Archive for March, 2013

30
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: The Centurion at the Cross

In a way, the centurion at the cross is a perfect picture of self-sacrifice.  Let’s examine the character of this man, his circumstances, mash them all up with the scripture and discover how he is a perfect picture of self-sacrifice.

First, as a centurion, he was an officially commissioned officer in the greatest and largest army in the world, the army of Rome.  Some would even debate whether or not the Roman military was one of the finest and greatest in the history of the world.  While his commission as an officer was a lower ranking one, it was certainly the first step to further advancements and greatness.  He had been trained by the finest instructors available and had been a rock-hardened soldier in the Roman army.  He had the glare of greatness on his service and was deemed worthy of his official commission.  This was certainly a post for which he had worked hard, and was proud of his position.

He was likely an upwardly mobile man, looking forward to a long and satisfying military career.  His whole life was probably before him.  He was entrusted the care and control of 100 of Rome’s soldiers, and undoubtedly had his sights set on being a commander of centurions, then advancing to higher ranks.  He was hard-working, had an excellent work ethic and would lay down his life for his country.  His life was totally dedicated to Rome in every way imaginable.

One day, his group of soldiers was given the command to preserve the control of a mad Jewish mob as one of their leaders was put to death.  An uprising from these hot-headed Arabs was expected, and if they did lash out, it could get out of control in a hurry.  Therefore, this trusted and proven centurion could accomplish the task at hand.

During the course of the day, he doubtlessly had heard a few whispers or rumblings coming from the crowd.  Some called the man on the cross in the middle a Messiah, and some called him a mental case.  Some people claimed that the man with “King of the Jews” posted as his punishment was the one promised in their holy scriptures and some said that he was a Nazarene, and nothing good ever came out of Nazareth.  Yet others boldly said that He was the Son of Almighty God, but others would retort that he was the son of a whore who got herself pregnant before she was married.

As the work progressed on Golgotha without much incident, the centurion also witnessed some unusual things.  This man who was dying asked His God to forgive the people who were putting him through His turmoil – strange indeed!  Then the centurion heard this “King of the Jews” tell one of the other men being crucified that He would see him in heaven.  The last thing the centurion heard was this man crying out something about the debt being paid and then releasing His spirit in death.  This was followed by some weird storm with lightning and an earthquake that nearly knocked him off his feet.

After all this, the centurion mulled over the evidence and decided to make a change in his life:  he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

The Bible tells us in Luke 23:47 that the centurion glorified God with his proclamation.  It is impossible to truly glorify God unless the Holy Spirit moves us to do so, which would point to the centurion accepting the message of the gospel.  In a sense, he turned his back on his devotion to his promising career as a Roman soldier and took on the title of Christian.

Jesus said that when we come to Him, our love of, and devotion to, Him is to be so intense that it makes our love to our family seem like hate in comparison (Luke 14:26).  In fact, it was Jesus who told us “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  Being a Christian involves sacrifice, whether it is the job (like in the case of the centurion), our family (or boyfriend or girlfriend) or our circle of friends.  Sacrifice might involve monetary sacrifice or it might involve giving up the golf club membership or the tanning sessions so that the true Christian can spend the time they need to fulfill their time obligations going about doing His work.

Never forget the example of the Roman centurion and what he probably sacrificed in his proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God.  Never forget that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for His disciples.  Can we, as true Christians, do any less?

29
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: Simon Peter

Simon Peter is as lovable a disciple as they come.  Peter had his definite high points.  He was one of three disciples invited by Jesus to witness His transfiguration, a glimpse of Christ’s glory and a special revelation of His divinity. Beside Jesus Christ, Peter is the only person ever recorded who walked on water.  When asked who the disciples said that Jesus was, Peter was the first to explode and say, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God!”

In addition to his high points, Peter had his low points, too.  At the transfiguration, he offered to construct “tabernacles” for Elijah, Moses and Jesus in order to worship, but Elijah and Moses did not possess divinity.  When he walked on the water, Peter allowed the storm to take his eyes off Jesus, and he began to sink.  And after proclaiming his love for Jesus, Christ told Peter that he would deny the Lord three times, which Peter denied he would ever do, but eventually did, running away and weeping bitter tears.

After Jesus rose from the dead, we are told that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to two other women.  Peter had inspected the limp cloths in the tomb, but was wondering what had happened.  The first disciple with whom Jesus had a meeting with was Peter (Luke 24:34, I Corinthians 15:5).  Even after Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus sought out Peter.  The Bible does not reveal what happened during that mysterious meeting, but it seems hard to believe anything other than the idea that Jesus was on a search and rescue mission.

It is likely that Peter would not have the guts to seek out Jesus out of shame for what he did in his three-fold denial.  But it is very probable that the Christ who came to “seek and save those who were lost” went in search of His one lost lamb.  Jesus must have went to offer forgiveness, and show an example of grace in answer to Peter’s earlier question of how many times a person should be forgiven (Matthew 18:21-22).  Isn’t that just like Jesus?

Many times Christians can find themselves in a position like Peter.  The redeemed can’t believe what they have done, and think that there is no way that God can use them now.  They may feel like they have crossed the line of the point of no return.  But even though they may have taken ten thousand steps way, it is only one step back into the forgiving arms of the beloved Savior.  And if one will just submit to the grace, mercy and love of a forgiving God, the renewed believer can become a remarkable vessel that is fit for the master’s use, just like Peter.

After his mysterious meeting with Jesus, Peter did not have the roller coaster spirituality he exhibited before; rather, he became one of the early church’s greatest evangelists.

29
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: Pontius Pilate

Profiles from the Resurrection: Pontius Pilate.

29
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate is a fascinating figure.  He is mentioned in only six books of the New Testament, but he is a key figure in the account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  He was the Roman governor of the land of Judea.  He probably wished he could disappear during Jewish holidays, as they could get testy under Roman rule during their holidays.  The upcoming Passover was to be no exception!

 

Jesus was brought to Pilate by the chief priests, accusing Jesus of trying to overthrow Caesar to set Himself up at the King of the Jews.  After Pontius Pilate questions Christ about the accusations, he learns that Christ is from Galilee.  Pilate decides to shift the problem of Jesus to Herod, who had jurisdiction in Galilee.  This plan backfired as Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.

 

Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, and decided to release Jesus to the crowd as part of the tradition to release a prisoner during Jewish holidays.  Surely this would satisfy the blood-lust of the maddening crowd before him.  Instead, they asked for a thief called Barabbas, and demanded that Jesus be crucified.  Pilate knew that Jesus was an innocent man, and had been warned by his wife that he should steer clear of any judgments concerning this Jesus of Galilee.  But Pilate was a weak governor.  Instead of delivering justice in Jesus’ case, he catered politically to the crowd so that Rome would not get another report that he had offended the Jews or could not control the situation in his region.  Instead of doing what was right, Pontius Pilate let outside influences control his actions.

 

If we as children of God are not careful, we can allow the same thing happen to us.  Sin can creep ever so slowly and cleverly by getting us to compromise a little bit at a time.  Before long, we will have gone further than we had ever imagined.

 

A little row boat that is not tied to a pier won’t go very far at first.  The little waves will slowly move it away from the pier.  Little by little the boat will slowly drift away, floating an inch at a time, until the boat is some hundreds of feet away from the pier.

 

Compromise in the Christian’s life can be a dangerous ploy by the evil one.  We may give a little here, and then give a little there.  It really doesn’t seem like much, and it certainly won’t harm anyone.  But with each little compromise we drift further from the truth, until we are so far away that the truth seems like a small point in our view.

 

We must never compromise the truth, for when we do, we become swayed by the wind and become unstable.  We must build our house on the solid rock of the truth of Jesus Christ and never lay our foundation on the shifting sand of popular opinion.  Sin will take us further than we ever wanted to go.  Just look at Pilate and see how a little compromise yielded him a complete mess.

28
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: Joseph of Arimathaea

Profiles from the Resurrection: Joseph of Arimathaea.

28
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: Joseph of Arimathaea

The four gospels each mention the name of Joseph of Arimathaea once.  The scriptures testify that he was a man of wealth, a man of honor and a man who was a disciple of Christ.  While the Holy Scriptures mention that he was a follower of Christ, they also reveal that he was a secretive follower because of his “fear of the Jews.”  However, a bold step is taken by Joseph in his acts to secure the body of Jesus, and in his possible plan for His body.

 

As Joseph of Arimathaea was a rich man, he would obviously be one who made wise decisions and investments with his money.  The Bible tells us that He had a “new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock” (Matthew 27:60).  Evidently, Joseph had made a purchase of this land to dig out a tomb, doing the work himself.  Doing this work himself was certainly a rigorous task!

 

One must wonder, however, if a piece of land near the place where the blood of murderers, thieves and other such thugs was spilled in punishment would be a wise investment.  And why would he choose to buy land for a tomb when he seems to be a healthy man, as evidenced by the scriptures telling us he had hewn it out in the rock, not to mention embalming and carrying Jesus’ body from the cross to this tomb with the help of Nicodemus?  When you take in this evidence, it is difficult to understand why Joseph would have taken such actions.

 

Perhaps Joseph had heard the accounts of a Savior who would be of the “house and lineage of David” and would make the blind to see and the lame to walk “according to the scripture.”  Maybe he heard of, or even witnessed, Jesus’ baptism or His casting demons out of people.  He might have even considered the times when Jesus raised the dead back to life.  Perhaps he took in all this evidence and came to the conclusion that Jesus the Christ was indeed the Son of Almighty God.  And Joseph’s faith was exhibited outwardly by buying a piece of property and making a grave out of it so that the broken and blood-drained body of the Anointed One could be buried there for a few hours.

 

This action is certainly an example of how our faith should be lived out.  It should be put on display for the entire world to see, and not hidden in a bush.  Jesus, Himself, said that “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).  If we possess so great a salvation, how shall we escape the rebuking of God if we neglect to share it (Hebrews 2:3)?

 

Let us resurrect our faith from the dead this Easter season, and determine that we will share it out loud for all to see.

28
Mar
13

Profiles from the Resurrection: Nicodemus

Nicodemus is introduced in John 3 as a ruler of the Jews. He steals away in the middle of the night to come and acknowledge Jesus as a master (rabbi) and question Him about His teachings. Nicodemus undoubtedly comes at night so that he is not noticed by his fellow Pharisees, so he would not face ridicule. He tries to understand Jesus’ statements, asking “How can someone be born again,” and “How can these things be?”  After this, it seems that Nicodemus slips into the night, never to be seen again.

 

But if one pays careful attention to the Scripture, it is discovered that he does appear again.  Indeed, he shows up as he begins to “come out of the closet,” so to speak, when in John 7:50, he starts to defend Messiah to the Pharisees when they speak of trying Jesus.  Now, Nicodemus starts to face ridicule and rebuke for taking his stand.

 

Finally, we see Nicodemus taking a firm outward stand in John 19:39.  Along with Joseph of Arimatheaea, he takes the body of our Savior off the cross to embalm Him and bury Him.  This action likely would have him expelled as a ruler and Pharisee, as the Pharisees saw Jesus as “public enemy number one.”  However, it would seem that Nicodemus has come full circle in his faith.

 

Such seems to be the case for many true Christians.  We may have lingering doubts or questions in the beginning of our spiritual renewal as we search out answers.  Eventually, we test the waters a bit to see if our newfound faith is worth the persecution.  Finally, we should start to take a firm stand in our belief and conviction as we grow in the grace and wisdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Are we taking a stand on the solid rock, and proclaiming our faith for the entire world to see?




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