G A R D E N I N G
I’m sure that you will appreciate my task of choosing something for Harvest and that will “ring a bell ” with all of you and which will communicate the Christian Message at the same time.So I’ve thought about it and I’ve chosen growing things!
I don’t expect most of you have anything to do with gardening.Perhaps that is for the wives of this company but we all appreciate anything that grows!
So we’re going to think about gardening of our souls.
First of all we need three rows of “peas”:
· Peace of mind
· Peace of heart
· Peace of soul
That is: not the absence of war. After all, you can have peace when a country is at war. We are at peace here, now, even though our troops are fighting in Afghanistan.
Nor is it necessarily silence, or absence of noise. You’ll often hear someone saying “Let’s have a bit of peace.” They mean: “Let’s us have a bit of quiet, without noise.”
But you can be agitated and “all at sixes and sevens” within the so called “peace”.
The only real peace of heart, mind, and soul is to be found in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said
“Peace I give to you, but not of this world, do I give it to you .” (John 14 v.2 )
It’s not of this world – that is, it’s not lack of war or noise, it’s a different sort of peace. It’s a peace that comes to us when we realize that Jesus paid the price for us on the cross. We have to come to Jesus humbly, with all the things that have messed up our lives When we realize that we are forgiven for all the wrong things we have done we become children of God. We are “born again” into his family. We learn a new way of life.
Our wrongdoing destroys our peace of mind, our peace of heart, our peace of soul.
A Great Debt Paid
The late Czar Nicholas of Russia would sometimes walk about his military camps and barracks dressed as an ordinary officer, in order that he might know firsthand what was going on without being known by others.
Late one night, the Czar was making one of these tours of inspection and noticed a light under the paymaster’s door. He opened the door quietly and stepped inside. There, a young officer—son of an old friend of the Czar—was seated at a table, his head resting on his arms, sound asleep. The Czar thought to awaken him, but changed his mind when he noticed a gun on the table along with some money, a sheet of paper, and a pen which had fallen from the hand of the sleeping man.
The Czar looked at the paper which contained a long list of gambling debts as well as other bad debts accumulated over a period of time. The debt amounted to thousands of rubles. The paymaster had realized how much he owed and how impossible it was for him to pay it. His only way out, so he thought, was to end it all with the gun as he could not face the disgrace which awaited him, having used the army funds to cover his debts. Weary with sorrow and remorse, he had written below the terrible total:
“WHO CAN PAY SO GREAT A DEBT?”
The Czar’s first thought was to have him arrested. The nature of the crime was such that it could not be ignored. But as he pondered the matter he thought of his long friendship with the officer’s father. A feeling of compassion took possession of him and he took up the pen which the officer had dropped and wrote just one word:
The young officer awoke soon after the Czar had gone, intending to end his life, but noticed the name “Nicholas” below his own question. He was astonished and could not believe what he saw! He compared the Czar’s signature with that on other papers in his possession, and there was no doubt about its genuineness. Joy and shame filled his heart as he thought of the fact that the Czar knew all about his dishonesty and recklessness and yet was willing to pay his debt.
The following morning the money arrived from the Czar enough to pay “So Great a Debt” down to the last rouble. The Czar was as good as his name which he placed at the bottom of the sheet of the itemized debts, and the joy of the officer for this kindness could not be described. He would think of it the rest of his life.
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin,
HE ONLY could unlock the gate
Of heaven ,and let us in.
Christ paid the debt we owe for our sins – whatever they maybe. Before the judgement seat of God we can call on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
That ALONE gives us peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of soul. Now is the time.
One we have got that right, then we can start to love We cannot please God in our natural state. We get it wrong. – we think we’re loving, but we aren’t really. Without God’s love we are constantly bothered about political correctness – people have to be told how to behave towards other people. But when the love of Jesus is in our hearts we will treat people the right way naturally.
So we have “four rows of squash”:
We need to:
· Squash gossip
· Squash indifference
· Squash grumbling
· Squash selfishness
Unkind gossip! Think about it and ask yourselves some questions: “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?”
I have a granddaughter who is always saying “Whatever!” in a bored sought of voice! It really annoys me although one soon learns to put up with this sort of thing! We can’t be indifferent or spurn things, especially things to do with God, or anything that bothers people.
Country people never complain, so I’m not going to dwell on this particular injunction! Except to say we also ought to be very thankful. The Apostle Paul, who suffered much, was always grateful for all that was to be found in Jesus.
We have to be unselfish too. Some people are good at being unselfish and thoughtful. If you’ve got other people at heart then you can’t be selfish.
You’ve heard the little maxim “Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last – spells JOY”.
Then we have “four rows of lettuce”:
· Lettuce be faithful
· Lettuce be kind
· Lettuce be patient
· Lettuce really love one another
Let us be faithful
That is not to give up our faith when the going gets tough. There will always be times when the truth about Jesus Christ is attacked and we feel like giving up.
let us all be patient and kind
Not judging other people – because we recognize our own shortcomings. We might see glaring faults in others but quite oblivious to our own! Jesus said, “Take out the plank that is in your own eye then you will be able to see the speck that is in your brothers eye.” If we do that, then we might be learning to love each other!
Let us really love one another
Love of Jesus is the key! The central post of his cross pointed upwards: to show that Jesus was dying to reconcile us to God. But the arms of the cross were stretched wide open: to embrace the whole world. To receive everyone who would believe in him. Let us love Jesus in the way Jesus loves us.
Then we need “three rows of turnips” in our garden.
· Turnip the Bible
· Turnip for services
· Turnip to help
Turn up the Bible
We need to do this ourselves day by day. (For goodness sake choose a version that is plain to you – there are many!) It is Gods word to us. Don’t worry if there’s a bit you don’t understand – it will become plain as you go on in you life.
Turn up for services on a Sunday
We need to have fellowship with the community who worship Jesus. We need the fellowship, the hymns, the readings, the sermon, to help us along the road.
Turn up to help on another
I’m sure you do this all the time but there is a difference when we have Jesus in our hearts.
Then we need a few herbs in our garden – most especially “thyme”:
· Thyme for family and friends
· Thyme for God
Time for family and friends
That goes without saying, doesn’t it ? If we haven’t time for them we certainly won’t have time for anyone else! Jesus actually said “Love your enemies do good to those who hate you”
And last of all –
Have time for God
Don’t let us be like a mule, that needs bit a bridle to make it do the will of its owner, but let us serve God freely and gladly. And don’t let us think, for one moment, that it doesn’t matter what we believe. We’re living in days when people think that it doesn’t matter. “Any god will do”, they say. But it does matter. It takes time and thought to be right with God.
Our instructions for the garden end with:
“Water freely with patience and cultivate with love and prayer”
I wouldn’t change that statement, except to say that we can do nothing on our own. We need God’s help and he always hears us when we pray to him.
And the final comment:
“There is much fruit in our garden because we reap what we sow”
If we turn our back on what God is saying to us we might be fine for a while, but the time will come when but we’ll look back on our lives with regret.
It’s far better to find Jesus in our life now and live for him day by day. Then we’ll have no regrets and we will reap what we sow in eternity. AMEN
( The talk was based on a well known piece: “FOR THE GARDEN OF YOUR DAILY LIVING ”
which is going the rounds. The occasion was a Harvest Thanksgiving Service in one of the country churches near Brecon.)
Saul son of Kish
I have been interested in the character of Saul son of Kish. This story takes up a large part of the first book of Samuel but we are just going to take in part of it.
We always have to remember that the people of Israel saw God’s activity in all their ways:
· They were a theocracy.
· They were passionate in their belief that God was with them.
· They were unique.
The other nations were not held together, as this one was, by their belief in the one true God.
So. Saul son of Kish!
(Actually Kish was his uncle because, as you may know, if a woman was left on her own then the nearest kinsman was to look after her and be in the place of a father to her children. Saul’s mother was such a widow.)
We shall learn from Saul.
What is the background to this story?
Well, as the people of God were settling in to the Promised Land of Canaan they had Judges to rule them. Some of them were good and some were bad. The best of them was Samuel – for he was a true man of God.
The prophet, Samuel, Judge of Israel was indeed a man of God. From the earliest days Samuel had been dedicated to God and then brought up in the shrine at Shiloh. (It was a long time before King David had built himself a palace and prepared the way for a Temple to be built for God in Jerusalem.) I know this sounds like a history lesson, but we need to know the circumstances that Saul grew up in!
The people wanted a King. They’d got fed up with the Judges. They wanted someone to rule over them like the kings of the other nations. The other nations had a king that lead them into battle – they wanted the same!
Samuel, who was their Judge, knew that this was not what God had intended. He warned the people that they will be taxed and become poor. Their young men would be taken off to war and the people would have to supply the king with all he needed.
Even so the people wanted a king.
Samuel goes away to think and pray about it. First of all God tells Samuel that he was not rejected but nonetheless they should have a king, and he would still bless them if they would keep God’s laws and be loyal to their king.
Samuel, who had great authority amongst the people, sends them away whilst he finds out who is to be king.
How Saul became king
The meeting of Saul and Samuel is remarkable.How were these two to come together? It was God’s doing ( and he has done many things to-day through seemingly ordinary meetings) but we have to remember that God is always in control.
This is how these two unlikely people met!
Now Saul and his servant were looking for five donkeys that had gone astray.
They had searched everywhere and were not able to find them. One realizes that this was a very rural situation – I suppose it was like people looking for stray sheep!. I the end Saul says, “We’d better go back home because our people will be worrying about us instead of the donkeys.” A very sensible and responsible thing to do. However the servant says to Saul, “There’s a seer in these parts lets ask him.”
I suppose it was a last resort.
Saul says they’ve no money to give to the seer but the servant has got a bit of silver with him. So they look for the prophet. (I suppose they thought of Samuel as some sort of clairvoyant.They didn’t know him as as man of God. They were young and didn’t take any notice of the adults around them!)
So they asked some girls if they knew where the prophet was. (Incidentally, in that culture men didn’t normally speak to girls. It shows that Saul realized that he was a favourite with the girls – a ladies’ man. He was a very impressive young man who was a least a head taller than anyone around him! ) They followed the girls’ directions and came across Samuel. As soon as Samuel saw the young men he knew at once that Saul was the new king. He also LOOKED like a king! Immediately, after a quick inward prayer, Samuel knew that God was saying to him, “This is the man.”
Samuel told Saul that the donkeys had been found. He also told Saul that he was very special to the people of Israel. Saul was amazed and humble. He told Samuel that he was the least in the tribe of Benjamin – what on earth was Samuel talking about. But Samuel gave a feast to the prominent people and a special portion of meat that had been ordered the day before was given to Saul !
Later on, after Saul had spent the night at the house, Samuel told Saul to send his servant away and he anointed Saul as king. Saul was amazed and did not know what to think. But Samuel then went on to confirm his choice of Saul by telling Saul that three things would happen to him.
· First of all he told Saul that would meet two men who would tell him that the donkeys had been found.
· Then he would meet three men carrying three loaves, three goats and a skin of wine. Two of the loaves would be given to Saul.
· Then he would meet a band of prophets carrying musical instruments. The Spirit of the Lord would come upon Saul and he would be changed. And he was to do what seemed right for him to do because “God was with him”.
All these things happened as Samuel had said. Saul joined with the people playing instruments and underwent some kind of revival experience. However he didn’t tell his uncle that he has been anointed as king by Samuel, nor that he had prophesied with the prophets. All this would have been too much for his uncle to believe. It was too far removed from what he was. Later it became a byword: “Is Saul among the prophets?”
Starting off well
So Saul left Samuel and we read that his heart was changed. Everything came about just as had been told him.
Later on Samuel was to anoint Saul as king publicly but Saul was hiding among the baggage! He was so humble. Or perhaps he just didn’t want to be king. Perhaps he realized it was not a unanimous decision – there were some who were opposed to him.
Samuel tells the people again that they shouldn’t be asking for a king. Then the rain fell and there was a terrible storm that ruined all the crops, and the people were all afraid. Once again Samuel tells them that they must obey God’s law and be loyal to the king and they will be blessed. So Saul is anointed king and he goes back home with some valiant men whom God had touched. However there were some people who distrusted Saul. they said, “How can this man save us?” They brought him no gifts – but Saul, with great wisdom, kept silent.
Saul started off alright:
· He looked like a king because he was a head taller than anyone else – a fine figure of a man
· He was humble.
· He had had a religious experience – he had been touched by God.
· He was a good soldier and leader of men.
· He was likable.
Yes, for a while Saul is ideal.He even led the men to a great victory over the Ammonites. But he became proud and didn’t listen to God.
The idea of being a king had “gone to his head”, as we would say
It came about that Saul was face with the Philistine army – an awful lot of them. His own men were deserting every time he counted them. Now Saul had been told to wait until Samuel arrived, in seven days time, to bless the army. But after the seven days Saul couldn’t wait any longer. He took matters into his own hands and sacrificed the burnt offering and fellowship offerings – something he had no right to do. It required moral courage to wait but he couldn’t wait. It sounds like a very small fault to us. It was after all, we would say, only a ritual. But for Saul it was a very important moment of disobedience towards God. For all his religious experience his heart had been unchanged.
( For us a comparable situation would be anything that God has told us not to do in his Word.)
As you might have guessed, Samuel arrived at the eleventh hour and reprimanded Saul for his disobedience. Saul had not “kept the Lords command”. He had taken matters into his own hands.
Yes, he was tested by an intolerable situation but he was still disobedient.
He did this sort of thing twice, and then the kingdom was taken from Saul.
At this point David was secretly anointed the king by Samuel. Saul’s pride had changed the situation. But he didn’t know it and tried to continue in the way he always had. But he made some rash decisions.
Saul was not a man who could be blessed. He was not a man of principle.
First of all, Saul did something that was crazy even on a mere human level. He made his soldiers vow that they wouldn’t eat anything, on pain of death, until the Philistines had been routed.
Jonathan, the son of Saul, who had caused the enemy to run away, was not present when the vow was made. So when he found some honey he dipped a stick in it and tasted it. Then we read, “his eyes brightened”. No doubt his body needed the sugar – an army marches on its stomach! Saul’s vow was a crazy idea.
Then, when Saul found out that it was Jonathan who had broken the vow he would have had him killed. But the men wouldn’t do it and Jonathan was saved!
Then Saul became jealous of David and pursued him to kill him.Time and time again David spoke to him declaring he would do nothing to harm him. But Saul was insanely jealous of David and would not let him be.
Saul was unstable in every way.
Even his spirit of depression was caused through his disobedience.
Samuel had told him that obedience was what counted – “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
So Saul was unstable in all his ways – only going so far in his obedience to God.
Following God’s command he had banned spiritualist mediums from the land. But then, when he was looking for guidance, he consulted one in Endor who had escaped the net. His obedience was incomplete. And yet, he had started off with such promise.
A lesson to learn
But what do we learn from his life. It is a text book example of how it is possible to outwardly follow the ways of God, and yet not to know Him inwardly.
Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of God.”
We all know someone who is religious sounding – people who “talk the talk but who do not walk the walk” – Saul was one of those!
He was disobedient to the light that he had. And remember; he also had Samuel, the man of God, alongside him.
He had a foot in both camps.He had one foot in Gods camp and he made wrong decisions. And one foot in the world’s camp – he made worse decisions overlaid by a religious idea!
Only those who have both feet in Gods camp can succeed. Let us therefore glorify Jesus in our lives then we shall know the Holy Spirit flowing through us.
Jesus for all people
Isn’t it strange that people outside the church often have a very warped view of people inside the church? (I’m thinking of the church world wide and not this particular church.) You know how it is, they think that we don’t drink or smoke, we have long sermons, meaningless rituals, long prayers, we are dreary, and so on.
Well we may or may not do these things but that isn’t what following Jesus is about. Christianity is a matter of the heart. We do not perform various acts to make us more holy. Rather it is our hearts that need changing. As Jeremiah wrote a long time ago:
“The heart is wicked and deceitful above all things”
We might think we’ve got it right,but without God in our lives we are likely to think very wrongly about the moral and spiritual things of life. Our hearts need changing.
Jesus was for all people who recognized a need in their lives – both rich and poor alike. He said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light And you shall find rest for your souls.”
Jesus was for all people who needed “rest for their souls”
Jesus knew that His ways were the right ways. He was God – He could forgive sins and give to people the power to be different.
He came to:
- the thief on the cross….”To-day you will be with me in Paradise.”
- the woman at the well….”The man you now have is not your husband”. Jesus knew all about her, but he was still for her
- the woman who touched the hem of his garment….”Daughter your faith has made
- The tax collectors, the prostitutes….the list is endless.
Why is it that we think that salvation or wholeness is to do with being “successful”, that is about making a lot of money, when Jesus thought and taught exactly the opposite?
I can remember being shown around a little mission chapel in a certain town in North Wales. The Minister showing us the chapel said: “The people who built this chapel could not match the clothes of those who went to the big Welsh chapel around the corner, so this one was built for them”. The official line was that the little chapel was built for the English speakers at he time, but the fact was that many of the members were Welsh speaking themselves.The real reason was that they were of a different class.
Jesus would have been horrified by this turn of events – and still is!
But Jesus came for all people with needs, whether they were rich or poor. Take Zacchaeus for example. We know him well from Sunday School days and from the chorus:-
Zacchaeus was a very little man,
And a very little man was he.
He climbed into a sycamore tree,
For the Saviour he wanted to see.
And when the Saviour passed that way,
He said, “Now Zachaeus you come down.
For I am coming to your house for tea!”
Zacchaeus was of course a tax-collector – very respectable in one way (he had nice clothes and so on). But he was an outsider – he worked for the Romans and he was very rich. He was a quisling. (Quisling was the name of the Norwegian prime minister who worked with the Nazis during the war. Anyone who worked for the enemy was known as a Quisling.)
Yes, Zachaeus was a quisling. He probably was officious and unbending –
A horrid little man that everyone hated!
What was he doing climbing a tree? He must have been eager to see Jesus.
No doubt he was friendless and felt a need in his heart. He nearly fell out of the tree when he was confronted with Jesus. But Jesus drew alongside this man, this thief, this tax-collector who was nothing but a quisling. For Jesus saw in whin a man who had a need.
The result was that Zacheaus gave back four times as much in repayment to anyone he had cheated. He went beyond the requirements of the Law, which demanded double the amount that had been taken.
He came to Jesus and he realized how wrong he was, and we have the famous words of Jesus: “Salvation (wholeness) has come to this household to-day, for this man is a son of Abraham”. (We are all sons and daughters of Abraham if we believe in Jesus. The Old Testament and the New Testament are brought together in this verse.)
Zachaeus had set his foot on the right road, that of following Jesus. He would have to go on to learn the ways of Jesus, but his heart was changed.
We need to come to Jesus with humble gratitude; then he will give rest for our souls. Zachesus found this in Jesus
Then we have Matthew. Now Matthew was a clever man. Good with figures, we would say. He also wrote Matthew’s Gospel.
But he worked for the Romans and, like Zacheaus, he probably thought, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”
He was right too – humanly speaking. If you think about it, and Matthew did think about it, the Romans were good with their laws and their straight roads, etc. Rather like the people in Italy who voted for Mussolini because he got the trains to run on time! But in Matthew’s day the people were against that sort of thing and Matthew was an outsider. Like Zacheaus he was an outcast. He was without friends except for other tax gatherers and “sinners”. We know this because he gave a party. A kind of farewell party before he went off to follow Jesus. He, Matthew, was going to live a different life!
At this party Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees, who saw all that was going on, these famous words: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. But go and learn this: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” The Scribes and Pharisees thought they were such good men – they didn’t need a healer!
What I like about the calling of Matthew is the way that he came without a word. (He probably had heard Jesus teaching before.)Jesus said “Follow me”, and Matthew went! He realized Jesus could, and would, give him rest for his soul. He found in the rule of Jesus in his life that all his needs were met. His heart was changed. He came to Jesus with humble gratitude.
The Rich Young Ruler
This man came looking for Jesus but he wasn’t aware that he needed Jesus. He thought he was quite alright, and he was also very respectable. He had wealth – great wealth. He had kept the Law, as far as he was concerned. He was able to do this because he was rich and all his physical needs were met. You had to be rich to have the time to keep all the minute rules of the Law. The rich young ruler had plenty of servants whom, no doubt, he treated well, as required by God. The society in which the Jews lived was a theocracy – governed by God. Since God required just laws the rich young ruler would have treated his servants well.
However Jesus hit on the one thing the rich young ruler needed.
He did it at once when the young man called Jesus “Good Master”. He came to Jesus as a man, and so Jesus spoke to him on a human level. He said,”No one is good but God.”
The young ruler saw Jesus as a wonderful Rabbi – he felt he could hitch his wagon to Jesus.You see, this young man had seen the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes who had kept the law, or so they thought. And somehow the rich young ruler saw Jesus as a good Rabbi, as the fulfillment of what he was looking for. Here was someone who had the same ideas as he had for right. So he came to Jesus looking for approbation, as though he himself was good and wanting the same as Jesus wanted. So when Jesus told him he needed to give up his riches his face fell! It was a great shock to him. This rich ruler had no “need” of Jesus. He trusted his own goodness. He was rather like Nicodemus who needed to understand that he “must be born again”
Now we need to realize that what Jesus says to this man, he does not say to everyone. It might not be wealth which is the problem or it could be anything else on which we are dependent: families, sport, health, living to an old age.
Nor does it necessarily mean we can’t have these things. Indeed we may have money, families, and so on. They may take up a lot of our time, but they must not be the chief priority in our lives. Only God, Jesus, is the ultimate One on which we must depend. He is the Rock – nothing else is dependable.
God sometimes takes away the things on which we depend in order to make us stronger. Remember Jesus said, “I am the vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Not like the lady in hospital who thought she was being punished for things she had done wrong! The rich young ruler was dependent on his riches. He had to be without them to learn the ways of Jesus.
He couldn’t do it then and there – although one hopes that later on he did what Jesus said to him. We read that “Jesus loved him”, and no doubt he had come eagerly to Jesus. He wanted to put the world to rights, like so many. Have you noticed, especially on T.V. programmes that it is assumed that you have only to change your life style and you’ll be a different person.You have only to pull yourself up by your own boot strings. If only it was that easy! I often wonder how those people will be in a few months time. Only Jesus can change us. We know that there are many people who give of their time and money to charity and that is good. But Jesus desires the lordship of his life in ours.
The rich young ruler had to allow the lordship of Jesus in his life – then he would learn what love and unselfishness was really about.
We all need to take Jesus’ words to heart…. “Come unto ME and you will find rest for your souls.”
Whether we are like Zacchaeus, or Matthew, or the rich young ruler (who was on the surface perfectly alright and very likable) we all need Jesus to give us rest for our souls.
a Good Friday sermon
by Rev Jane Jenkins
Behold is an old fashioned word. Yet it is such a strong word – much stronger than the word “look!” or “see!” “Behold!” causes one to stop and look – not just glance. In this world of constant busy-ness so many people seem to have stopped beholding Christ. He is passed by with barely a glance. He is seen just as a god among other gods. People listen to the loudest voices: to those who think that nobody in their right mind could seriously think that Jesus is actually the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life.
Yet here we are today, on this Good Friday, invited to behold again this Jesus. Twice in Johns account of the Easter story the word “behold!” is used – and in both cases Pilate is the speaker. In both cases he was saying far more than he realised. So let us now meditate on these two occasions and try to see the significance of Pilate’s words.
Behold the Man!
Now Pilate was in a dilemma. On the one hand he really could not find any fault in Jesus at all: on the other hand he would have a riot on his hands if he let him go. So Pilate decided on a compromise. He had Jesus made a figure of fun by clothing him in a purple robe, then he had him flogged and a cruel crown of thorns was rammed onto his head. Pilate was perhaps hoping to get the people to see how pathetic a figure Jesus was, and to realise how unreasonable they were in demanding his death. It could have been a well meaning gesture to get Jesus “off the hook”. Yes it was cruel; but those were cruel times. So Pilate brought before the people the robed figure of Jesus, bent with the pain of the flogging, his face disfigured with the thorns from the crown.
O sacred head sore wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down.
O kingly head surrounded
With thorns thine only crown
How pale thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn,
How doth that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn.
“Behold the Man!” cried Pilate, indeed, behold THE Man, a whole man – one who ought to command the respect of everyone.
Over the years I have read a great many children’s Bible books, and I am glad to say tha the pictures of Jesus in today’s books are often so much better than what we used to see. They were portrayals of a fair-haired, blue-eyed, weak-faced Jesus.
The best picture I can recall in a modern book is one of Jesus holding a child high up in the air and laughing with the child. It is a picture that illustrates to me the humanity of Jesus. Surely he was like that – children ran to him, remember! Children would not have run to a miserable, false sort of person.
Then there’s the picture of Jesus the carpenter – a hard-working man who knew all about the logistics of shifting a heavy cumbersome object like a tree trunk and how to cut it into planks. He knew the frustrations of a job not going quite right. He knew about meeting deadlines, chasing bills – and paying them! The list is endless – as it seems to be in our lives too.
Then we have the picture of Jesus as a member of a large family, of which he was the eldest with special responsibilities. A family that really did not understand him, at all, until much later on. He had to endure the misunderstanding and taunts of his brothers. How difficult it must have been!
Yet it does mean that he understands our lives completely. We’re not dealing with a cardboard cut-out, a remote holy guru-type figure who, as we might say “has never lived”. No one needed to say to him: “Get a life. Be real!”
Jesus knows and understands the sufferings in our lives. He knows about temptations, loneliness, misunderstanding, pain, rejection, daily struggles – all kinds of sorrows. He has embraced our life with all its vicissitudes – and yet without sin.
Because of this he is able to comfort usin our troubles. He does not stand outside them, looking on impersonally. He enters into our suffering and therefore is able to bring us comfort and help. He is a human being like us. Because suffering is so much part of our lives it was essential that we should have a Saviour who suffered too. This does not answer the question, “Why suffering?” – that is unanswerable. But it does point us to God who himself came in human form as Jesus to suffer with us and for us. Yes indeed, Jesus was a man, fully prepared to walk the whole length of suffering and death to show us how completely God loves us.
If you want a courageous man,
If you want a man who won’t be bullied
Ifyou want a man who doesn’t go with the crowd
If you want a man who lived for the highest and the best always,
If you want a man who is utterly true,
then “give me Jesus” as it says in the old spiritual. “You can keep all this world, give me Jesus”.
“Behold the Man”.
Behold your king
When Pilate heard that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God he was frightened – quite understandably. There was something awesome about Jesus and Pilate had had a glimpse of it. Then he had another glimpse. When Pilate warned Jesus of his power over life and death, Jesus calmly told him:
“You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above. Therefore the one who handed you over to you is guilty of a greater sin”. (John 19:11)
Pilate had not been able to evoke pity towards Jesus from the crowd but he tried again. More than ever, Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, but the threat of the crowd, the threat of an uncontrollable riot, goaded him into making the sacrifice of Jesus – for the sake of saving his own skin. He brought Jesus out again and presented the broken figure before the people. He sarcastically said: “Behold your king!”
Surely no harm could come from such a broken figure! Pilate thought he could safely call Jesus “King”. So he thought – but he was wrong! For as Jesus stood there, the battle to defeat evil for all time was being won. Jesus willingly took the path of lowly suffering and turned all the world’s ideas of power and might on their head.
(Jesus would indeed prove to be the King and Victor by his Resurrection. That is why we are here on this Good Friday. The conquest of evil and hatred by love and sacrifice – and that’s how it is!)
Again the crowd cry, “Crucify him!” And so truly they said, “We have no king but Caesar”. Isn’t that the cry of most people today? “We have, we want, no king but Caesar – it is only the exercise of power and the possession of wealth that counts with us”.
Are we among those voices, or are we rather among those who cry: “You can keep all his world, give me Jesus”.
Behold the Lamb of God
This comes from one who loved Jesus and who had the privilege of preparing the way for his coming – John the Baptist. These are his words: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” When John spoke these words his hearers would have understood them in terms of the animal sacrifices of the Jewish faith at that time:
– the Passover Lamb, slain as a reminder of liberation form slavery in Egypt.
– the other sacrifices offered up for the forgiveness of sins.
Here, at last, is One who comes to replace all these ritual sacrifices. He comes to offer his own life for he sin of the wolrd. “A full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice”. (Book of Common Prayer)
A Christian writer, George Cutting, was once cycling through a Norfolk village when he felt a sudden urge to shout: “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” Again he felt the same impulse and shouted it once more. He didn’t know why he had to do this. Six months later he was doing evangelistic visitation work in that village. He asked an old woman in a cottage if she knew Jesus Christ as saviour. “Yes,” she said, “six months ago I was in despair of soul. I cried out to God for help and then I heard a voice shouting: Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world! I asked God to repeat what he had said and the voice came again. That led me to trust in Jesus as Saviour
There is nowhere else to look for forgiveness, for redemption, for putting our lives right, for hope, for strength, for everlasting love.
What language shall I borrow
To praise thee heavenly friend,
For this, thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Thy cross and bitter passion
Were all for sinners’ gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.
Don’t let us try to work it out – He died that we might be forgiven.
Let us behold this Jesus – the Man, the King of Kings, the Lamb of God – with such humility and thankfulness that it will show itself in the way we live our lives day by day.