Monthly Archives: March 2015

Today’s Scripture – March 31, 2015

Mark 15:38-41 (NIV)

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Jesus’ death was as supernatural as His life was. The darkness that had fallen over the land (Mark 15:33) ended when He died, but at the same time, the earth shook in a violent earthquake that even broke open some of the tombs in the area (Matthew 27:51-53). It was the conjunction of these terrifying signs that caused the centurion to cry out, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” He had seen a lot of crucifixions, a lot of deaths, but he had never seen one accompanied by this kind of cosmic uproar. All of these signs coinciding with the suffering and death of this remarkable man could not be written off as mere chance.

At the moment of Jesus’ death the veil in the temple that separated the holy place from the most holy place was torn in two. There were two significant things about this tearing. First, the veil was about four inches thick – the rabbis describe it as being as thick as the width of a man’s hand. It was woven this thickly by being composed of multiple layers all woven together into a single mass. Thus it would have been impossible for it to have been torn by a person (or even by many people), or even by the shaking caused by the earthquake.

The second significant thing is that the veil was torn from the top to the bottom. The rip began 30 feet off the ground, clearly disqualifying any human intervention, and showing that this event had originated with God Himself.

This tearing of this dense separator between God’s presence and mankind symbolized the fact that, with Jesus’ death, God’s presence would now be powerfully among His people in a new and powerful way. No longer would it just be experienced by the high priests and the prophets; it would be experienced by all of the people, from the greatest to the least, as prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:17-21). Jesus’ death had made it possible for the sins that had separated people from God to be paid in full, and for full fellowship to be restored.

Verses 40-41 are incidental but important. They point out that there were many of Jesus’ followers, faithful women who had served Him during His ministry, who were eyewitnesses to not only His suffering and death, but to all of the miraculous signs that attended them. This lays the ground work for the resurrection to be discovered first by some of these same women.

Father, even today the death of Jesus is seen by some merely as a tragedy, the undeserved death of a great martyr. Through the ages there have been many deaths of martyrs. But only the death of Jesus had these kinds of miraculous signs, showing that this was something more. Your finger prints were all over this, demonstrating that Jesus really was Your Son, just like He had said, and that His death was not only extraordinary, but that it accomplished extraordinary things. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 27, 2015

Mark 15:33-37 (NIV)

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Some try to explain the darkness that came over the land through natural phenomena, such as an eclipse.       But the crucifixion happened at the Passover, which is always at the time of the full moon when no eclipse is possible, since the sun and moon are in opposition. And eclipses don’t last for three hours! Instead, this was a decidedly supernatural phenomenon, one that God personally brought about to show those who were witnessing these events that, far from a normal crucifixion, something hair-raising was going on – the people of God killing God’s Messiah in cold blood. It was no religious fanatic, no heretic, no criminal hanging on the cross, but God’s one and only Son, through whom all things had been created (John 1:3), and by whom all things are sustained (Hebrews 1:3).

The darkness freaked the people out who were gathered by the cross, and some of them left in fear.       But some, explaining everything away to their own satisfaction, stayed to taunt Jesus.

At the end, Jesus chanted the first line of Psalm 22, a Psalm with deep significance, since God had enabled David to unconsciously extrapolate from his own suffering to describe the sufferings of his descendant, the Messiah, in excruciating detail. Jesus was now living out what David had seen, fulfilling the prophecy to the letter.

But the people gathered there at the cross misunderstood Him, partly because Jesus’ swollen lips and tongue made it difficult for Him to enunciate clearly, and partly because they didn’t know the Scriptures nearly as well as they should have. They heard in His “Eloi, Eloi” (“My God, My God”) a call for Elijah.       They gave Jesus a little sour wine to drink, and then taunted Him with, “Now let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”  But their taunts went unacknowledged by Jesus. Instead, marshalling all of His remaining strength, He shouted out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46), and more softly, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Then He yielded His spirit to the Father, and died.

Father, it is amazing to see how in-control Jesus stayed this whole time. No last minute ranting, no pleading. He simply walked through the ordeal laid out for Him before the world was made (1 Peter 1:20). His steadfastness, even in the face of nearly continual taunting; the fact that He didn’t lash out at those who jeered at Him, but prayed for them instead (cf. Luke 23:34); all of these point us to a life that was infinitely more than it seemed to be.       Lord, help us to never minimize what Jesus did, and to never forget the love (both Yours and His) that moved Him to do it. Help us to always stand at the foot of the cross in awe and wonder. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 18, 2015

Luke 16:19-31 (NIV):  “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

The sin of the rich man illustrated in this parable was a lack of love for those around him who were in need.  Lazarus was very close by, right by his front gate every day, but the parable clearly portrays the rich man as uncaring.  Lazarus “longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”  This intimates that his longing went unfulfilled.  He was not given even table scraps by the rich man.

When the rich man died, he who had so much, but who was ungenerous with it ended up in torment.  Lazarus, who had nothing but suffering, ended up being comforted.  I don’t believe that Lazarus went to Paradise simply for being poor.  That would run contrary to so much of the rest of Scripture.  We must assume that he was also “poor in spirit,” humble and God-fearing.

The attitude of the rich man, even in Hades, is remarkably annoying.  Far from being ignorant of Lazarus and his former plight, he knows who Lazarus is even from a distance.  And he also sees it as perfectly fitting that Lazarus be assigned to bring him some water to relieve his thirst.

Apparently the rich man’s five brothers were just as rich (and just as unloving) as he was.  Now that he has seen where his unloving actions and attitudes have landed him, he wants to wave them away from the same fate.  But even in this act of compassion for his brothers, he wants the “lowly” Lazarus to be sent back to his miserable earthly existence for the purpose of saving his own brothers.

Abraham’s response is key: “They (the five brothers) have Moses and the prophets (that is, the Scriptures); let them listen to them.” God had already given to them all that they needed to know how to live so that they could avoid the suffering of hell.  The fact that they would not read the Scriptures, would not pay attention to them, would not change their lives to fit what God had laid out for them in His word, was not God’s fault.  He had given them all that they needed.  And even if someone rose from the dead, that would still not be enough to turn their hardened hearts, unwilling to believe in the Scriptures, to repentance.

This was proven in spades when a man, interestingly enough named Lazarus, was raised form the dead by Jesus not too long after this parable was spoken to the Jewish leaders.  Lazarus’ resurrection did nothing to change the minds and hearts of these leaders.  To the contrary, they actually plotted to kill the risen Lazarus, because it was inconvenient for them to have this proof of Jesus’ power walking around (John 12:9-11)!  These same leaders were even unconvinced when Jesus Himself rose from the dead.  Their response was to concoct a story about how His disciples had stolen His body from under the very noses of a Roman guard (Matthew 28:11-15), and then to threaten His disciples who were insistently preaching the good news of His death and resurrection (Acts 5:25-28).  They would not believe, even though someone, even though TWO someones, did indeed rise from the dead!

Today it seems that we still have many who will not believe the Scriptures, Moses, the prophets, and the whole New Testament.  They will analyze them, argue about them, and explain them away, but they will not read them for the truth that they are.  And they will not change their lives to fit what God has laid out for them in His word.  Those people look at the Scriptures as a dusty, musty relic of a bygone era, an irrelevant document that must either be reinterpreted according to modern opinions and modern sensibilities, or scrapped altogether.  But, in allowing themselves to become so hidebound in this view of Scripture, they end up blinding themselves entirely to what is actually contained in it:  the very word of God to a humanity that He loves, and wants to seek Him so that He can save them.

The sad thing is, many people still think that if only God would do some mighty miracles, maybe raise the dead, that some of those people would believe.  But God is still doing miracles all the time.  And now, as then, they are merely explained away by people who have no heart for God and His word, or written off as oddities by those who have settled themselves into a worldview where God and His miracles do not conveniently fit.

Father, it is really sad to consider this.  But I know from experience that this really is true.  Even in my own case, until I was willing to come under the authority of Your word, until I was willing to believe what it told me about who You are (the one true and living God), who Jesus is (Your One and Only begotten Son who came, lived, died, and rose again to pay for my sins, and to set me free and give me the victory over sin and death), who I was (a sinner who was hopelessly lost on my own, whose most righteous deeds were like filthy rags in Your sight, but who , for reasons I still can’t fathom, was loved unconditionally by You), and what I had to do to be saved (repent by intentionally turning away from my sins and my self-sufficiency toward You, surrendering my whole life to You, and receiving the completed work of Jesus as my salvation), I could not be saved, no matter what I did.  But when I repented, when I relented, when I came under the authority of what was contained in the words of Your Scriptures, You saved me, remade me, transformed my whole life, and set me on a trajectory that will ultimately shape me into a holy disciple of Jesus, bound for an eternity with You in heaven.  Thank You, with all my heart!  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 11, 2015

Mark 15:21-32 (NIV):  A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Jesus started out carrying His own cross (actually the heavy crossbeam, which would be attached to the upright at the execution place), but it quickly proved to be more than He could handle in His severely weakened condition.  The executioners had no patience to nurse Him along, so they impressed Simon into service to carry the crossbeam for Him.

The simple words, “And they crucified Him,” repeated with only slight variation in all four gospels (cf. Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:33; John 19:18) betrays the disgust that all four writers felt over the very words.  For anyone who had ever witnessed a crucifixion, the word itself was enough to conjure up in their minds the gut-wrenching reality of the experience.  But even for those who hadn’t, the word itself seemed to carry a load of horror that you wanted to stay away from.

After being stripped naked (the loincloths seen in paintings were added to avoid shocking more modern sensibilities), the victim was nailed to the crossbar with large spikes driven through the wrists.  This crushed and tore through a major juncture of nerves, causing excruciating pain that radiated through the arms and across the back. (Victims were generally offered wine mixed with myrrh to deaden a bit of the pain, but Jesus refused.  His job was to experience every bit of the suffering involved in the process.)  The crossbar was then lifted onto the upright post and fastened in place.  During this time, all of the weight of the victim was left dangling on the nails through their wrists, frequently dislocating their elbows and shoulders.  Their feet were then nailed through with the same kind of large spikes.  These lower nails provided a platform for the condemned to use to push themselves up on to temporarily relieve the pressure on their arms.

Despite paintings showing tall crosses, the feet of the condemned were only a few inches off the ground.  The execution places were chosen for maximum exposure, usually along the main road into the city.  The charges for which each person was being executed were written on a board which was then nailed above their heads.  Those crucified on either side of Jesus had boards that read “Robber.”  The one above Jesus’ head read “King of the Jews.”  The whole purpose of those boards was to tell people, “If you do these things, this will be your punishment.”  It was an effective deterrent.

The humiliation of crucifixion was multi-dimensional.  In addition to the shame of hanging there naked and helpless right next to the main road, those passing by often threw insults at the sufferers.  Jesus had a special share of those in the form of the Sanhedrin members and chief priests, all of whom came to watch their old nemesis die.  They thought that it was doing their hearts good to see the all-powerful, all-wise Jesus hanging there, unable to even save Himself.  And they added their jeers to those of the others in the crowd:  “He claimed to have saved others, but He can’t even save Himself!”  “Hey Jesus!  Come down off that cross, and we’ll believe in You!”  And while all of this was going on, just a few yards away, the soldiers in charge of the execution detail were dividing up the clothing of the victims – one of the perks of the job.

Those who were mocking and taunting Jesus for His helplessness and His inability to save Himself had no idea that with a single word He could have changed everything.  Jesus knew that if He called on the Father, that He would immediately place at His disposal more than twelve legions of angels to rescue Him (cf. Matthew 26:52-54).  But He also knew that going through all of this suffering was the only way that salvation could be purchased for all humanity, and He was absolutely committed to seeing it through.  It was not that He was unable to save Himself; He was unwilling to save Himself at the cost of our salvation.

Father, when I think of all that Jesus went through, all of the pain as well as the humiliation, I am ashamed when I remember that I sometimes forget how much He went through for me, and that I sometimes treat His sacrifice lightly.  The idea that He could have easily put an end to all of it, but refused for my sake, and for the sake of all humanity, is humbling in the extreme.  Help me, Lord, to never forget the cost of the salvation that Jesus bought for us, to never gloss over it, and to never treat it lightly.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 10, 2015

Mark 15:16-20 (NIV): The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The mocking of Jesus is difficult to witness.  Jesus, flogged horribly, bleeding freely from wounds all over His back, His arms, His legs, is completely helpless and weak.  Now He is surrounded by a whole company of soldiers whose job it will be to put Him to death.  These men have heard that Jesus had claimed to be the king of the Jews (Mark 15:2).  In fact, the plaque detailing His crime, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” which would ultimately be nailed above His head on the cross, was already in their hands.  This was way different than the normal type of criminal that they were charged with executing – thieves, murderers, insurrectionists.  So they decided to have a little fun with Jesus before they led Him out to the execution site.

They designed their actions to be a farce, a comedy.  Only after the fact could the irony of the situation be seen that made it a tragedy instead.  They dressed Jesus as a king, draping a royal purple cloak across his torn back and shoulders.  A wreath twisted together from thorns served as a makeshift crown.  They put a stick in His hand to serve as a staff (cf. Matthew 27:29), and then mockingly bowed down to Him, declaring solemnly, “Hail, O king of the Jews!”

But then things turned ugly.  They took the stick from His hand, and used it to beat Him over the head.  They slapped Him over and over again, and spit in His face.  All of this was just as Jesus had predicted (Mark 10:33-34).

In just a few minute’s time, they had done their work to degrade and humiliate the “king of the Jews.”  He had been beaten to a pulp – a mere wreck of a man.  The loss of blood and the shock of the beating had left Him so weak that He could barely stand.  And that suited His tormentors just fine.  That meant that He would die all the quicker, making their job easier.

But it was now time to get on with it.  They took off the purple cloak, and draped Jesus own cloak across His shoulders.  They then led Him out to start the march out of the city to the execution site.

Father, to these men the person in front of them was just a man.  All that they could see was the outer shell of humanity, already torn and bloodied from the flogging.  They had no eyes to see the Son of God inside that human skin, the one whose glory briefly peeping through on the Mount of Transfiguration had filled His disciples with such profound awe.  They had no idea that the one that they were mocking as the “king of the Jews” was in fact the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords; the one before whom every knee will one day bow (Philippians 2:9-11).  They had no idea that they were leading to the slaughter the pure, holy Lamb of God, and that through their unwitting participation, they would be helping to bring about the possibility of salvation for all humankind.

But we know those things now, Lord.  Help us to never take them for granted; to never minimize what Jesus went through to buy our salvation, suffering all of that torment, humiliation, and pain on our behalf.  Help us to always hold Jesus up as our Lord and King, and, as such, to follow Him and obey Him every moment of every day.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 9, 2015

Mark 15:6-15 (NIV):  Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested.  A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.  The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Pilate was no dummy.  He knew that the chief priests had brought Jesus to him, not because He posed any real threat to the authority of Rome (When had the chief priests ever been concerned about challenges to Rome’s authority?), but because they wanted Pilate to do their dirty work for them by getting rid of someone that they found a challenge to their own authority.

When the people asked Pilate to continue his annual tradition of releasing one prisoner at the Passover, he figured that this would be the perfect avenue to free Jesus, and to stymie the plans of the Jewish leaders.  After all, Pilate didn’t live in a box!  He had heard of Jesus, and knew that, even though He was hated by the Jewish leaders, he was overwhelmingly popular with the common people.

But the chief priests had already been at work among the crowds, urging them to ask Pilate to release Barabbas (a man who really was guilty of sedition) instead of Jesus.  In one of the most stunning turn of events in history, God’s people chose a known murderer over the giver of eternal life.  They chose a rebel over the Son of the very God that they claimed to serve.

This left Pilate in a quandary.  If he released Barabbas, what was he to do with Jesus?  He could have simply released Him on the grounds that He had not been proven guilty of anything.  But instead, Pilate asked the crowd what should be done.  The crowd had already been turned into a mob by the chief priests; a mob that could be easily manipulated.  So when Pilate looked to them for reason, he got back manipulated passion instead:  “Crucify Him!”

Pilate was stunned.  This really put him into a nasty corner.  This crowd that had been turned into a mob was quickly threatening to become a riot, and that was the last thing in the world that he wanted.  He had already been put on notice by the Emperor for the harsh way in which he had put down a couple of previous insurrections.  One more strike, and he was out!

Pilate tried to reason with them.  Crucifixion was a terrible thing to do to anyone, the most painful method of execution ever devised by sinful mankind.  Pilate’s argument to the crowd was that Jesus had not been convicted of any crime, let alone one that deserved death by crucifixion.  But the crowd was now beyond the point of logic.  The steady chant of “Crucify Him” grew and grew until it overpowered Pilate’s voice, and finally overpowered His resolve.

Even though he knew that he was being manipulated, Pilate decided that the easiest path was to placate the crowd.  It might be a miscarriage of justice (he could comfort himself by thinking that maybe Jesus really was guilty of something, even if he didn’t know what it was), but it was, after all, only one man.  And what is one man in the grand scheme of things?  So Pilate issued two orders.  On released Barabbas from prison, and the other sentenced Jesus to be flogged, and then crucified.

Father, it is easy to believe that this was a gross miscarriage of justice, when the guilty one was set free and the innocent one was sentenced to death.  But isn’t that really the gospel in a nutshell?  When I receive salvation by receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I am Barabbas, the guilty one who, for no good of my own, suddenly finds that I have been released from my own death sentence, set free from the bondage of sin.  And, in my place, Jesus, the spotless, sinless Lamb of God, suffers and dies.  So really, Lord, this was not a miscarriage of justice after all.  It is instead an amazing picture of Your salvation, painted on the way to the cross.  Thank You, Lord, for that amazing love, that amazing grace, that saves a wretch, a Barabbas, like me.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture

Mark 15:1-5 (NIV):  Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Even though the Sanhedrin didn’t know it, they were walking right into the path of the prophecy God had given about how the Messiah would die.  This was true even to the point that when they found Jesus guilty of supposed blasphemy, they didn’t simply take Him out and stone Him to death, according to the law (cf. Leviticus 24:13-17).  Instead, He was taken to Pilate so that they could convince him to crucify Him (just as it was prophesied).

One of the first accusations that they brought before Pilate was that Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah, who was also widely believed to be the legitimate king of the Jewish people (cf. Luke 23:2), and who would thus presumably stir up the people to revolt against Roman rule.  This stirring up of the people was the crime of sedition, a capital offense.  But when Pilate followed up this accusation by asking Jesus directly, “Are You the king of the Jews?” Jesus simply answered, “Yes, it is as you say.”  The Messiah really was the king, but at the same time, Jesus knew that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. (John 18:36)  Pilate had seen sedition before, and he had seen people trying to stir up rebellion against Rome.  But in Jesus attitude, in His voice, Pilate could see none of that.

When that accusation didn’t seem to gain any traction, the chief priests began reeling off other accusations against Jesus, trying to find anything that would lead Pilate to condemn Him.  Just as in the Sanhedrin, they hoped to overwhelm the legal system with the sheer volume of the accusations.  But, just as He did earlier, Jesus did not answer a single false accusation against Him.  That was because at this point in the process, Jesus had placed His entire fate in the hands of His Father.  He was now simply going along for the ride as God moved events forward, answering to confirm true statements, but feeling no obligation at all to defend Himself against lies.

This was amazing to Pilate.  In any other case like this, the accused would have been struggling to defend himself against every charge, trying to save their own lives.  But ever since Gethsemane, Jesus had already surrendered His life – He had nothing to defend except the truth of who He was.

Father, this is an amazing thought, and very applicable to today.  So often we end up allowing ourselves to be put on the defensive over what we believe, and how we apply those beliefs in our lives.  We become defensive because we are trying to defend our lives, our lifestyle, our beliefs, or our reputation.  But if we have already given ourselves up to You as a living sacrifice, there is nothing for us to defend except the truth.  And that frees us up to ignore the many things that the antagonists of the gospel throw at us to try to overwhelm us, and frees us up to simply speak the truth at the appropriate time.  Help us, Lord, to make this commitment, this sacrifice, so that we can walk in Jesus’ steps, even in this.  Amen.

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