Who Cares?

“Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:37)

Reflection:
A teacher of the law had tried to test Jesus with the question, “Who is my neighbour?” In response Jesus had told the story of The Good Samaritan where a man on his way to Jericho had been attacked by robbers and left bleeding and naked on the road. A priest and a Levite had come along and both had ignored him. Instead it was a despised Samaritan who stopped and helped the man.

Jesus point was that our neighbour is anyone we meet along the road of life – and the commandment is that we should love them as we love ourselves.

The Lord revealed an important truth to me recently after hearing a sermon on this parable. It was this –

“It is far easier to be the one who helps than the one who needs help.”

It is worth bearing this in mind as we come across people who are in need of assistance.  Not only may they not have the ability to help themselves at that point but they may also be suffering the pain and indignities of their situation. In addition they might be only too aware of the good people who ignore then because they do not wish to become involved or socially contaminated in any way. We would not wish to change places with them.

Response:
Be grateful for being able to help others in some way

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to do what I need to with a generous heart and a willing spirit. Amen.

———————-

Make Ready

“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”
 (Luke 3:4)

Reflection:
It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar that John the Baptist appeared in the country around the Jordan – preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He was the one prophesied by Isaiah who would come to prepare the way for the Lord. In a sense the Christian Church has now taken over that role as it prepares for the second coming of our Lord – this time in all His glory.

The Church is made up of individual Christians and so the role of the Preparer of the Way is now a part of each of our ministries. This is confirmed in the Great Commissions as we read them in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John. Our ministry fields are the contexts in which we live, work and play. In one sense it is the reason for our being there – God has been at work without our being aware of it.

Our ministry of preparing the way for the Lord has a number of facets to it. One would be the way that we live and perform our duties. Another would be the ways in which we relate and speak to people. Still another would be the way in which we cope with pressure, trauma and tragedy – whether in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. Do we, in these ways, reveal a relationship with and trust in God.

A significant manner in which we can prepare the way for the Lord is in prayer. The situations which are a part of our everyday lives have within them people who need the Lord, or more of the Lord, in their lives – whether they are aware of it or not. In our homes, during our travelling, at work or anywhere else, we can pray for the Lord to reach out and touch these individual people in a special way. It is something that everyone can do, and keep on doing. As we look around with more awareness we will also begin to pick up the silent ways in which people reveal their need – and we can respond by holding them up to God.

Prayer is one of the most important gifts that we have been given, and it is meant to be used to the full.

Response:
Prepare people for the Lord’s coming by firstly praying for them.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are coming again in glory. Please help me faithfully to hold those You have given me, and those You point out to me, in prayer for You. And thank You for those who have prayed for me. Amen.

————————– 

Take it personally!

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other,
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them”
(Luke 24:15)

Reflection:
On the day of the Resurrection two of the disciples were walking away from Jerusalem and towards the village of Emmaus – a journey of about seven miles. They were discussing ‘everything that had happened’ including the accounts of the empty tomb and the women’s report of ‘a vision of angels, who said He was alive.’ As they proceeded on their way ‘Jesus came up and walked along with them.’

How easy it is to be aware of great events and fail to appreciate their personal significance. Jesus ministry and death were important enough to occupy their thoughts and discussion. They were aware of the empty tomb and the angels report that He was alive. Yet they still walked away from the centre, presumably back to their homes, not appreciating the possible impact upon their lives of one of the most significant events in history. And, when Jesus appeared and walked with them, they did not recognise Him. It was only after He had been revealed to them that they could not wait to return to the others in Jerusalem, bursting with the good news.

We can fall into the same trap and fail to recognise the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord, the personal significance of His life, death and resurrection and the personal reality of His presence in our lives.

The wonder of it is that the risen Jesus comes to find us with the purpose of revealing Himself to us – even when we are walking in the wrong direction.

Response:
Jesus is right with you – be aware of Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to be aware of the reality of Your presence – and not to treat You as an object of interest. Amen.

————————-

Jesus Burial

“Later, 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, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 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”
(John 19:38-42)

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment”
(Luke 23:55-56)

————————

(Picture: Entombment of Christ – Titian – Louvre, Paris)

Today You will be with Me

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:
Some of the most beautiful and significant words that could be spoken to anyone. And how very special they were when spoken to a man dying for his sins.

Both the criminal and Jesus were looking beyond their present circumstances, beyond the pain and the slowly approaching death. They were moving away from the crowds into another space. And here Jesus could promise the man not just a relief from pain, nor a misty vision of some lovely garden, but the incredible promise that they would be together. Nor was the promise for some unknown date in the future with all the years of darkness still to pass. This was a promise not for tomorrow but for ‘Today’.

It was as if Jesus were saying to the man that as death claimed him in this world Life would open out before him in the world to come – and Jesus would be there with him to carry him through and into His eternal presence. We are not told of the man’s response, but Peter Marshall interprets it like this.

“Jesus, His face drawn with suffering, but His voice still kind, answered:
“This very day when this pain is over, we shall be together … thou and I … in Paradise.”
And the man, comforted, set his lips to endure to the end.”

He might well not have understood what was going to happen or what it would be like. However the promise that he would be with the Lord, wherever He was, was more than He could have expected or imagined.

What amazing grace! And what a beautiful promise for you and for me to hold on to when our time comes.

———————

(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.

———————-

(Picture: Artist unknown)

A moment’s care

“The soldiers also came up and mocked him.
They offered him wine vinegar and said,
“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself”
(Luke 23:36-37)

Reflection:
Again and again the mockery flowed over the Lord. The crowds, the religious leaders and now the soldiers. They had probably seen other kings fall away beneath the onslaught of the Roman legions. Now as the occupying power they had little interest in this so-called king rejected by his people and their religious leaders.

Matthew tells us that “sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.” (Matthew 27:36) There was nothing else for them to do except watch these three suffer and die and ensure that no one attempted to interfere or try to release them.

They would have watched the crowd as well. Perhaps they wondered at the triumphal scorn of the religious leaders, at the group of women huddled together and supporting each other – and particularly the older person in their midst. They would have noticed the cluster of men watching in haggard silence, devastated by some inner agony that may have puzzled them. But after all these were just another three criminals unfortunate enough to have been captured and then dismissed from life.

But these things happen. And as long as they don’t happen to us it doesn’t really matter ……….

However, one of them did give Jesus some of their cheap wine to ease His thirst. And that, much to his surprise, has never been forgotten. It never will be.

Such a strange group of people who reached out to bless Jesus. The woman who bathed His feet with her tears, the woman who poured her precious perfume onto His head and a soldier who gave Him a drink on the cross. Each one doing ‘a beautiful thing’ to Him – and always to be remembered.

———————

(Picture: James Tissot, 1886-94)