Jesus Loves Me

[For my reflections of our church’s Easter service; see here.]

I have experienced several Good Friday services before but not in the same way that I experienced last night’s service. It was unique in several different ways (from what I am used to for Good Friday).

First, as we walked into the church, we were asked to remove our shoes. I assume that we did this as a way to symbolize that this service was different from our services on Sunday mornings.

Next, everyone gathered for a dinner fellowship. Everything that was provided for dinner had a purpose and incorporated symbols from a traditional passover meal (remembrance of Israel’s slavery in Egypt). Here is a list of the food and what it represented:

Soup – humble

Olives – Garden of Gethsemane is an olive grove where Jesus would pray

Lemonade – the sweetness and sourness of our old life, just as the Jews life in Egypt was both sweet (they had food and relative security) and bitter (slavery)

Hummus – A mediterranean food from the place all this occurred

Horseradish – the bitterness of slavery, sin, and our old lives

Pita Bread – an unleavened (no yeast) bread like what the Jews were told to prepare before leaving Egypt.  God was to deliver them and they were to go immediately not taking time to let the bread rise.

When dinner was over; we entered a dark sanctuary with only the platform lights and several candles to light the room. All throughout the Lent season; we have had a display of a stone tomb with a path leading up to it. Last night, the platform was covered in black fabric and there was a wooden cross on the center of the platform in front of the tomb display.

We sang “Be Thou My Vision” to start the service. Then, the crucifixion story was read from the Bible. A few people took turns reading a portion of the story. When their portion was finished they would extinguish one of the candle flames. Part way through the story; we sang “In Christ Alone” and listened to the song “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”.Our pastor asked us to take a moment to pray and reflect on what Jesus did for us on the cross. He asked us to write down any sins in our lives (on a blank card that we were given) and lay it at the foot on of the cross. The story continued and ended with the crucifixion of Jesus. All of the lights & candles were out except for one which was on the center of the platform next to the wooden cross. This candle was in a glass hurricane. Someone put glass on top of the hurricane. As we listened to someone else sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord”; we watched the candle slowly loose its oxygen and eventually go out. After several moments of silence; we were told that we could stay and pray or leave if we wanted to.

I stayed and prayed for a little while; reflecting on what Jesus did for me. Only by the grace of God; I am spared from the death that I deserve. One day I will be able to meet Jesus in heaven because of his love and forgiveness that he extended to me.

I have included the crucifixion in story form; as told by The Message Bible. Our service read John 18-19 (from a different version) but I am only giving you 19. If you wish to read 18 also; click here.

John 19

The Thorn Crown of the King

1-3 So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they greeted him with slaps in the face.

4-5Pilate went back out again and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime.” Just then Jesus came out wearing the thorn crown and purple robe.

Pilate announced, “Here he is: the Man.”

6When the high priests and police saw him, they shouted in a frenzy, “Crucify! Crucify!”

Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.”

7The Jews answered, “We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8-9When Pilate heard this, he became even more scared. He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, “Where did you come from?”

Jesus gave no answer.

10Pilate said, “You won’t talk? Don’t you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to—crucify you?”

11Jesus said, “You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven. That’s why the one who betrayed me to you has committed a far greater fault.”

12At this, Pilate tried his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.”

13-14When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.”

15They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”

Pilate said, “I am to crucify your king?”

The high priests answered, “We have no king except Caesar.”

16-19Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote a sign and had it placed on the cross. It read:

jesus the nazarene
the king of the jews.

20-21Many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish high priests objected. “Don’t write,” they said to Pilate, “‘The King of the Jews.’ Make it, ‘This man said, “I am the King of the Jews.”‘”

22Pilate said, “What I’ve written, I’ve written.”

23-24When they crucified him, the Roman soldiers took his clothes and divided them up four ways, to each soldier a fourth. But his robe was seamless, a single piece of weaving, so they said to each other, “Let’s not tear it up. Let’s throw dice to see who gets it.” This confirmed the Scripture that said, “They divided up my clothes among them and threw dice for my coat.” (The soldiers validated the Scriptures!)

24-27While the soldiers were looking after themselves, Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her. He said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother.

28Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, “I’m thirsty.”

29-30A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.

31-34Then the Jews, since it was the day of Sabbath preparation, and so the bodies wouldn’t stay on the crosses over the Sabbath (it was a high holy day that year), petitioned Pilate that their legs be broken to speed death, and the bodies taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man crucified with Jesus, and then the other. When they got to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with his spear. Blood and water gushed out.

35The eyewitness to these things has presented an accurate report. He saw it himself and is telling the truth so that you, also, will believe.

36-37These things that happened confirmed the Scripture, “Not a bone in his body was broken,” and the other Scripture that reads, “They will stare at the one they pierced.”

38After all this, Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body.

39-42Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. They took Jesus’ body and, following the Jewish burial custom, wrapped it in linen with the spices. There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed. So, because it was Sabbath preparation for the Jews and the tomb was convenient, they placed Jesus in it.

***THE MESSAGE BIBLE***

(The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather “a reading Bible.”)

Forgive Them?

Last Sunday I said: “I love it when God uses two (or more) sources, in a short amount of time, to enforce His message to me.” Then proceeded to share how two separate sources gave similar messages within the same day.  Today God did the same thing! It seems that almost every week that I have facilitated the Bible study dealing with anger; God confirms what I have learned with another source! To me that is powerful because it shows me that what I am learning is coming from his heart to mine.

So, like I said, God did this again today. God first revealed this particular message to me last summer. I had several people in my life confirm that the message was authentic at that time. A few weeks ago, the same message came up in our Bible study; allowing me to reflect how I responded to God’s message. Then today, Pastor Brian preached the same exact message, and even said some phrases almost word for word (and I am pretty sure that he did not read our Bible study notes)! The message was all about FORGIVENESS.

Both Pastor Brian (today at church) and Dr. S.M. Davis (a couple of weeks ago through his sermon on DVD entitled: “How To Heal A Wounded Spirit”) talked about how people wound us and how we allow the wound to get worse by not dealing with it properly.

I really liked the following quote from Dr. Davis’ sermon: “If someone wounds you and walks away without doing anything to help; that does not mean that you have to lay there and die.”

He went on to talk about how we need to forgive the person even if they don’t ask for it because: “If someone wounds you either knowingly or unknowingly and walks away; who is going to be in the worse shape 6 months from now if you don’t treat it? You or Them?”

Both Pastor Brian and Dr. Davis addressed the fact that none of us fully understand what we did to Jesus. We crucified Jesus just as much as the Roman soldiers who were there that day. Jesus forgave us when he was on the cross and we were not there to ask for his forgiveness. Jesus forgave us before we were born and he forgave us even though we were undeserving.

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,

for they do not know what they are doing…” Luke 23:34

Last summer when my life hit rock bottom; I had to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Do I forgive the person who wounded me so deeply? I had already forgiven this person almost 4 years before for almost the same offense. Why was it so hard to forgive them again? I think it was because I thought that the circumstance was unfair. After all, I had never done anything that bad to this person. I had already forgiven them once; why should I have to forgive them again for the same thing? They were completely undeserving of my forgiveness! It was even worse that this person did not understand or seem to care about the extent of the wound they caused. This person knew they wounded me and was sorry about it. But if it were up to them; the subject would be dropped, and we would move on, so that things between us could be “normal” again.

After some extensive counseling, and a lot of tears while pouring my heart out to God, I was convicted about how I was thinking. I came to realize that we as humans tend to rate sins or offenses. We put them into categories of “Really Bad,” “Bad,” and “Not So Bad.” I personally rated the offense against me as “Really Bad” and most everyone else probably would too. It wasn’t until I put myself on the same level as the other person that I was able to move away from my view. It doesn’t matter how great or small we as humans look at it; in God’s eyes, sin is sin. Romans 3:23 states:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

I needed Jesus to cleanse me of my sins just like this other person needed the same. I realized that just as Jesus forgave me for crucifying him; I needed to forgive this person for wounding me.

During the forgiving process that I went through; I also recognized that there were things that I did to contribute to what had happened. I could no longer put all of the blame on the offender. This turned the tables a lot! That meant that I had some work to do on my end.

I can now say that I truly have forgiven this person and that the offense is behind us. I’m not saying that it doesn’t surface at times or that either of us are completely healed. I am saying that God is working in both of our lives and the healing process is continuing. If I had stayed in my unforgiving state; then I would have become bitter and I would have suffered an even greater wound. Instead, I chose to be obedient to God and fully depend on him to get me out of the pit I was in. I praise God for working my life and allowing me to grow because of this experience.

And since we are on the topic of forgiveness;

here is a cute Veggie Tales clip on the subject!