Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Loving Jesus Through the Least of These

"Jesus was beaten with whips and handed over to the soldiers to be crucified.
The governor's soldiers took Jesus into the governor's palace,
and they all gathered around him.
They took off his clothes and put a red robe on him.
Using thorny branches, they made a crown, put it on his head, 
and put a stick in his right hand. Then the soldiers bowed before Jesus 
and made fun of him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 
They spat on Jesus…Then they took his stick and began to beat him on the head.
After they finished, the soldiers took off the robe and 
put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified."
Matthew 27:26-31

We can’t read the above passage without seeing the depravity of man at its worst. The intent of the heart, not in the hands of its Creator can become vicious. The beating Christ took would have left him close to death. Yet the soldiers decided to have fun at His expense. After clothing Him in a robe and jamming a crown of thorns onto His head, they pretended to bow before Him as if to honor Him. When they rose they spat on him and took the "scepter" they had placed in His hand and beat Him with it. I can't help but wonder if the soldiers played off of each other in a pack mentality. Sometimes we have a way of doing that. One of my children who had been caught doing something wrong told me later he was just hanging with friends and it did not seem like a big deal until they were in the middle of doing it and he all of a sudden realized what they were doing was wrong and was a big deal. Maybe one lone soldier would have had compassion for Christ, but as a group they humiliated and degraded Him. Somehow in their depraved minds, they believed they were looking courageous and more powerful by what they were doing—yet when I think about how much strength and power it would take to mock a half dead man—it does not seem impressive at all.

The real power demonstrated that day was in Christ and His Father. Christ could have called down legions of angels or He could have spoken a Word and they would have fallen back in a dead faint. He could have cut them to the quick with the things He knew about each of them, but He held His tongue. God the Father showed powerful restraint as He watched the scene unfold. This was the beloved Son with whom He had eternal perfect fellowship and He is hurting and being mocked by the people He had created. He is being mocked for His plan to save them from their sin. He could have sent fiery hail down from heaven as He did in Egypt. He could have shaken the rocks around them and crushed them. He could have spoken from the heavens as He did at Christ's Baptism. I’ve been puzzled over the fact that Jesus silenced the men in the temple who wanted to stone the lady they had caught in adultery, but then chose not to defend Himself even though He was innocent. If anyone had the right to say, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone," it was He. It is amazing that when Christ spoke those words for the lady the men dropped their stones and left one by one. Yet, in defense of Himself the sinless man spoke not a word.

The soldiers’ actions fulfilled prophecy. It would be easy for us to look at the soldiers as cruel men for what they did to Christ. Yet, so often we are just as guilty of doing the same thing to Christ. Remember the words—“I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me?" By mocking Christ and making Him look small the men were trying to make themselves appear more powerful than Him. Each of us has been guilty of doing that at some time. We may not have spit on someone, but we haven’t we tried to feel better about ourselves at someone else's expense? Perhaps by belittling someone through gossip? Perhaps we tried to look smarter by calling someone "stupid" or "dork." Perhaps we looked down our noses at the way someone was dressed or made fun of a handicap or mental disorder? Perhaps we acted like a bully, made fun of another student's answer in class, their performance at work, or even just rolled our eyes arrogantly at the comment of another.

I wonder if I am the only one wondering how I could have said something or done something. I get I have come from a fallen state and live in a fallen world. (Psalm 51:5) I get that I am growing slowly and surely in Him. However, it scares me that apart from God. I have the potential to be so depraved and so vicious. When Christ faced the soldiers He was in a sense facing me. How will I treat Him today? By that I mean how will I love Jesus? How will I treat the least of these? Will I belittle Him by treating someone with disdain or will I love Him by encouraging others? Am I willing to love even when others aren't or will I stand in the crowd judging, ignoring, or pretending I do not see?

Prayer: Father, it hurts to see all that Christ went through for us. He suffered so much humiliation for us. Thank You for the promise that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Help us to be conscience of the fact that how we treat others is how we are treating Him—the one who was beaten, mocked, and killed for us. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!