Jesus on Trial (Part 2)

blp398239His name is Pilate, as in Pontius Pilate — P-i-l-a-t-e, not p-i-l-o-t — even though Pilate did manage to fly himself right into middle of a maelstrom of religious and political corruption and compromise with devastating consequences.

In this PODCAST, as we now approach Jesus’ impending crucifixion, the greatest irony of this entire sad saga is that the whole thing is motivated by one thing: self-interest.

As we learned in last week’s podcast, on the Jewish side of things, the entire motivation behind the High Priest Caiaphas and the 70-member Sanhedrin in wanting to kill Jesus was the realization that He posed an existential threat to their power, position, prestige, and possessions, all of them paid for with their obscene wealth and ill-gotten gains — the chief thieves, these religious leaders were, in a den of thieves. Which is what, on their watch, the Temple, The House, God’s House, “My Father’s House” (as Jesus called it), had become.

As we will learn this week, on Roman side of things, the spineless Pilate will collapse like the house of cards that he was because he feared losing his title and power as the Roman Governor of the province of Judea. All of this while killing a man who was utterly, totally, completely and absolutely selfless. Somoen who had not one strand of the DNA of self-interest woven anywhere in the fabric of His sizable soul.

We’re talking their willingness to murder a gentle, peaceable, innocent man — not to mention their Messiah — if that’s what it took to maintain their coveted positions.

Make no mistake about this — Pilate KNEW that Jesus was absolutely innocent, and yet sentenced Him to die anyway, in the most unimaginably barbaric, brazenly humiliating, excruciatingly torturous death ever devised by man.

You talk about Jesus looking out over a vast multitude of precious people with overwhelming compassion in His heart, while lamenting that they were like sheep without a shepherd? Well, these were their shepherds.

Shepherds both religious (Caiphas) and political (Pilate). Unprincipled men who unconscionably used and abused their helpless little lambs for their own personal gain.

Just like they do today. Religiously and Politically. It is today as it was then.

Well, last week we met their religious shepherds.

The time has now come for us to meet their political shepherds. Most specifically, Pontius Pilate, the man who has lived long in infamy as the man who caved to political pressure and who, against own convictions, sentenced Jesus to death.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Jesus on Trial

img_1855To say that after “they” — to quote the Apostle John — “bound Jesus and brought Him first to Annas,” Jesus’ life would never be the same again would be a gross understatement and wholly inaccurate.

Fact is, as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, only some 15 hours after this cohort of some six hundred elite Roman soldiers led Him away in chains, Jesus’ life would be over.

The Roman leader principally responsible for Jesus’ execution? The Procurator Pontius Pilate, whom we will meet up close and personal next week.

The Jewish leader principally responsible for Jesus’ execution, whom we will meet this week? The High Priest Joseph Caiaphas.

You read that right. At this point in time, Caiaphas was — Listen! — the highest ranking religious leader throughout all the land, over all the people.

As High Priest, Caiaphas was the only person alive permitted behind the veil in Temple into the Holy of Holies, and that on only one day of the year — Day of Atonement. The Holy of Holies, where God’s manifest presence — His Shekinah Glory — literally, visibly flamed and flashed… But.Not.Anymore.

Trust me. God moved out of His house long before Caiaphas ever donned the robe and put on the vestments of his high-but-now-highly corrupt, once-holy-but-now-utterly-unholy office.

Caiaphas, an unspeakably unscrupulous man about whom we know much historically. And one whom — in an odd sort of way — I almost feel like I know personally. I say this for two reasons.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Gethsemane


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They say that “one picture is worth a thousand words.”

Sometimes, on rare occasions, one word is worth a thousand pictures. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this is one of those occasions.

In this case, that one word is “Gethsemane.”

As in the Garden of Gethsemane, that very garden to which John referred when he wrote,

“On the other side (of the Kidron Valley) there was a garden, and Jesus and his disciples went into it.” 

I would not be overstating the case to suggest that everything you and I need to understand about the Gospel is contained in that one word all-telling, “Gethsemane.”

Gethsemane, ironically a place of peaceful repose, first pops up on our radar in Matthew’s account of this anything-but-peace-filled night. He wrote with no explanation,

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’”

garden-2No explanation was needed, at least for Matthew’s original readers. All would have been abundantly familiar with the modest-sized cultivated enclosure nestled snuggly into the base of the Mount of Olives. A scenic/welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem in general and the Temple complex in particular.

Now, courtesy of this podcast, let me take you there.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“Even Though He was One of the Twelve” (An Encore Podcast)

judas-pouch_200No matter how you cut it, this man was an enigma.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this man — handpicked by Jesus and elevated to the rarified air of the apostles — repaid Jesus’ generosity by betraying Him to His executioners.

Is there any human emotion more painful than that of betrayal? 

Ever felt it? Betrayal?

That midnight darkness of the soul that enshrouds us like an impenetrable fog when we have dared to trust someone — with our deepest feelings, our most hidden secrets, as if we have just entrusted to the person our very hearts, perhaps our very lives — only to have him or her shatter our hearts and break our trust by their soul-crushing betrayal.

Jesus sure felt it. The pangs of betrayal. Boy, did He ever!

That moment frozen in time when for the first time you see with crystal-clarity that you have been played.

Well, for 3½ years Jesus had been played. 

Where did this man — Judas Iscariot — come from? What causes a man to make the fateful plunge from believer to betrayer? What do we really know about him?

You are about to find out.

But even more importantly, you are about to see the heart of Jesus in action as He responds in real time to this real threat posed by this very real con-man, the Apostle Judas Iscariot. 

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

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A Very Merry Christmas (and So Much More!)

hanukkah-christmasIt’s Christmas Day!

And to our many precious Jewish friends, tonight, the night of December 25 marks the beginning of Hanukkah, 2016.

With that in mind, I thought it appropriate to take a little trip, to another time and place — specifically, to Jesus’ final Hanukkah mere months before His crucifixion.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, what is most remarkable to me is that Jesus went “up to Jerusalem” to celebrate this Hanukkah at great risk to His life. Why?

As John observed in John 10, it was winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem for what John calls the Feast of Dedication.

As we break seal on this story, we are now a mere four months from the crucifixion.

When we last left Jesus, He had just healed a man born blind following the Feast of Tabernacles in October. This led to a rather heated confrontation with the religious leaders who kicked the now-healed blind man out of synagogue and denied that this man was ever blind. When that didn’t work, because everyone in Jerusalem knew this formerly blind-beggar, they accused Jesus of healing Him in the power of Satan. The confusion caused by these Pharisees left the crowd reeling. Thus we read, “Many of them said (of Jesus), ‘He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”

That’s vs 21. And that happened in October. Next we read in verse 22, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.”

A full two months transpired between John 10:21 & 22. Indeed, after that heated and life-threatening exchange with the Jewish leaders, Jesus and His men got out of Dodge. Jesus needed to, since once again Pharisees wanted to kill Him.

So here’s my question: Why in the world, then, did Jesus risk returning to Jerusalem here in the Winter? Why did Jesus literally put His life at risk to be there?

The answer is profound.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Jesus’ Unanswered Prayer

christian-denominationsJesus’ final words here at the tail-end of the Upper Room Discourse connect directly with Jesus’ opening words at the very beginning of the Upper Room Discourse.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Jesus began His parting words to His disciples with this promise:

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

That is the beginning of John 14.

Jesus added one last exclamation point to it all with this parting prayer:

“Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.”

This at the end of John 17.

Jesus’ heartfelt emotion in this moment cannot be overstated.

These are the heartsick words of a smitten bride-groom about to leave His newly-betrothed bride. His bride with whom He is very much in love. His bride from whom He must now depart in order to — in the words of John 14 — return to His Father’s house to prepare the place where He and bride will dwell together forever.

It was back in Podcast #20, at the wedding at Cana, when I first clued you in that when Jesus, in John 14, promised to return to His followers, Jesus painted that promise in the portrait of a Jewish wedding. From the disciples’ point of view, in less than 24 hours, their bridegroom would indeed depart to His Father’s house in order to prepare a place for them.

You need to feel it, keenly so, that the dark cloud casting a dreary shadow over entire majestic Upper Room Discourse and Jesus’ glorious High Priestly Prayer is specter of Jesus’ immanent departure.

This is in every sense of the words high drama and intense — very human — emotion. On a couple of most-significant levels.

We are about to gaze directly into Jesus’ sizable soul. And what we are about to discover there is Jesus’ eager anticipation of a bridegroom (that will be fulfilled), coupled with His expression of an expectation that His newly-betrothed bride will historically, dramatically, and devastatingly fail to fulfill.

An unconscionable departure from what is clearly the plan, purpose, and will of God, for which the entire world is now paying a very high price. You talk about a clash/collision of contradictory emotions! Welcome to the world of Jesus.

Yes, this climax, this high water mark of this Upper Room Discourse is very much the very definition of high drama.

Now, just to give you a heads-up as to where we’re going tonight.

What you are about to see, in living color, in HD, in real time, is this:

  • When your prayers seemingly go unanswered…
  • When you cry out to God to fix a problem, heal a disease, restore a relationship knowing that such a fix/healing/restoration would meet with God’s approval, but your cries seem to fall on deaf ears…
  • When your faith faces a devastatingly deep disappointment, an unnecessary and totally avoidable set of circumstances, what should be an easily fixable situation into which God for whatever reason does not intervene and does not fix…
  • Know this: Jesus experienced, and continues to experience, all of that, His own disappointment to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom.
  • A devastating disappointment that breaks His heart even to this day. One that breaks His heart — Hear this — His own prayers about this very situation notwithstanding.

To be blunt: a singularly-important part of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer has yet to be answered, this after 2000 years and counting.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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THIS is Why!

whyamihere1-1-e1465685803614-425x218If you have ever asked yourself any of the age-old questions like…

  • What’s it all about?
  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose?

If you have ever asked yourself these or similar questions, then you are in for a treat in this latest PODCAST. Because in this podcast, you will get the answer to these most-important questions.

So let me start with a news-flash for you. One of considerable consequence. Yet one that you will not find to be surprising at all.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Of Slugs and Kings

creationNot to be clichéd! But if the words, “Mission Accomplished” ever meant anything to anyone in any situation, they absolutely apply here in John 17.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this is the moment, courtesy of John, now forever frozen in time.

The singular moment toward which all of human history, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, had been slowly but steadily building.

The seminal moment from which the remainder of human history, down to our present day, has been rapidly descending.

The consequential moment when Jesus could literally look up to Heaven and finally acknowledge,

“I brought glory to You here on earth by completing the work You gave me to do.”

Such mystery, such majesty, in these few words.

Indeed, a Mission — the Mission — Accomplished!

That mission that Jesus Himself defined when He said in referring to Himself,

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10).

Which, as you are about to learn, means far more than pulling people out of Hell. Indeed, infinitely more!

When the biblical writers, as well as Jesus, use the words “save” or “saved,” it means far more than whether we are going to Heaven or Hell when we die. Sadly, most of our Gospel-presentations focus almost exclusively on that locational / destinational dynamic.

However, a most compelling fact emerges from the first few words of Jesus’ prayer here in John 17.

As we are about to learn, if one’s view of his or her salvation centers primarily upon the notion that salvation is basically a “Get Out of Hell Free” card, we miss so much precious truth. So.Much.More than our finite minds can even begin fully to appreciate.

But try to appreciate it, we must.

So in an effort to appreciate it, let me take you on a bit of a journey, far back in time, to a faraway place, in order to show you where and why this journey originally began. All the way back to what is arguably the single most important verse in all of the Bible.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Jesus’ One Worry Concerning YOU (and Me)

john17-24On this Thursday night of Jesus’ final week, mere hours before the crucifixion, Jesus was worried about His disciples.

And as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, He was worried for a very good reason.

I don’t know if you have ever associated the word worry with Jesus, but as you will hear, in this case, at this time, in this place, that word worry is most appropriate.

Don’t worry (pun intended). I’m not trying to get all psychoanalytical on you. I am not fluent in psychobabble. And I’m not about to subject Jesus to a psychoanalysis.

But let us not overlook the fact that this is one of those rare glimpses into Jesus’ mind and heart on this — the single most traumatic night of His storied life.

What we see is a most-endearing picture of Jesus in all of His humanness on full display before disciples. I say endearing because the fact of the matter is this:

Jesus is equally worried about you. And that for the exact same Very.Good.Reason.

So what did Jesus do in response to His loving concern, His worry, His anxiety about His disciples? His loving concern, His worry, His anxiety about you?

Here’s a hint: What He did was AMAZING!

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine (and ALWAYS will be!)

unnamed-2Get yourself ready for a massive dose of encouragement.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, it’s amazing to me how a couple of significant storylines are coming full circle with Jesus’ words John 15.

Specifically, last week we saw how Jesus’ assertion, “I am the vine,” is final of Jesus’ seven “I Am” statements recorded in the Gospel of John.

Now, for this discussion, here’s a Bible Trivia Question for you:

What was the very first parable that Jesus taught as recorded in the Gospels?

I’ll give you a couple of hints:

1. It’s found in Mark 2.

2. It’s a parable about a new day coming, the Messianic Age dawning, a day that began in Bethlehem, a day filled with bright hopes and blazing anticipation.

A part of that first parable goes like this: Jesus said,

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

New wine, symbolic of a new day, a great day, a beautiful day, a day of God’s bountiful blessing. A day of God’s abundant blessings of which you, and all of God’s people, are now the recipients.

How appropriate then that Jesus’ teaching ministry was bookended by two parables, both of which centering upon that singular Scriptural image: the fruit of the vine.

That first parable coming, in Mark 2, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This final parable, here in John 15, that Jesus began with the word,

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

As you are about to hear, that metaphor, the fruit of the vine, was not chosen arbitrarily. It is loaded with copious amounts of Scriptural significance that speaks directly to your life today.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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