31 March 2021
Easter holidays are upon us soon and we might look to the TV screens of our annual dose of Easter movies. The Robe, Ben Hur, The Greatest story ever told, Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth and if you are really brave, the latest of these movies, The Passion.
What is your preference, if any, of these movies? And what is it that attracts you to them?
Still on the journey, still meeting people on the journey.
Luke 23 27-31
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Jesus will say more as he ends his life but this is his last public address. They are on their way to a place called the Skull and there is a mixed reaction to Jesus. Some mock while others mourn and wail for him. Jesus has a warning for them and that is to “be aware”.
If this is what they do to the innocent Jesus what will happen to those who are guilty of rejecting him?
Stern words maybe, but perhaps there would be some in the crowd that would not understand what he means.
Sinclair Ferguson tells us in his book that what the women needed to know was “that they had misunderstood the fact that Jesus was carrying the sins of the world and the judgement of God.
Ferguson goes on to remind us that there is a danger in having an overly sentimental view of the cross, stirring up sadness and an almost film director's cut of a large scale, old fashioned Easter movie.
Later film depictions of Calvary like that of The Passion focus very much on the horror of Calvary especially focusing on Jesus.
Mr. Ferguson ends this chapter by suggesting that you should consider running to Jesus as he is your hiding place, but which Jesus? The Hollywood version or the true version. Truth always prevails each and every time.
30 March 2021
A chance encounter
Chance encounters can change your life, they can be as bad as they can be nice, frightening and exciting. Meeting someone “by chance” can be a life changer.
In my case. If Agnes Atkinson had not fallen off the bus and broken her ankle, she would never have given me her Cliff Richard ticket. Had I not gone to see Cliff I would never have gone home via Church Street in Partick and I would never have met the Rev John Jolly. I would never have gone into his church and would never have joined the Boys Brigade once again at 20 or met my wife and I would never have met friends that I now call my family. Chance encounters are out there?
Luke 23 v 26 “As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”
A chance encounter with Simon of Cyrene which is modern day Libya. Minding his own business walking into Jerusalem perhaps on a pilgrimage to celebrate Passover, we don’t know that much about him. Chance encounters the Roman execution squad and he finds himself “conscripted” to carry the cross for one of the three being crucified. The condemned man was badly beaten, so badly he cannot carry the cross himself. Simon finds himself walking behind Jesus, walking the road to Calvary “in the footsteps of Jesus”
Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that it is a dramatic representation of the words of Luke in 14v27 if you are going to be a disciple of Jesus you have to take up his cross daily and follow him.
Ferguson goes on later to suggest that Alexander and Rufus were the sons of this Simon of Cyrene and it was Rufus whom Paul describes in Romans 16:13 as “chosen in the Lord” and whose mother was “a mother to me as well”. So perhaps this encounter changed other lives and brought others to God.
The early church was built with one chance encounter leading to another. One person becomes the link in a bigger chain that brings everyone to the church. But of course you might be like me and think that there is no such thing as a chance encounter. It's all a part of life's rich tapestry planned and laid out by God himself. Not so much a chance encounter but God's encounter.
29 March 2021
Luke 23 6-12
Facing the challenge, bearing the pain.
Recently it came to me that sometimes you just have to get on with it. People may annoy you, even make you angry. Circumstances may bring you to your knees with emotional pain and even fear. Barriers appear and can hold you back. Personal circumstances can be debilitating and I have to admit it's difficult to understand when we are told that it's all part of our Christian journey. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that it's all part of our salvation and it happens for a purpose. Let's read our passage for today. Luke 23 :
“On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this, they had been enemies.”
The son of God is not having it easy. The humiliation of Jesus goes on.
Passed from pillar to post. Treated like a source of entertainment by Herod the final insult was the mocking and the insults, dressed in an expensive robe they sent him back to Pilate. And the only thing that seemed to come out of this was “Herod and Pilate became friends.”
Over and over again we are reminded about the humanity of Christ. He suffered all the things that we can suffer while walking this earth and up to this point there was no intervention from his father in heaven.
Here he was confronted by “King” Herod, he is the son of the Herod who killed all the babies at the time of Jesus' birth. Here is the man who ordered the beheading of Jesus' friend John the Baptist. Here is Herod who has been lurking for years in the background perhaps with the thought in his head, “I’ll get Jesus eventually, don’t you worry!”
The humanity of Christ is important here. It would have been so easy for Jesus to perform a miracle and please Herod. Would he have let Jesus go? Would Jesus then escape the cross? Would he live longer and perhaps not rise from the dead three days later. Would the prophets be ignored?
God had a plan for Jesus and while it's easy for us to see what that was and why that was, perhaps at the time there would have been more questions than answers. God has a plan for us and again it might be difficult to understand but we have to carry that burden if it's there, we have to crash that barrier if we are able.
Christ was a man crucified, he suffered all the pain and sorrow that we have felt and that we still feel. As he hung on the cross, as he suffered the humiliation, it was all for us. God's plan and the Son's suffering for you and me.
A thought for the day. What barriers do we come across and what do we learn from them? Can we pray about them? Can we learn from them?
28 March 2021
Staying with Barabbas
As we make our way into Holy week I thought today we would stay with Barabbas. I’ve said this before but I like to know more about the characters in the Bible, more than is given but of course there is a danger then of fictionalising the gospel. But there is so much more we can learn from this man who escaped the cross. And you could say we take him for granted as a Calvary character.
We know that he is a murderer (Acts 3:14) facing a death sentence, but through divine providence he (Barabbas) is set free and Jesus Christ, who is innocent, submitted to die in place of Barabbas
The saving of Barabbas’s life by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a graphic reminder of the love of God. The cross was made for this murderous criminal, but God spared his life by the sacrifice of Jesus. ( now does that ring a bell?)
Like Barabbas, we are all sinners, but Christ died for us.
In effect, when we read the crucifixion story, we should realize that we were like Barabbas, steeped in sin, condemned to death, and just like him we are let go by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (who took not only Barabbas’ place in the Cross but also ours).
Yes, Barabbas was set free, but what happened to him next? Only God can tell! But it could be possible, like some have speculated, that he went to Golgotha and watched the Lord Jesus die on the Cross, that is to say, he identified with the death of Christ but did he receive salvation?
So there you have it, an important figure in the Easter story. Even Barabbas had a place in this story as he had to escape the cross in order that Jesus might fulfill the prophets. This Easter as we come into Holy Week we must not escape the cross, we must embrace and cherish what it stands for as we move forward. And, dare I say it, after the year that we have had, there is no better reason to say out loud, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.” Amen
27 March 2021
Luke 23 v1-5 and 13-25
Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”
3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 
18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
And so the story continues and this time you could be forgiven for thinking this is a shift to focus on Pilate or even Herod but today I would like to look at the guy who had the escape of all escapes, Barrabas.
Was Pilate a coward when he said “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” Was he disappointed that Herod had not acted upon Jesus instead of sending him back to answer the charges. For someone that was causing so many difficulties not one person wants to take a decision. “Therefore I will punish him and then release him,” Pilate announces.
But the crowds were having none of it. They wanted Barabbas released and Jesus crucified in his place. Barabbas had a string of charges for insurrection and the penalty was crucifiction. Barabbus did nothing to earn his pardon but the lesson here is that with God you don't need to earn your pardon. Salvation can't be earned and it can't be bought all you have to do is recognise that God offers it freely. Pardon is granted, slate is wiped clean.
And think about this for just one minute. Jesus literally died for Barabbas.
I wonder if Barabbas stayed on at Calvary and did he look up at Jesus on the cross and did he think, “that should have been me?” “This man is dying in my place.” Did he feel any gratitude?
And the irony here too is that ironically, Barabbas' name means “son of the father.”
The journey we have embarked upon tells us that it was the real son who suffered and died on the cross.
As we enter Holy Week our journey through Luke is coming to an end but for the son of man, our friend and saviour Jesus Christ there is no end but only new beginnings................ Amen
26 March 2021
Luke 22 66-71
Jesus Before Pilate and Herod
66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You say that I am.”
71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
John tells us so much more of what they did to Jesus where Luke tends to leave it out.
The temple guards and the soldiers have all had a go at Jesus, mocking him, denying him and beating him.
Sinclair Ferguson tells us that in a wonderful way the central message of the gospel is woven into these actions which are intended to destroy our Lord.
The Sanhedrin were offended by what Jesus stood for and when they asked him who he was, Jesus realised that they were setting a trap for him “If I tell you, you will not believe and if I ask you, you will not answer.” But then Jesus warns them “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Of course, they are furious and retort “are you the Son of God then?” Again trying to trick Jesus and at the same time admitting that he is. Now the gloves are off.
Sinclair Ferguson asks us to consider the words of the hymn Man of Sorrows and asks us to reflect on and consider the words :
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Man of Sorrows
"Man of Sorrows,” what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full redemption—can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high;
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
When He comes, our glorious King,
To His kingdom us to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
25 March 2021
Luke 22 : 47-53, 63-65
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him.64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.
Do you remember earlier I used the quote “Satan entered Judas”? Now we are seeing the evidence of this. These fools do not know that the man standing before them is the prophet promised by Moses. Not only do they not recognise him but they start to play games with him and underline the fact that Jesus is the “suffering servant” talked about in Isaiah.
Jesus wants no more drama, he even questions why they have come with swords and clubs so they begin mocking him. They beat him and they blindfold him and almost begin a guessing game, “so guess who hit you then? OK, Prophet entertain us!” But nobody listens and they carry on.
Ferguson finishes this chapter by asking us to consider, if we were to be witnesses of this scene, how should we react? How do we feel about the taunting and the abuse that is served upon our Lord and Master?
We finish this off today with the prophetic words of Isaiah 53 and the message translation
He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
The journey continues and the cross is waiting. Amen
24 March 2021
“no man feared death like this man” Martin Luther
It's arguable that Jesus Christ Superstar is a great musical but you cannot get away from the fact that the lyrics to some of the songs are extremely thought provoking. My favourite is “Gethsemane” and the lyrics are :
I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don't want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me
I have changed
I'm not as sure, as when we started
Then, I was inspired
Now, I'm sad and tired
Listen, surely I've exceeded expectations
Tried for three years, seems like thirty
Could you ask as much from any other man?
But if I die
See the saga through and do the things you ask of me,
Let them hate me, hit me, hurt me, nail me to their tree
I'd want to know, I'd want to know, my God
I'd want to know, I'd want to know, my God
Want to see, I'd want to see, my God
Want to see, I'd want to see, my God
Now let's read Luke 22 39-46
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Jesus now sees his journey's end, and it's clearer than ever. If we are to be saved the son must be alienated from the father. Every human emotion is being played out as naturally as can be. Luke, the physician by training, is unique in the way he describes the scene and the impact that it is all having on his Master and his friend as he talks of “sweat like drops of blood falling to the floor."
Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that Alexander Whyte, a famous Scottish Preacher, said that “once he had seen the Lord Jesus in glory he would next want to meet the angel who came to strengthen him in the garden of Gethsemane. For this angel was the only witness on the earth at the moment our saviour contemplated the agony he would endure for our sake.
Hallelujah. What a Saviour!
23 March 2021
Every time the disciples are named in the gospels it's always Peter's name that comes first. When they are talking about “the three” it's always Peter, James and John.
Sinclair Ferguson mentions that it was Peter who would “take the keys out of his pocket” on the day of Pentecost and unlock the door of the kingdom.
Let's read luke 22 31-38
31 ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
33 But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’34 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’
35 Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’ ‘Nothing,’ they answered.
36 He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: “And he was numbered with the transgressors”[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.’
38 The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’
‘That’s enough!’ he replied.
Satan had already got to “the keeper of the purse strings” Judas. Would Simon Peter be next? Would Satan be able to separate the chaff from the wheat? Peter is adamant “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” But he didn’t need to do that. While the others would scatter, we now know that Peter would deny he knew Jesus (perhaps the cruelest blow to Jesus at that time). So how did that affect Jesus and his relationship with Peter? Jesus tells him “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’”
It's almost as if Jesus is saying “when you get over this, and you will get over this you will lead by example and strengthen the rest of the band.”
This is one of the mysteries of the providence of God. Despite the failures, the denials and the abandonment God is able to make all things work for the good and for those who love him. When we look back, all the bad stuff will not matter. Failure is not final when Jesus is on your side. Amen
22 March 2021
Luke reminds us that on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus had discussed with Moses and Elijah his “departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”
The Greek word Luke used, translates “departure” as “exodus”. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that this exodus was not the one of Pharaoh & Egypt but of Satan and Sin. Let's read today's scripture :
LUKE 22 7-23
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
How many years have you tasted the bread and sipped the wine of communion in your church?. Do you miss it? Of course you do! The other week I scoffed when I saw that some churches were buying little sealed disposable containers, two compartments, one with a tiny square of bread and literally a sip of wine. Two things then happened. A wise man said to me “it's maybe the way we will need to go with virtual communion being watched on DVD or Youtube." Still inside my head I still scoffed “but it will never be the same” I thought.
Then I read the all too familiar words, And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. This do in remembrance of me” (you can almost close your eyes these words are so familiar).
Jesus had celebrated Passover many many times. He had tasted it. He experienced it but now it was different this time.
He would “experience the bitterness of sin, he would become the sacrificial lamb and would give his life as bread for the world”
21 March 2021
John 12 20-33 from The Message
20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”
22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honour and reward anyone who serves me.
27-28 “Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”
A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”
29 The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”
Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”
30-33 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.
Sometimes I think that my lack of “wordiness” lets me down but I would say that this reading shows a very “human side” of Jesus. How is he feeling at this point in time? Is he hiding away in retreat? Why couldn’t the Greeks get immediate access to him? Were the disciples protecting him? But when we look at this translation of John we read in verse 22 “Times up!” says Jesus. To me, he is almost saying to his disciple “the time is right! let's get this show on the road.” He then gives them another illustration to explain the road ahead for everyone.
By giving them this illustration he is really saying it's not about the seed, it's about the harvest of the seed. It's about bringing in the harvest again and again and again. A book I have read called “`Knowing Jesus” explains this in a wonderful way and I give you this quote from the book :
A single grain of wheat has within itself a germ of life, which has the capacity to become abundantly fruitful. However, that ordinary, little seed cannot increase and multiply, while it is sitting inside a sack of corn. One single little grain of wheat has the tremendous potential to be incredibly productive. However, without first falling into the ground - alone, and then dying.. it is incapable of bringing forth any fruit.
Jesus was the heavenly example of a single grain of wheat, falling into the ground and dying - in order to bring forth an abundant harvest, to the glory of God. There was no other way to redeem a lost world, other than Christ... the one single, perfect Seed, in whom resides life eternal, 'falling into the earth, alone'. He died in our place, by shedding His life blood on the cross, and took the sin of the world upon His shoulders.
That single Seed of the Lord rose again, bringing many sons and daughters to glory and producing the rich harvest of a multitude of believers - a fruitful harvest that spans 2000 years of history.
We, who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, have within us the life of Christ, which can become abundantly fruitful when we live our lives like him. Amen
20 March 2021
Luke 22 1-6
22 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
Timing is everything here. The Passover is about to start and Jesus must be delivered up to his enemies. But when? Nobody wants Passover spoiled and the priests and teachers are not that confident.
4 words in verse 3, “Then Satan entered Judas"
Remember Judas was the group's treasurer, he was trusted with the finances but was he too greedy? Would he rather have 30 pieces of silver than Jesus? Was the desire for other things choking the goodness of following Christ? (remember the rich from yesterday's story?)
In the parable of the sower it was highlighted to us in Mark 4 “19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” And now for 30 bits of precious metal Judas will hand over his beloved friend and master, but why?
4 words in verse 3 “Then Satan entered Judas,” you see his heart was empty. There was nothing of God in there at all but there was plenty of room for Satan.
Backsliding is a terrible thing and we must never “spring clean” all the good stuff and the happy memories. We have missed our churches for more than a year, maybe we have cleaned out God to make room for all the stuff that we have brought in with the pandemic. As we follow Jesus to Calvary let's make sure our hearts are open to this redemption story, no room for the darkness. Let's fill our hearts with the light. Amen
19 March 2021
Luke 20 v46-21: 4
It always bugs me when you hear about footballers that get fined. “Wow, £10,000,” but when you compare the fine to their income and their bonuses it's more than likely a drop in the bucket. I use that comparison to illustrate the rich folk in our reading for today as Jesus warns his followers.
46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
He is highlighting the performance element of their giving, the way they dress, where they sit and the lengthy prayers that they insist on “performing.” But in the shadows someone is lurking, trying perhaps to be unnoticed but someone sees her. Jesus.
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The point that Jesus is making here that by his calculus the widow gave everything that she had and did not keep anything back for herself. You could say that the rich gave an abundance............ but they still had plenty.
The crux is the rich think of themselves when giving, they give in terms of what they have left for themselves and how they like to live. The widow thought in terms of giving everything she had to the Lord ............even if she had nothing left for herself.
In his book “Seek and Serve” Sinclair Ferguson says that “the real issue here is not about money, it’s about the heart and too often our money sticks to our heart.
This is a wonderful story and even more wonderful that Jesus noticed the poor widow give everything that she had. For at the end of this journey and at the end of this week Jesus would be giving everything he had as well. In a story of comparisons Jesus and the widow find that they have so much more in common on that occasion.
18 March 2021
A personal note
A year ago today it was apparent to me (and the rest of the world) that things were becoming more and more bizarre. There was talk of a lockdown. I watched a programme about the Cheltenham Festival and was intrigued why it should not go ahead. I heard from an old colleague who had been at a function in Edinburgh and was now in intensive care in a tropical disease ward, his family were told to stay away. A long story cut short, I decided that I would start a bible study/reflection online and put it on Facebook. The FB page would become “Words for Life”.
On this day one year ago I asked the lovely Nimmi if she was happy to put my ramblings on the church website. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement and I thought I’ll do this for a couple of weeks until all of this uncertainty blows over.
Fast forward one year and we are still here. The reading, one year ago was from Ephesians and the words for life was as follows :
“These are strange times indeed as we are about to close our places of worship and cease meeting in public places. A once in a generation occurrence. The words of Paul teach us so much in every circumstance but today let us remember three things.
“We are all members of one body” and no one should be excluded. Young, old, infirm lonely and vulnerable and yes, the anxious. We should be looking for ways to remind them that they are all still members of one body, The Church Of Christ. Even though we are not meeting we should be thinking, praying and reaching out.
The second thing is “do not give the devil a foothold”. No one should take advantage of these strange days. Faith, hope and love should be on the menu at all times and we should remember that when dealing with each other.
And finally “Be kind and compassionate. Look to those we usually ignore, give an ear to those who need to talk and smile. It’s so easy to share The light while others are in darkness. Amen
We have all been through a lot in the past 52 weeks and we have all learned a lot. But I think the most important thing is that in the past year we have learned to appreciate what we have.
John Wesley famously said :
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
I would like to consider today all the lives that have been changed by the pandemic. All the lives that have been lost by the pandemic. And all the people who have relentlessly and doggedly worked through the pandemic saving lives, caring for the sick, tending the elderly and teaching the young. And today we pray for where we find ourselves.
Please consider this prayer
Our Heavenly Father, we come to you this morning, giving you thanks for your presence with us again. We are aware Father that some days are more significant than others - maybe because we are celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, or we are reflecting on a personal or national event. We know too Father that, whilst there are some events which we are happy to celebrate, there are others we would rather forget!
This week is the first anniversary since the start of the pandemic in this country and we would all agree that it has been a year that none of us could have envisaged when we think of the constraints which have been placed on our lives as well as the devastating impact of the virus has had on so many people both here and in the wider world.
Like so often when major disasters happen, we are faced with an opportunity to think on our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus as well as giving us opportunities to show that same faith and trust to the wider world - regardless of what is going on. We know that we, as your children, have had ample opportunity to do that, and we give you thanks for your presence with us. We give thanks, too, for the many people - medical and ancillary staff in our hospitals who have cared for the sick and dying, police and fire service personnel who go to work every day to keep us safe, the farmers and fishermen; people who work in factories and shops, as well as transport workers who have worked so hard to keep us fed. We are so appreciative of where we live where we can see the beauty of your creation - these things enrich our lives and we pray that we may never take these things for granted but show our gratitude to You, the giver of all.
Father, whilst we thank You for what we have, we are aware that there are lots of people in our world whose lives are so different from ours - because they live in countries where they are oppressed and others who live in countries where there is conflict. All this, as well as dealing with the devastating effects of the virus - Father, we pray for all the staff who work with the Aid Agencies, some of whom work in dangerous situations in order to bring help and relief to the most needy and vulnerable. May they continue to be able to show the light and love of Jesus, bringing help and healing in the most difficult of situations - Amen
17 March 2021
Luke 20 1-8
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Yesterday I touched on the “authority” that Jesus showed and today that authority is questioned in our reading. The chief priests are probably Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas. Here we have a picture of two opposites. On the one hand we have Jesus and his friends, constantly on the road moving around perhaps not the best dressed in the temple. Then on the other hand we have the complete opposite in the high priests and all their fancy garb and no doubt surrounded by their sycophants attending to their every need.
But then comes the “curve ball”. They asked him “who gives you the authority?” Jesus is careful here, if he answers them they will accuse him of all sorts. "Pretending to be the son of God?"
Sinclair Ferguson tells us theoretically maybe Jesus was thinking about Proverbs 26 v 4&5
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
And he says this because of the “curve ball” Jesus answered the question by giving a question He asks “John’s baptism? —was it from heaven, or of human origin?” He's almost saying to them "anything you can do I can do better."
You see they were trying to get Jesus to incriminate himself and he turns the whole situation around on them! Would they incriminate themselves? “Jesus didn’t answer the question, he answered the questioner.”
Again Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that we as Christians must listen to those who question us and not just their questions. In Matthew, we learned that we must recognise pigs, wolves and false sheep and those who try to test us with their questions on our faith and our saviour.
“What is the answer to this question and why is the person asking it?”
In other words, “what would Jesus do?”
The journey with Luke teaches a lot, there have been questions and the authority of Jesus and the scriptures have been doubted but the journey is soon to come to an end.
16 March 2021
“ Do you know anyone that can get their hands on a donkey?”
That was the question that was asked by my minister around 40 years ago. The Rev Jolly had an idea that we would parade around Partick with daffodils on Easter Sunday handing them out.” Wouldn’t it be great though if we had a donkey?” He had a twinkle in his eye when he said that but mind you, he had that twinkle 24/7. I'm glad to report no donkey was acquired or harmed while we marched around the west end of Glasgow.
Luke 19 28-48
Jesus comes to Jerusalem as king
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’
34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’
Jesus at the temple
45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘“My house will be a house of prayer”[c]; but you have made it “a den of robbers”.[d]’
47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
Sinclair Ferguson calls this story of Christ on the Colt “enigmatic” but I think the story shows that things are beginning to fall into place. Jesus tells two disciples to go into the village where they will find a donkey that’s never been broken in. Seated on the donkey Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Everything about this picture shows authority. He sends two disciples into the village where he knows there will be a colt. Not just any colt but one that has not been broken in. Seated on the colt, Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Ferguson reminds us that Adam lost authority over all animals in the Garden of Eden but now Jesus has authority over this animal. And now the crowd cry out :
a Psalm associated with Passover “save us we pray Hosanna Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
But the picture changes, Jesus weeps. Sinclair Ferguson mentions “weep, means more than cry." It is deep, painful, distressed tears. As lambs were being prepared for the Passover all over the country, the lamb of God was being prepared for his own sacrifice and in doing so he would take away the sins of the world.
So Jesus speaks with authority as he comes as God's prophet, he arrives with authority on top of a donkey even authorised by the crowd as the Passover lamb and finally “he drives out the profiteers from the temple. Authority to exercise the holy ministry of God's priest in the house.”
Even today it remains so. He continues to speak God's word to us through the scriptures. He continues to save us from ourselves and sin and he still restores God's rule in our lives. The journey to Calvary is ongoing the end is in sight.
“ Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”
15 March 2021
Luke 19 1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
We read that Jesus’ journey is almost at an end and Luke is erecting some signposts to tell us that the destination is in sight.
Zacchaeus would not have been a “popular” figure in the neighbourhood, he would be looked upon as a man who took away people's money and took a cut for himself. But interestingly, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that the story is actually more about Jesus but just using Zacchaeus as an example for this lesson.
We go straight to verse 10 ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ And this is exactly what’s happening here. Poor Zacchaeus (probably very rich Zacchaeus?) was disparaged, often included in the same breath as sinners and understandable why he would have to climb a tree to see Jesus, nobody would budge for such a hated figure as him.
Why did a chief tax collector want to see him? Go to chapter 5 of Luke for the answer. It's there we read :
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’
31 Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’
So maybe in another world, Zacchaeus would have been at the great banquet and had seen the effect that Jesus had on Levi, maybe Zacchaeus identified with the last verse and felt that he was a sinner and this was way out of the life he did not like.
So we know that Zacchaeus had become a real believer, a repenting believer and that would mean giving back fourfold what he owed and giving half of his goods to the poor.
“Salvation up a tree”. Jesus was seeking the lost, he knew where to look for him and found him.
Thought for the day today is all about “allowing yourself to be found” and searching for that life that Zacchaeus wanted.
14 March 2021
We take some time out today from Luke and Sinclair Ferguson for Mothering Sunday.
Today’s reading is John 3 v 16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. We should never tire of this verse, we cannot see it too many times as it is the very being of our faith. What can we say about it today?
Today is Mothering Sunday, a time to be spoiled if you are a mother, a time to spoil if you have a mother and a time to remember if your mother is no longer among us.
I hate to be cheesy, but when I think of John 3v16 in terms of Mothering Sunday I can reflect on my mother's “giving”. We didn’t have the most emotionally giving mum but she loved us and made sure we never went without. Birthdays and Christmases were awash with gifts and a holiday every year, which was more than some of my friends at school. And in a very direct way, it was my mother that showed me the church. She went every Sunday, meeting her friends in the University Café for coffee before the service and staying behind to clear up when most folk had long gone. I walked into Old Partick Parish because it was my mother’s church and it was familiar to me (other than that I would have run a mile).
But there must be thousands and thousands of people who have never felt love. There must be millions of people who could never understand the love that God had for his son Jesus that he would give him up to us on a cross. People today need hope. Max Lucado tells us that John 3:16 is a twenty-six word parade of hope: beginning with God, ending with life, and urging us to do the same. Brief enough to write on a napkin or memorize in a moment, yet solid enough to weather two thousand years of storms and questions. If you know nothing of the Bible, start here. If you know everything in the Bible, return here. We all need the reminder. The heart of the human problem is the heart of the human. And God’s treatment is prescribed in John 3:16.
So as we enjoy Mothering Sunday and the love and the gifts that it all entails, enjoy it, you deserve it. You’ve worked hard for it and no doubt sacrificed a lot for it. It's your day.
But if you are not celebrating today there is always a gift for you. Remembering God's love for his son and what he sacrificed.
I leave the last words to Max Lucado again :
“The same hand that stilled the seas stills your fear.
The same hand that cleansed the Temple cleanses your heart.
The hand is the hand of God.
The nail is the nail of God.
And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you.”
13 March 2021
The blind beggar
Luke 18 35-43 ( the message)
35-37 A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts. When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. They told him, “Jesus the Nazarene is going by.”
38 He yelled, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
39 Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
40 Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, “What do you want from me?”
41 He said, “Master, I want to see again.”
42-43 Jesus said, “Go ahead—see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!” The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing—and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.
Sinclair Ferguson puts a great slant on this story talking about the blind man (we know he is called Bartimaeus from the gospel of Mark).
We all know that most blind people have heightened senses and he would have detected the buzz going around Jericho at that time. “What’s happening? Who's coming?” It is clear that Bartimaeus knows about Jesus….. calling him out “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
They tried to shut him up but that just made him all the louder. So why did Jesus ask for him to be brought out of the crowd? Was it because this blind beggar knew that Jesus was the promised messiah or was it simply because he asked for mercy?
Whatever it was, “Bartimaeus had the spiritual vision to see what Jesus was, he had the faith to believe what Jesus could do and the courage to overcome his problem and cry out for mercy.”
We know the joy that Bartimaeus felt when his sight was recovered and he immediately followed Christ and glorified God. But notice the crowd who looked on? ”Everyone in the street joined in shouting praise to God.” They learned more about Jesus and they accepted the new Bartimaeus
We can all learn from Bartimaeus. When we feel that we are spiritually blind we should call out to the Lord and pray that we can see the kingdom of God and put more trust in Christ, calling out to him for mercy.
Sometimes it takes only one person trusting in Jesus to impact a whole crowd and we can be that person today and everyday. Bartimeaus's life was changed and Christ 2000 years later is still changing lives and he is still making the deaf hear and the blind see. Amen
12 March 2021
For me there is always a point when I am listening to a sermon that I begin to think “Oh they are talking about me?” Sometimes even I think to myself “phew! That’s not me they are talking about" (I’m usually wrong) but my point is that when listening to a sermon it’s an easy trap to fall into when you think, “I am doing everything that the minister is saying so I am a good person.”
During this journey in Lent we seem to be meeting people with questions and today is no exception.
Luke 18 18-30
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.’
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
The attitude of the young man is confident at first. Jesus mentions five of the Ten Commandments and immediately the boy says “I have kept all of these since I was a boy”. Then comes the killer command. “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The spectators around are confused “who? Then can I be saved?” Jesus gives them the answer that “what is impossible with man is possible with God''. The lesson here is salvation doesn’t come through human endeavour. It is not automatic depending on how good you are. Even good people need salvation.
Good people are saved by giving up the trust in their own goodness, their own human goodness. More importantly human goodness can never compare with the goodness that comes from Jesus Christ. Good people need to put down the shackles and embrace the goodness that can come through salvation with Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “and you won’t regret it. No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children—whatever—will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!”
11 March 2021
One of the things I have noticed travelling round various churches is that I learn so much through children’s talks and from the children themselves. There is something refreshing about the innocence of children and their handling of the stories in the Bible. Most times they don’t hold back in their answers and their attitude to the characters and lessons.
Luke 18 Jesus is confronted with the many children coming to him. We read in Luke. “15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
There’s a story about a missionary to Africa back in the 1950s who was appalled when she saw the native children at recess not run and play, but rather hunt mice and grasshoppers. They would impale them on a stick and roast and eat them. When she inquired as to why the children were so hungry, she found out that in that culture, the men ate their fill first, followed by the women. If anything was left, the children could eat. The children were considered the least important in that society.
How unlike Jesus! He considered children important enough to give them His time and individual blessing. He wants us to learn from children what it means to believe in Him. He wants us to lead children to faith in Him.
Today's reading teaches us several things
1. Firstly children need to be brought to Jesus. We all know that adults need to be brought to Jesus, but with children we tend to think, “They’re just kids. They’ve got plenty of time. Besides, how much can they understand? You can easily convince a child to say yes to the gospel, but how can you know if their conversion is real? Let’s concentrate on the adults.” But Jesus didn’t agree with that kind of thinking. He told the disciples, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Studies show that the vast majority (90% or more) who trust Christ as Savior do so before age 20. That shouldn’t make us stop trying to win adults to Christ, but it should encourage us to reach children.
Secondly, we can bring children to faith by living our own faith in front of them. These parents had to believe in Jesus personally in order to bring their children to Him. They would have had to avoid the local Pharisees, who would have hindered them. But these fathers and mothers had enough personal faith to bring their children to receive this blessing from Jesus.
Thirdly, we can only bring children by actively working with them. The fact that Jesus here calls for the children shows that some were old enough to walk on their own. All ages, all sizes so we must never hinder children from our church. The disciples were good men and just thought that Jesus had to focus on other things other than children. Children are important.
And finally. Jesus teaches us that attitude and warmth are important in dealing with children. Children are like sponges and take everything in absorbing it into the very fibers of their being. The children felt comfortable with Jesus and Jesus felt comfortable with the children. Kids read your attitude, whether you like them or whether you think that they’re a bother. By the warmth of our smile, the kindness in our eyes, we can make feel children feel they have a place in our church.
Just as Jesus called these children to Himself, He calls sinners to come unto Him. You may think, “Unlike these cute little kids, my life isn’t so cute. I’ve really messed up! I’ve sinned terribly against God.” But as we’ve seen throughout Luke, Jesus welcomed sinners who would repent and trust in Him. He called Levi, the greedy, despicable tax collector to follow Him. He told the immoral woman who anointed Him, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls”. Come to Jesus as a little child, trusting in Him to forgive your sins. He will welcome you as He did these children.
Now let us pray
Our Dear Lord and Loving Heavenly Father, we are glad that we can come into your presence as soon as we awake each morning. Your love towards us fills us with joy and wonder, and your grace which enables us to go forward in faith is a treasured possession. We pray that we will always be filled with joy and wonder at your amazing love and grace towards us.
We give you thanks too for your Word which comforts, consoles, rebukes, encourages, strengthens and teaches us. We thank you that we have Your Word available to us to read and to listen to online and we pray for the Bible Society as they seek to give this precious Word to people who do not, as yet, have access to it. We pray for the people who translate the Word and for the people who distribute it, but most of all, we pray for the people who will receive it. We pray that as they read it, the Holy Spirit will help the Word speak to their hearts and transform their lives.
The passage today reminds us that all who wish to follow you 'enter the kingdom of heaven' must become like little children - not childish, but childlike in our faith towards You. Help us in our Christian walk to be like sponges - eager to listen; eager to get involved; get excited, and trust in You, our Heavenly Father who has done everything for us, it is only for us to believe and follow You - Amen
10 March 2021
Luke 17 and The Coming of the Kingdom of God
There is a great song by Larry Norman (and sung sometimes by Cliff) called “ I wish we’d all been ready -
Part of the song says
A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head
I wish we'd all been ready
Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and one's left standing still
I wish we'd all been ready
There's no time to change your mind
The son has come and you've been left behind
Life was filled with guns and war
And everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we'd all been ready
A very stark and immediate picture that’s painted and for today I chose Petersons "Message" translation of the reading :
Luke 17 from v20
20-21 Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”
22-24 He went on to say to his disciples, “The days are coming when you are going to be desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing. And they’ll say to you, ‘Look over there!’ or, ‘Look here!’ Don’t fall for any of that nonsense. The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes.
24-25 “You know how the whole sky lights up from a single flash of lightning? That’s how it will be on the Day of the Son of Man. But first it’s necessary that he suffer many things and be turned down by the people of today.
26-27 “The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah—everyone carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship. They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away.
28-30 “It was the same in the time of Lot—the people carrying on, having a good time, business as usual right up to the day Lot walked out of Sodom and a firestorm swept down and burned everything to a crisp. That’s how it will be—sudden, total—when the Son of Man is revealed.
31-33 “When the Day arrives and you’re out working in the yard, don’t run into the house to get anything. And if you’re out in the field, don’t go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.
34-35 “On that day, two men will be in the same boat fishing—one taken, the other left. Two women will be working in the same kitchen—one taken, the other left.”
37 Trying to take all this in, the disciples said, “Master, where?”
He told them, “Watch for the circling of the vultures. They’ll spot the corpse first. The action will begin around my dead body.”
We are informed that there are three dangers when we consider “the second coming”. The first danger being wrapped up in our own desires and expectations. It’s not about counting off the days or even making predictions. Too many people look at what's happening in the world and have too much to say about “the end days”. There is no room for any predictions.
The second danger posed a threat to the disciples and it could be a warning for us too and that is “over-eagerness to see the Lord Jesus again, chasing after every potential “messiah” which may arise. There is a big move in America at the moment when the “big” evangelists like Joyce Meyer are being criticised for introducing “ their own gospel” and making too many assumptions to keep their arena churches full. Our Lord’s return cannot (as the Pharisees supposed) be all figured out in advance, but we can be assured that we will know it when it comes.
The third danger is that of “worldly pre-occupations”, the danger here being that it dulls our desire for our Lord's return as we are wrapped up in our own possessions. Again a big criticism directed at the big American evangelists This is why Jesus has had so much to say about possessions. Possessions will possess us if we find our “life” to be wrapped up with them.
These three dangers are relevant not only to the coming kingdom, but to all other areas of our life as well.
Jesus tells us in this text that you will not have any warning signs of the coming day of judgment, any more than the preaching of the gospel. There will be no time to repent when that day comes. If you would believe and obey, if you would acknowledge your sin and trust in the work of Christ in your place, do it now. The Day of Judgment will come eventually but we are unaware of this for the time being.
So at the moment let's concentrate on our salvation and not our judgment.
So at the moment let's not be one of the ones that say, “ I wish we’d all been ready.”
09 March 2021
I was sitting in Milngavie clinic and there were about six of us sitting in the large room( ladies and gents) all socially distanced. As I approached the room the first thing I noticed was the noise, there were loud conversations, much needed as we were all socially distanced. Two men were talking “so what did you take them then?” second man “a tin of toffee’s” first man “ Oh the healthy options then?” they both laughed. Then the second man asked, “so what did you take them?” The reply was “ two of yon boxes of fresh cream cakes…..no fae Marks you understand….Asda…I’ve no got money to burn ''. More laughter
I later discovered they were talking about going for their vaccination and they both had decided that they would take a “ thank you” to the people in the Allander where they were going for their jabs.
“Aye it's nice to be nice” said one and then the other said ”aye and it's good to say thanks.”
There are of course parallels to what is happening today and what the Leprosy sufferers had to endure. As soon as they were diagnosed they were banished from their community to live with other sufferers and of course no vaccination for them. Only remission if they were lucky.
Luke tells us in 17 11-19 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
I preached on this very passage up at Baldernock just before the Lockdown and in this sermon, I said that :
1 we are all unclean before God
2. we all need that call for mercy
3. we all need to respond with obedient faith
4. we all should glorify God at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But I leave you today with a famous story about John Wesley
Thirteen years before his conversion, John Wesley had a conversation late one night with the porter of his college that deeply impressed him and convinced him that there was more to Christianity than as yet he had found. Wesley discovered that the man had only one coat and that nothing had passed his lips that day, except a drink of water, and yet his heart was full of gratitude to God. Wesley said, “You thank God when you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed to lie upon. What else do you thank him for?” “I thank him,” answered the porter, “that He has given me my life and being, and a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him
Let’s all learn from this exuberant and thankful leper how to respond to God’s blessings, especially to the blessing of salvation. We should join him in glorifying God at the feet of Jesus with thankful hearts. Amen
08 March 2021
OK here is one of those readings where I always think "will I just skip this one"? "Because I don’t really get it? Then I read the chapter where Sinclair Ferguson tries to explain it and I think I’m ok so her
e we go. I have read somewhere else that when we encounter the difficult commands of Scripture, our focus should be on more obedience and humility.
Faith in God
Ferguson says that faith is not a thing that you get in small, medium or extra large doses. Faith is not a “thing”, it's not a commodity that is given to you or infused in you so that once you receive it, you’ve “got” it. Ferguson says there is no such “thing” as faith. Where God is concerned there are only believers - people who trust in Christ.
“So when we talk about “great” or “little" faith we are describing the extent to which our trust in the Lord is commensurate with the greatness of his person, the certainty of his promises. Strength of faith is not found in our trusting but in his trustworthiness.” Do you agree?
So what’s the story of the servant all about then? Perhaps Jesus recognises that we have a tendency, when our faith is so impressive we actually think that it is something that we have as a personal contribution and that we should be rewarded. A kind of boast maybe?
In this third week of Lent our reading is Luke 17 5-10
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
7 “Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
The faith of the mustard seed and the faith of the mulberry tree is just the same. I have heard it said that the idea of “more faith” exalts man and not God so we should never say “my faith is greater than hers“ for instance. Therefore it should be said that “true faith exalts God and not man”. And in the question of slaves, we are all slaves of God and owe him obedience in all things.
God’s way of motivating us toward obedience and humility is to keep us focused on the cross of Jesus Christ. As Paul said, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). “May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Or, as Isaac Watts put it,
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
If you’re struggling with some difficult command that you know God wants you to obey, look to the cross, where Jesus gave Himself for you. That is one reason our Lord commanded that we come often to His Table, to remember Him and His death for us. In light of that, is any demand He makes of us too difficult? let’s exercise the simple faith that His faithfulness calls forth. None of us can claim to have the greatest faith or the “ best” faith even if such a thing existed. Let’s focus on greater obedience and humility as servants of our God and King. Amen
I hope I managed to make this clearer even for myself.
07 March 2021
John 2 13-22
I think about the changes that have been made in churches since the pandemic, new rules and regulations made necessary to allow us back. And of course, changes to technology? Many people hate changes in the church and many people hate changes to the church, it can be divisive but it can be a good thing sometimes.
But first, let's look at our reading. 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The temple was the center of Jewish life and you can tell by our reading that Jesus is not happy. He is not against the temple but what the temple has become. It was seen as a market place as well as a place of worship. So the question is? Are the two compatible?
Immediately I am thinking about the changes that are being made to churches up and down the country at the moment. Before the pandemic there might have been a resistance in some churches to seating and technology, but what now? In order to survive must there be a compromise?
The temple represents the location and the presence of God, we feel the same about our own sanctuaries but some churches move the goalposts. Coffee served at the back of the church after the service. Modern artwork on the walls and then the sanctuary looks like a tv studio. Again many people embrace such changes but some don’t like it.
Jesus declares that a new temple will be found in his own resurrected body instead of a single geographical site. God is therefore everywhere and remember Paul, “we are the temple of the world."
In our reading, Jesus is angry at the lack of respect for his father's house. It’s a place of prayer, a place of presence. The Jewish people challenge his authority and ask for a sign that he is who he says he is. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Of course, this is him warning of his resurrection and the disciples would remember this.
So what of the temples of today? The buildings that we worship in? Surely there has to be a compromise but there will always be division. ”A sanctuary should look like a sanctuary.” Technology? Why?” But it is amazing that we would have scoffed at zoom and youtube in the past but it’s the very glue that’s holding some churches together.
The temple was one of the most sacred religious sites and mysteries for Jesus' people, but he compares his body and himself to the temple and declares that he was greater than the temple. Statements that would bring about his death.
Temples have come and gone and churches of days gone by are lying empty but the word of God still remains, it's still relevant and it still changes lives. Our buildings should be geared up for all the changes that are to come. Amen
06 March 2021
The story of the prodigal son.
Sinclair Ferguson asks us to ponder the question. Do you sometimes feel that you are slaving for God? Do you feel like the older son? Or are you living as a beloved child of God? While the father spends his day looking out at the horizon, waiting for his younger son to return. The older one, the more responsible one, the grafter, he is working away on his own, keeping things ticking over. He is building up his resentment too.
Luke 15 11-32 “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
This is another lesson in discipleship. Sometimes you can feel you are slaving away while other people coast along getting what they ask for. It was only natural that the older son would be “cheesed off”. He has every right to accuse his father and even says “you’ve never even given me a goat!”
Look at verse 31 again, the father's response “you are always with me and everything I have is yours” That is the joy of the gospel. God offers you everything that he has in his son. His son now says to you “ give me all that is yours – your sin, your shame, your fears- give it all to me." Say to me “all that is mine is ours” and I will say to you “All that is mine is yours.”
We strive to be faithful diligent disciples. If you look in the dictionary one of the meanings of “prodigal” is “lavish and extravagant”. You could say God's love for us is extravagant after all he is saying to us now, ”all that I have is yours.” Amen
05 March 2021
Up until now what we have read this Lenten period is that Jesus makes it clear that following him is an all or nothing business. The famous Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote “When Jesus calls a man (or woman) he bids him come and die.”
That's a bit of a tough one and my first thought would be “surely not”. Then we go on and read Luke 14 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."
Hold on a minute in verse 26 “hate father, mother, wife and children?” surely not. But let's think about this for a minute. Sinclair Ferguson in his book reminds us that following Christ must have absolute priority in your life. What Jesus is saying is that by comparison with your devotion to him all other love must seem like hate. Fergusons says “He is calling us to die to everything we count dear in our lives."
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
So when you read the whole of this part of Luke it is no wonder that we need to sit down and count the cost because if we don’t understand this, if we don’t buy into this and embrace it, we can never be a true disciple. Bonhoefeer telling us that “he bids him come and die” can make sense when we think of our love for Christ and Jesus underlying the fact that being a follower is an all or nothing business.
Thought for today? Would be to reflect today what we do, in following Christ, what do we sacrifice and what changes have we made?
04 March 2021
Luke 12 22-30
There is always someone who puts their hand up to ask a question, it could be at a meeting and as soon as you see the hand going up you can almost hear the groans from the audience. Some questions are completely irrelevant while others are pertinent.
Luke tells us about one man's question. “22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
The question from the man was “ are only a few people going to be saved?”
Probably most Jews thought that they would be saved but Jesus warns about those will not be saved. He gives him three points
Make every effort to get through that narrow door because there will be others trying at the same time.
When the door is closed and you are not in, you will question why you didn’t make it. You feel you know the owner of the house as you spent some time with him.
You will be disappointed when you see the company that you have missed, all the great prophets will be there but there will be others too and you will be surprised at who made it in.
Sinclair Ferguson makes a great point here. He says we should never be more interested in theological questions than we are in knowing Jesus himself. In verse 26 Jesus warns him that people might say “we ate and drank with you”. But is that all it takes to be saved? Being able to make a good theological debate is all to the good but if we don’t know the man Jesus, if we don’t aspire to live like him, knowledge is nothing.
Final question. Did the man want to be saved? Do you?
Thought for the day? How can we get to know Jesus that bit better? To quote the famous song "to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly." So how can we achieve that?
03 March 2021
Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
We are told that there were at least two people in this story who will call the Sabbath a delight. Jesus was one and the crippled woman was the other.
Imagine the scene as Jesus places his hands on this woman who is bent over double. She is probably in excruciating pain and possibly has to glance sideways to see what's going on. Sinclair Ferguson says “you can almost see his hands straightening her back out after all these years. When once she was diminished in stature she now stands straight looking Jesus in the eye. It must have been a joyous sight."
But the onlookers were not happy the Sabbath was not being observed. But Jesus knew different, he knew that the Sabbath was one of God's creation gifts and all while the Pharisees looked on with disapproving nods and whispers. “They were neurotic about what could and could not be done on this special day.“
Mark2:27 reminds us that the Sabbath was made for man, it was a great time and motion exercise for the whole week. Work hard for six days and “rest in God's presence on the seventh''. Jesus knew that his father had blessed the Sabbath. But it was a problem for those in the synagogue and there was a lecture forthcoming on the spiritual dangers of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that some people can be hypocritical about the Sabbath but we should try and be more like Jesus and use it well. He tells us that has a knock-on effect as it helps us to use the rest of the week well too.
Again as I said. Two people in the story called the Sabbath a delight Jesus was one and the woman became the other.
Would it make any difference how you live your week for the glory of the Lord if you called the Sabbath a delight?
02 March 2021
In today's world we don’t even have to wait for the news on the hour to get the latest, we all have social media feeds that can tell us what the latest tragedy is before the dust has settled. Of course in biblical times it was much different. ln Luke 13 some people are anxious to share their news. We read “About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans that Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? No. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.”
Today it is so easy to attribute tragedy and downfall to past sins. The wrongs that have been done. In his book “To seek and serve,” Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “we need to avoid the folly of trying to work out the incomprehensible.” Why did that happen to them?” while failing to recognise what our own sin deserves at the hands of God of love that we daily offend.”
Jesus reassures us that we cannot draw straight lines back from human tragedy to personal sin. Of course, all actions have consequences. Only God can make the true connections between actions and consequences. Only God has the knowledge and the wisdom and the justice to do that. But we have to repent of our own sin and turn to God in prayer and in faith. As the last verse says ”Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.” But we all know that when we turn to God and his Son Jesus Christ our faith will reward us with eternal life. Amen
01 March 2021
Luke 12 22-34
Something that you may not know about me is that I have a label. I suffer from what is called “high functioning anxiety” apparently I do not know when to switch off, I chatter out of nervousness and then later analyze everything I have said. Another issue is my mind frequently jumps to the worst possible scenario and I don’t think I am naturally talented. Now I know all of this because a certain kind of doctor told me this. Now my point in telling you all of these things is that the same doctor ( reading my notes) said “Oh A Christian? I thought you would have all the answers then?”
We continue our Journey with Luke and his interaction with the disciples. In relation to "worrying about life." In Luke 12 Jesus has some advice for his disciples “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Sinclair Ferguson asks “was Jesus a poor psychologist?” The answer is clearly NO but he adds it's all down to the language that is being used here. Jesus follows up his advice with some logic. For instance “do not worry” is followed up “For life is much more than food, and the body more than clothes.”
When we look at those two words “much more” we realise that what once seemed enormously important to us is of a lesser significance when you think of life and living in general.
What brings the disciples some relief is knowing that If God cares for the smallest of birds and the most fragile of flowers “how much more do you think he cares for you." Sinclair then says “you can worry so much less”
Fast forward to Romans 8 reading from v31 and using The Message translation I find these words so reassuring and so "jigfit". These words are like the missing piece of a jigsaw that stops you worrying to an early grave. Romans 8 says "So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?" If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.
And for me? I will still be anxious but I know who has got my back. Amen