together. No one felt on edge, on their guard, off balance or unworthy. They were just three guys walking and talking together as friends, discussing the recent events and the history of their faith. Perhaps that is exactly what Jesus wanted.
After all the events he had just been through, a quiet walk and talk without all the hype was the way Jesus chose to relate those events to his disciples. He was Lord and Master choosing to relate to them as equals. As friends. And because he kept their eyes from seeing him in all his lordly glory, they experienced him as friend and confidant.
I wonder, could it be this very story that provides a hint as to why God doesn’t make himself more visible? Why does God not powerfully show himself to the world and prove he exists? Maybe, possibly, could it be that the unapproachable blinding holy light of his glory would keep us from seeing the close companionship of a loving friend and father?
As the sun in the wide-open blue makes its way,
And I wake with a new day before,
I sit and I think about the gift of a day,
And I wonder what my Lord has in store.
Will I walk the straight path with my eyes on the prize?
Will I act with the Kingdom in mind?
Or will I wander and fall to the enemy's lies,
As I chase selfish things I might find.
Lord Jesus may I live this day as would you,
With joy and with Your confident peace.
Help me do all the things you would have me to do,
Then let worries for tomorrow all cease.
When I lay in my bed or my grave for the night,
And this day, or the last is all through,
I want to know that I've lived with your Kingdom in sight,
And every moment was lived, for You.
I want to shine in the darkness
I want to sing from my heart
I want to live for you, Jesus
Take my life, every part
Maybe it is more important that I be totally committed to what I believe than always confident in what I believe. Doubts, when they come, make it hard to be totally confident in beliefs. Commitment means the doubts don’t matter.
The trash man is now a robot. Well, more precisely, a robot arm. The big truck pulls up next to my trash can and a long robotic arm reaches out to pick up my can, dump the contents in the truck, and set the can back on the ground. It’s wonderfully efficient for the trash company. The robot arm doesn’t have to be trained. It does exactly what it’s programed to do with no variation. There’s one less worker to pay. The robot arm doesn’t require benifits and it doesn’t have sick days or union membership. Perfect for the trash company, but lousy for me.
I miss the real person. The person who sees if some of the garbage falls on the ground and takes a moment to pick it up and throw it in the truck. The person who makes sure the can is placed back at the end of my driveway, and not in the road. Robots work fine when everything behaves as expected. When all the variables are accounted for and nothing out of the ordinary happens. But that is not real life. Real life has regular occurances of the irregular. Wise humans have learned to expect the unexpected and adjust in the spur of the moment as needed, because we are irregular ourselves.
Real humans are unpredictable, adaptable, and refreshingly unique. They make life interesting, exciting, and full of infinite possibilities. Some do crazy things, some do wonderful things, but they all do suprising things as they constantly make their own choices about life. And the wonders of those inifinite choices are why God gave humans free will. He didn’t want programmed predictiability. He didn’t want robots. He wanted people.
Easter was less than two weeks ago and already the trauma is fading. This past Easter was no ordinary one for me. Church was online and pre-recorded because of Covid-19 and the need for social distancing. It was a beautiful Spring day, so after the “service,” I went outside to deal with some metal spikes that were sticking out of the ground around some old rotted landscaping timbers. I was afraid the dogs would get hurt on them, so I was trying to remove them. That’s how I got hurt. Isn’t that ironic.
I won’t go into the details, but it involved my finger, a couple of metal spikes, a sledgehammer, and bad aim. Thirty minutes later I was sitting in the urgent care facility waiting for a tetanus shot and some stitches. When the doctor came in to stitch me up, I apologized that he had to do this while having to also deal with all the Covid-19 virus everywhere. He said he was glad to get to do it. It gave him a break from dealing with all the fevers, coughs, germs and such. I do think he almost enjoyed stitching up my finger.
In less than a week, Tammy pulled the stitches out for me. Today, less than two weeks after the bad-aim incedent, my finger feels almost normal again. There’s a little scab left, and it’s still a little sore, but in a few more days, even that will be gone and there will be nothing left but memories and a scar.
My body is healing itself. God made it that way. It happens countless times every day, in every place, all over the world. Cells regenerate, cuts and punctures seal up, broken bones knit together and a numberless army of tiny warriors in the bloodstream incapacitate invading germs. It is the miricle of life, an amazing design by an amazing Designer, that deals with the vast majority of evil things on this planet. But there are those rare occasions when the system is overwhelmed. And in time, the body wears out. On those occasions, for those happy souls who are prepared for it, our Creator has a new and improved model waiting. Can you even imagine what it must be like?
Don’t let it make you afraid. Don’t let it make you greedy, selfish, or stingy. Don’t let it make you self-centered. Don’t let it make you obsessed. Don’t let it make you cynical. Don’t let it make you point the finger of blame. Don’t let it make you isolated. Don’t let it destroy your joy, your faith, your hope, or your love.
Yes, Covid-19 could kill you, but crazy as it may seem, that’s not the worst thing it can do. Thankfully, with God’s help, that’s all it can do.
I remember when I was young and my kids were younger, we would play together, performing some fun thing, swinging them around in circles, tickling, somersaulting… After every flip, the kids would say, “Do it again.” I would always get tired of it before the kids. Sooner or later I would say, “No more. This is the last one.” I enjoy blessing, giving of myself and making my kids happy, but doing the same thing over and over gets old and tiring. There is a limit to how much and how long I can do it.
This past Sunday, as the start time for the second worship service at our church was approaching, I thought about this. I was playing bass and managing the tracks this Sunday. I had prayed for God’s help and blessing for the first service. We needed God’s power to help us lead the worship in such a way that goes beyond just our natural, fallible talents. and of course He answered the prayer. Now it was almost time for the second service and I found myself humbly asking Him if He would “Do it again.” I felt a little guilty for always asking for help for the same things. I wondered, “Don’t you get tired of me asking for help over and over? How many times can I ask you God before you tell me ‘Enough.'” Almost as soon as I asked, the answer came back . . . “Infinite. Unlimited.” And He did it again.
It’s easy to read the Bible and lose sight of the practical application if you are not careful. Psalm 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” I think of David and his enemies, Philistines and giants and such, and find it hard to relate sometimes. I’m not going to war with people trying to kill me, especially not any giants. And for me, the image of a cup spilling over, or an oily head is not a good thing. But when I think about what that really means, it blesses me.
Think about it. The Lord prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies. The Lord will bless me so my enemies will see. Not just where they can see, but right in the middle of them. When my enemies are around me, with me, looking at me, considering my demise, smirking and plotting my destruction . . . That’s when and where God chooses to prepare a banquet for me. That’s where He annoints me and fills my cup with blessings overflowing. That’s where He honors me by showing my enemies just how much He loves and cares for me.
So the next big question is, who is going to be watching God bless me? Who are my enemies? Probably not big Philistine giants. Maybe someone at work? Or someone at school? Someone in your neighborhood . . .
Living in a small house with two big dogs can be challenging. At 123 and 152 pounds, Joy and Buster Brown (aka “Buzzard”) are not easily ignored. You can’t lock them in a little dog carrier. You can’t really hold them in your lap, even if they want you to. It’s difficult to put anything out of their reach. And I’m still doubting the wisdom in teaching Joy to open the refrigerator. Life with two big dogs is just crazy sometimes. But the other day, I thought of something even crazier. Why don’t people keep 150 pound cats in their house?
Imagine what it would be like to live with two Mountain
Lions in your house. They are in the
same weight class as our dogs. They have
teeth that could chew you to bits, and claws that could rip you to shreds. They have more than enough strength and
weight to pounce on you, knock you to the floor, and literally bite your neck
off. But strangely, none of this is the
reason people don’t live with 150 pound cats.
Buster Brown has teeth that could chew me to bits. He has claws that could rip my flesh. He can and has knocked me down on occasion
when we run and play. My arm fits inside
his powerful jaw. I know because I’ve
had it there. Just this morning, he had
my wrist in his mouth. One crunch and I
would be without a hand. Either Buster
Brown or Joy could probably kill me if they wanted to. Both together certainly could. So why do people live with big dogs but not
big cats? It’s not the size, teeth, and
claws that count. It’s something
else. It really comes down to one
I don’t trust Buster with my dinner on the table. I don’t trust Joy with the refrigerator open. I don’t trust either of them with fried chicken scraps in the garbage. But when we are playing and tussling around the house, when Joy grabs my arm in her big jaw to try to pull me outside to play, when I go to sleep at night and leave the bedroom door open for them to come in at any time, I’m trusting them with my life.
I know my dogs aren’t perfect. But I also know they respect me as
master. They know I am lord of the house. They trust me to lead the small pack that is
our family. In their own way, and in at least
some sense of the word, they love me.
And I love them. And because I
can trust them to love and respect me, they enjoy the blessings of my love, and