God’s Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:
The disciples were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:
Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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Love Me?

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
(John 21:15-17)

Reflection:
Jesus never gave up on Peter, even with His foreknowledge of the denial. For Jesus both knew where Peter’s heart was, and also the potential of the man once the Holy Spirit was in his life. Unlike so many humans who judge Jesus did not base His opinion on one moment in time. He took a far longer and deeper view, influenced also by His insights into the heart of the person concerned. Like the potter Jesus knew and accepted that true craftsmanship took time and the preparedness to deal with any faults that might appear in the process. Jesus remained committed to Peter.

With incredible grace and love Jesus is described as raising Peter from the depths of sin and despair and entrusting him with a new life and purpose within His kingdom ministry. Where Peter might not have been surprised to have found himself discarded he instead found himself forgiven, accepted and included. He was not asked to promise any great commitment or results – there was only one question that Jesus wanted him to answer for both of them – “Do you love Me.?” Of all the questions that He might have asked this was the one that Peter could answer honestly and completely – for He knew that Jesus already knew the truth – “Yes Lord, You know that I love You.” It was all that Jesus wanted and needed. And the thrice repeated question and answer dealt with the three earlier denials.

All of us will, to a greater or lesser extent, experience failure and unfaithfulness in our lives – to ourselves, to others and especially to the Lord. The wonder of our relationship with our Lord Jesus is that He is always there with us, urging us to get up again, leading and empowering us through the Holy Spirit, and encouraging us to have another go at life. This is the life He has for us, in His way and with the revelation of His truth. He is the God of life, the resurrected life, and it all starts and continues with love – His love for us and ours for Him.

Response:
Today He holds His hand out to each one of us, inviting us to leave the past behind and to enter into a deeper life with Him – the God of the resurrected life.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your death and resurrection for me. Please help me to love You more and more and in that love to walk with You into the life that You have prepared for me – both here and in eternity – trusting You for all that I need. Amen.

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(Picture: Artist unknown)

Jesus .. remember me

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43)

Reflection:
More abuse was directed at the Lord. This time it came from one of the criminals crucified next to Him. How interesting that he knew enough to refer to Jesus as ‘the Christ’ and to infer that this Christ was to be a Saviour. How tragic that having come so close to Him he was still an eternity away.

In contrast the other man rebuked him, showing that he too knew enough to know that this Jesus ‘has done nothing wrong.’ And, acknowledging his own guilt and the justice of his sentence, he turned to the Lord and said one of the simplest and most profound prayers.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It is stunning in its truth and beauty. There was no attempt to excuse his past life or deeds – no referral to some good deed – no appeal for mercy because of his extreme suffering – no eloquent or passionate speech or motivation. There was just a very simple request, glorious in hope and faith in view of the fact that it was directed towards a dying man. And Jesus response is also simple, straightforward and breath-takingly wonderful.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

All this took place above the level of the crowds, the soldiers and the religious leaders. It was above the world that had rejected them both, for different reasons, but its impact was immediate and eternal. Here was a man whose destiny from the beginning of time was to die with the Lord Jesus Christ and then to live with Him forever. And yet if his name had been called out instead of Barabbas he would have at that moment been rejoicing that he was not on the cross next to Jesus the Christ.

How great and mysterious and wonderful is the grace and provision of God.

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(Picture: Artist unknown)

Mocking Jesus

“In the same way the chief priests,
the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.
“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!
He’s the King of Israel!
Let him come down now from the cross,
and we will believe in him.
He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him,
 for he said, `I am the Son of God.'”
(Matthew 27:41-43)

Reflection:
Nobody likes being mocked. It is even worse when one is at ones weakest and most vulnerable. And these were terrible taunts.

“He saved others but He can’t save Himself.” Here was an acknowledgement of Jesus great power and authority in healing the sick, casting out demons and even raising the dead. Some of them may have both seen and heard of his raising Lazarus who had already been dead for four days. And they still would not accept the implications of these great acts. And of course Jesus could have saved Himself – but in obedience He chose not to.

“He is the King of Israel.” They knew who He was said to be but they would not look at the possibility of it being true. They just did not want Him or a King like Him. And of course they saw that they had so much to lose in terms of status and privilege and power.

“Let God rescue Him now if He wants Him.” ‘If He wants Him”- This may have been the cruellest barb of them all. It was directed at a pain-wracked man hanging naked and bleeding on the cross – a man who was soon to cry out as He felt Himself forsaken by the very God whom He trusted and served. And of course the religious leaders were trying to justify themselves to each other even then.

Did the religious leaders recognise that they were quoting the prophetic words of Scripture? They should have – which would have made their mockery even more biting and tragic.

“He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Psalm 22:8)

How easy it is to mock others and in particular the weak and the helpless – and to twist the knives of our sarcasm and scorn with the intention to cause the most pain and rejection. We imagine that somehow it makes us more important and secure.

May God forgive us too.

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Forgive You

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing”
(Luke 23:34)

Reflection:
There was only one person there who knew the truth of what was happening – and that was Jesus Himself.

There were others who should have known, but they either could not or would not acknowledge the truth. How could they have stood there and acknowledged that this man on the cross before them – whom many had had a hand in putting there – was in fact the eternal Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah? Yet Jesus had warned them in His parable of the Tenants.

  • “Then the owner of the vineyard said, `What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” (Luke 20:13)
  • “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. `This is the heir,’ they said. `Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” (Luke 20:14)
  • “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them.” (Luke 20:19)

Then there were the others –the crowd, the soldiers, even His family and disciples – who were not fully aware of what was happening in front of them. And so it fell to Jesus to say something into the situation, and His words are remarkable. No anger at the blindness and callousness of the authority figures, no rebuke for the fickleness of the crowds, no startling miracle or revelation to humiliate His accusers – just these simple words coming as a desperate appeal from His breaking heart of love. He asked His Father to forgive them just as He obviously already had.

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing”

And none of us really know what it is that we do when we sin – when we choose ourselves above Him – when we choose our way instead of His – when we choose our pleasure and security over His will and trust in Him.

And still that remarkable prayer echoes down the corridors of history and hangs over each one of our lives today in such a loving and gracious blessing for,

  • “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25)
  • “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1)

How truly blessed we are.

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(Picture: Christ of Saint John of the Cross – Salvador Dali –
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow)

Clean at last

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered,
 “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
(John 13:8)

Reflection:
O Lord, how I identify with Peter. How can You possibly kneel before me, reaching out to wash my feet? This is me – the one who is unworthy to undo the strap on Your sandals. I could not even aspire in my imagination to wash Your feet – unless, like the woman we watched, it was with my tears of guilt and shame and sorrow. Even that would be too much for how could I even touch You with such tears. I might only hope with David that they would be stored somewhere in a bottle for You to see one day.

And yet, and yet, I do need to be washed by You – for who else could wash away the sin-shamed stains that so disfigure my spirit? And so I begin to realise that Your washing has to be individual and personal and intimate for these are my sins and I need to be cleansed and set free. Here is the wonder of it all – You have called me individually, Your word has spoken to me in a way that is particular and specific to me and, as an individual, I have responded to You and placed my life in Your hands. It is this You tell me that, through the Cross, has cleansed me and made me acceptable to the Father.

But now Lord what is this washing of the feet? It is not the washing of salvation but the cleansing away of the travel stains and dirt picked up on the journey. It is not a washing of the spirit for that You have already done – it is a washing of the soul so that nothing sticks to me that might mar my life and ministry. For once I have been saved I do not need salvation again – just a regular washing away by You of the grime I have picked up, cleansing me and setting me free under the glorious cover of the eternal salvation that You have already conferred upon me.

You have already cleansed my whole person and now You seek to cleanse me day by day  from the stains that come from life in the world. But still – kneeling before me? Lord what are You doing ….  for this is so personal and intimate, so embarrassing and yet … so gentle and loving and affirming and wonderful …. and You are smiling up at me all the time. I understand now that no one else can do this to me or for me – only You. And this is Your ongoing service of love to me for the rest of my life here.

So I come Lord Jesus – dare I turn away!

There is no one as special and as wonderful as You! I thought I knew it – but again I catch another glimpse beyond the cloud.

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(Picture: Christ washing Peter’s feet – Ford Madox Brown)

Selling Jesus

“And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard
and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus”

(Luke 22:4)

Reflection:
Lord, what was it that Judas was after? What was it that made him abuse and reject his privileged position as one of the Twelve and seek to sell You into darkness like this?

We know that he had his fingers in the money bags. But could it have been merely for more silver that he turned his back on You – and sought also to destroy that wonderful fellowship that you all enjoyed? Some have said that he was trying to stir You into starting a violent revolution – but could he have been so naïve after being with You for so long? And then when realisation dawned upon him he went and hanged himself – what an unspeakably tragic and desperate chain of events.

After reading Christ on Trial I remember thinking that only a priest could be chosen to play the role of Judas – for only a priest would understand the heights and the lows, the privilege and the pain, the blessings and the unspeakably black despair. I also wondered whether playing such a role might not destroy him or her in the process for they would have to face up to their own betrayals in ways they had not done before. But of course we are all part of that priesthood of all believers.

Have I betrayed You Lord? I’m sure that I must have. But then who am I to discern the real truth of it? I’m not sure that I want to let You loose to answer such a question for it might devastate me. And yet knowing the wonder of Your love as I do I realise that beside opening me to the pain it would also take me deeper into the wonder and glory of Your saving love.

That also makes me wonder Lord about this. If Judas had appeared at the foot of the cross and, clasping Your tortured feet, had wept out “Lord forgive me” – what would You have said to him? I like to think that I know the answer to that.

And as Peter would become a stronger and deeper person through having failed, and been forgiven and re-instated by You – so do we all if we allow it. ‘God works in all things’ – Lord work in me!

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