September 14

Mark 15-16, Psalm 103

Pastor Chuck Smith entered a discussion with two individuals. One blamed the Jewish people for killing Jesus, because it was their arrest and legal maneuverings that delivered Him to the Romans. The other blamed the Romans for the death, since they were the ones who actually carried it out. But Chuck Smith corrected them both and wisely stated it was he who killed Jesus. For it was for his sins and all of our sins which put Him on that cross and held Him there until He could proclaim, "It is finished". When we view His final days, we should all honestly ask ourselves which characters do we reflect. Most of us like to judge others by their worst actions and ourselves by our best intentions. Most would like to believe we were like those faithful few who stayed at the foot of the cross with their eyes fixed on their Savior (John 19:25-27), but if we are honest for many parts of our life we more closely resembled the other characters.

We read in Mark 14:50-52 when the temple guards arrested Jesus with force, "Then they all forsook Him and fled. Now a certain young man followed Him , having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he fled from them naked." Those who forsook Him were the disciples and most believe this young man was actually Mark. Though like Peter we would all like to say that we would stay strong with Him to the end (Mark 14:29-31), how many of us have fled in fear or remained silent not wanting to stand out due to fear of persecution or disapproval. The Roman guards simply carried out their duty, like they would any other condemned criminal. As a child my faith was only dutiful. I went to church when I was told to, I was baptized and confirmed because I had to, but I had no heart or real part in any of it. In this phase of my life I was like the Romans. When I was 17 and saw a movie called "Peter and Paul", a flicker of excitement occurred. I went to church the next 5 weeks or so, when I witnessed nothing different, I went my way for another 10 years unimpressed by the reality of Jesus. Jesus always knew the multitudes were just like this and just like me at this time. Many of the same multitude that yelled "Hosanna" less than a week earlier at the triumphal entry (Mark 11:9-10) now yelled "Crucify Him!" (15:14) when standing alongside Barabbas. Notice the callousness of their hearts in 15:36, "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." Just like me when I was 17, when I didn't see anything exciting enough I walked away. After this I began my college life and my knowledge grew. Often side by side with our knowledge comes pride, when we mistakenly believe we are smarter than we actually are. For many of these years, like the Jewish religious authorities I was blinded and not open to the claims of Jesus, for I was too full of my own thoughts, and not open and emptied to be filled by Him.

We like to fancy ourselves better than we are. Paul said in Romans 3:10,12, "There is none righteous, no, not one;...There is none who does good, no, not one." A little further in 3:23, Paul said, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." No, for much of our lives we were not at the desired place in the crucifixion account: we were the fleeing apostles, the Roman guards, the mockers, and the Jewish authorities. The amazing thing is that Jesus loved them and He loves us anyway. He knew how weak they were and how weak we are. From the cross, He didn't yell that they would soon be getting what they deserved, but instead, fully knowing why He was there and fully knowing them and us, He said, in Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Seeing ourselves as we really are, we are not to brood over past failures, but as Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may hold that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me...I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." May we all adopt this mindset and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as those faithful few did on the day that He was crucified.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster