Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 18 August 21:
Luke 23:24 – “So Pilate decided….”
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) How could the Prince of Peace provoke so much divisiveness in the world? How could the God who is Love illicit such unloving responses from people by the mere mention of His name? Simply stated, everyone makes a decision about whether to follow Jesus and have peace, love, and joy or to reject Jesus and reject peace, love, and joy. Those who reject Jesus cannot live peaceably and joyfully and cannot truly love. So, in this world, you as a Christian can have peace, hope, joy, and love, but the unbelieving world around you will remain full of strife until Christ returns. The only unity we can have on this earth is unity among the believers (see John 17)
When the infant Jesus was brought to the temple to be blessed, Simeon prophesized, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)
How do you reconcile these words with Jesus’ sermon on the Mount — “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”? Jesus does not cause disunity; He exposes disunity between God and prideful, rebellious people, revealing the enmity they have for the Almighty. Because people have no peace with God, they can have no peace in their hearts and no peace between each other, though they may be very skilled at playing the role of a peaceful, loving person, the sort of person Jesus called a “hypocrite,” a word which means “stage actor.” The blessed peacemaker is the one who seeks peace with God for themselves and for others and is, first “poor in Spirit” (understanding they are spiritually bankrupt sinner before the Lord), mournful (truly sorry for having dishonored and offended God), “meek” (humble before the Lord and others and controlled by their humility), hungry and thirsty for righteousness (to be right with God), merciful (giving the grace to others they desire to receive themselves from God), and “pure in heart” (truly desiring to love God and others with no ulterior motives). (See The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:2-11) Peacemakers bring peace to those who would receive it but also naturally cause division among those who simply refuse peace, a choice they make to their own demise.
Division, strife and hatred are the fruit of individual decisions about Jesus – some will receive the Good News, repent and follow Jesus, and others won’t – “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13)
In today’s readings, we see many different responses to Jesus. Some saw Jesus as a threat to social order, domestic tranquility, and perhaps even national security and wanted Him silenced. (Luke 23:1-4) The priests viewed Him as a threat to their laws, traditions, and authority and wanted Him killed as a blasphemer. (Luke 23:4)
Herod was fascinated with Jesus but mocked Him and abused Him when Jesus didn’t meet Herod’s expectations. (Luke 23:6-11) While some viewed Jesus as a dangerous threat, both Herod and Pilate viewed Him as merely irrelevant, insignificant, and powerless – they considered Jesus and dismissed Him. However, the issue of what to do with Jesus wouldn’t go away – a decision had to be made. Pilate chose to appease the crowds.
As Jesus was being led to His crucifixion, a great multitude followed Him, some cursing Him and mocking Him and others “mourning and lamenting for him.” (Luke 23:27) The crowd was divided. Then, finally, we read about the two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus, one on His right and one on His left. One acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God and pleaded for His favor, and one didn’t. The criminals were divided in their opinions about Jesus, and they both made their choices, eternal choices.
The ultimate dividing question is, “Who is Jesus?” Everyone decides how they will respond to Jesus. Some will acknowledge Him as the Rock, the Cornerstone, while to others He will be a stumbling stone, a stone to be rejected. (1 Peter 2:1-10) There is no third option – “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) Some will be united in Christ, while others will be united against Him – “And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.” (Luke 23:12) Everyone takes a side in the great cosmic battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Choosing not to decide is really choosing to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior.
- 1 Kings 18:21 — And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
- Joshua 24:15 — And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
- Revelation 3:16 — So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
Jesus didn’t come “to give peace on earth,” but rather to give peace (reconciliation with God) to those who would accept Him as Lord and Savior – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) As stated above, a person accepts Christ as Lord and Savior or rejects Him – there is no third or middle option. The only reasonable and acceptable response to such an Almighty, Holy, Loving Sovereign is total worship, admiration, love, and obedience, anything less is simply cosmic treason. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) Having received the gift of love, joy, and peace through Christ, the Christian has been given both the opportunity and responsibility to abide in, live in, and walk in that love, joy, and peace, bearing the fruit of love, joy, and peace in this world to God’s glory. Any other response is a denial of the truth, which is the definition of insanity. If you find a Christian who lacks the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), you have found someone who has lost their mind – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) It is in the abiding, loving, and obeying where genuine faith is revealed.
- John 15:5, 8-17 — I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
- 1 John 3:9, 14 — No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
- 1 John 3:24 — Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
- 1 John 4:12 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
- 1 John 4:16 — So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- 2 John 1:9 — Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
- Galatians 5:22-25 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The world will not have peace until Christ returns, but you can experience peace and eternal life today, despite the brokenness of this world. Receive the love, joy, and peace of Christ, abide in it, and share it.
- Luke 24:36 — As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
- John 16:33 — I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
- John 20:19 — On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
- Romans 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Romans 15:13 — May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” (John 20:21) If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and have received peace with God through Him, you have been entrusted with the message of peace – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) Be faithful to the message and your ministry, understanding that not everyone will accept the Good News.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 August 21: Walk in peace and communicate peace with God through Jesus Christ.