Words for Life will be taking a wee break from Monday the 05th April 2021 till Sunday the 18th April 2021. Author
04 April 2021
In January 1968 there was a great storm in Central Scotland. In Glasgow, 9 people died. We lived 11 floors up in Broomhill and as we were getting ready for school all we could hear were sirens and bells (my memory). My father had got up really early and had gone to work so it was my mum that was taking me to Rosevale Street where my school was (Thornwood was being renovated).
My point is this, we hadn’t heard. We had slept through it. Half of Glasgow had been literally blown down. We walked to school with a neighbour telling us about people leaving the flats in the middle of the night in case it fell down (?). We were told to stay out of the flats in the afternoon as Ted Heath was landing in a helicopter on the roof of our flats and there were security issues and as we passed a friend's home in 555 Dumbarton Road, I noticed 6 long black bags being wheeled out in trolleys. My mother's neighbour's reaction that day was “ how could you possibly have missed that?”
Picture this scene from Luke. Two disciples walking back to Emmaus. What was the topic of their conversation? Were they talking about what happened at Calvary? Or were they talking about their friend who was no longer amongst them. Dejected and maybe confused they walked. A stranger behind them, walking in step, asks them “what's up?” They are surprised. How could he not know? Where had he been?
So they tell him. "This man that we speak of was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
You can hear it from their voices, their disappointment and their fear that maybe someone had stolen the body of their friend. But this stranger starts explaining to them. We read from Luke “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Still, they are not that sure and the stranger is about to leave. They ask him in for a meal
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.”
I wonder if they saw the wounds on his hands at this point. A light bulb moment.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Luke goes on to tell us, they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
Once they are all together it is confirmed that the Lord indeed has risen.
This journey saw the disciples go through a lot, they saw a lot and learned so much more. Perhaps they thought the journey had ended but it was only just beginning for them. Sinclair Ferguson ends his book by saying :
“The journey of Christ to Jerusalem led the journey of His gospel to the nations and to us. And now we are all on that journey we should pray that Jesus opens our minds to understand the scriptures more and that Jesus will move our hearts. Our hearts will burn with the thrill that we have a crucified Saviour who has risen from the dead and who is with us forever. And He surely is."
Thank you for your time this Lenten season
03 April 2021
Joseph of Arimathea - A man of mystery?
What do we know about Joseph Well, we know he was a “ good and righteous man” as well as being a member of the Sanhedrin (probably not popular or loyal as his loyalties were swayed to Jesus).
We also know that he was a rich man as he owned a tomb in Jerusalem.
So let's read Luke 23 : 50-56
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
So we see a picture emerging of a man who is very well connected to a group of people that are literally planning the downfall of Jesus. As he lurks in the shadows he must be waiting for the right time to show his loyalty to Jesus. So what does he do? Pay Jesus a compliment? Share his thoughts of this new Saviour? No, he asks for his body, he asks for the body of the most vilified man of the moment. You see he didn’t want Jesus to be thrown into a common grave and he knew by taking Jesus' body he was rendering himself spiritually “unclean” in the eyes of others. But this was important and it was a gesture that would make sure that we would all know the man called Joseph and what he did for his friend.
But what does this narrative show us? Well, we have proof here that Jesus dies and there was a body and it was passed to another to deal with. We know that Joseph prepared it for burial and carried it to the tomb.
Secondly, it highlights the whereabouts of the burial place. The tomb of Joseph. Finally, “no one was expecting the resurrection”. The women were preparing spices and ointments to return after the Sabbath to deal with the dead body of Jesus.
Sinclair Ferguson makes another great point. At the birth of Jesus, he was cared for by a man called Joseph who places him in a borrowed resting place where no baby had ever been placed.
After the crucifixion, Jesus is again tended by another Joseph who lays him in a borrowed resting place where no man had been placed before. The story has come full circle.
At the cross, Jesus had given up what was his for the sake of people like Joseph. Now Joseph was giving up what was his for the sake of Jesus. That’s what it means to be a good disciple.
The gospel is sometimes called “the great exchange” and as this Lenten period ends we should think of what we have exchanged through our belief and through our love for Jesus on the cross. Amen
02 April 2021
On the road, all through Lent, through the words of Luke we have met many people. Today it seems we come to the end of Christ's journey.
Luke 23 : 44-49
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
We have seen our Lord struggle, asking his Father to “take this cup” but on this Good Friday we see a confident Jesus “committing his spirit into his Father's care”
Sinclair Ferguson gives us some clues as to why this change took place.
We can see from the reading it was noon but there is a darkness that has shrouded the whole land for three hours. As well as a fact, we can see this as a sign. This is an event of “deep significance”. Ferguson tells us that there is no light and God's face no longer shone on the earth. Sinclair reminds us of Galatians “nature itself put on the dark clothes of mourning as Christ the creator was put to death by sinful men and on the cross came the curse of God.”
A second indication in verse 45 “the curtain of the temple was torn in two”. Of course this was a sign of grief, death and mourning, could it be that this was God's way of showing his grief in what he had to do? Ferguson hints that the temple curtain was now no longer the barrier between God and man and that there was a new way into his presence.
With his work now complete Jesus calls out “with a loud voice” Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, a reflection of psalm 31 v 5 “into your hand I commit my spirit." But notice now that Jesus is back to calling God “Father”. And just as he said this, he drew his last breath.
“There are many reasons to Love the Lord Jesus. Today express your love for him because for you and me he lived his entire life, moment by moment, in loving obedience to his Father - not least when it was the most difficult.”
01 April 2021
Luke 23 v 32, 39-43
Sinclair Ferguson in his book “To seek and serve” tells us something interesting. Luke spends 2 chapters on the first 12 years of Jesus' ministry and then 16 chapters on the next three years and then 6 chapters on Jesus' final week.
The thought being, that we are now looking at the end of Jesus frame by frame, slowly and purposefully. This is to enable us to meditate and take in the significance of what is going on. We are told that this part of the Gospel is “key” to the whole story.
Let's look at the reading
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I’ve said it before will say it again but the Bible is full of comparisons and opposites and here is another clear example.
Three men on crosses being crucified. Painful, tortuous and life taking.
One man is full of anger, you could say full of himself. He is almost saying, ”If you are who you say you are, get us all out of this mess,” “Aren't you the messiah?" You can almost hear the sarcasm in his voice.
But from the other side comes the opposite. Full of acceptance “we are punished justly”. Recognition "this man has done nothing wrong” and then he almost embraces Jesus “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”………….and then the reward “truly I tell you you will be with me in paradise.”
I wonder (and here I go again) I wonder after Jesus said this to the man, did he relax? Would people see the man suddenly change shape on the cross knowing that he would be following his friend to glory. I wonder if there was any witness there who would turn to their friend and say “I don’t know what Jesus said to that man but now look at his face…no pain…no tortured look…just peace.”
In his last dying minutes this man's heart has been transformed. Ferguson calls him the “first witness for the defence of the crucified."
And here comes that old chestnut "if you are being accused of being a Christian this easter, is there enough evidence to convict you?"
But I would rather leave you today with the words of a hymn that Aretha Franklin sings on her powerful album “Amazing Grace.”
There is power in the blood.
There is a fountain that I see
Filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel's vein
The sinners plunged beneath that blood
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains