Grilled Fish!

20 04 2014

 

ressurection tomb

Confusion, mistaken identity, disbelief not the greatest start for the story that changes history!
Even in this glorious record in the gospels the authenticity shines through this is not some super-spiritual myth this is ordinary people grappling with an event they can’t take in.
A stone large enough to deter any grave robbers is rolled away. A tomb is empty. A man who had been brutally tortured and killed is alive. His body bears the scars but is somehow different and unrecognisable. He appears and disappears – he is hidden and revealed.

A woman hears her name called and her eyes are opened, angels tell he is alive and fear and joy fills hearts, two walk wearily home and a stranger warms their hearts with truth. Peace is spoken to a fearful, confused group of disciples. He is alive – truth dawns, scars are touched, the world is turned up side down!
Luke 24:36

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

I love the fact that Jesus eats grilled fish to prove he’s not a ghost. In the middle of one of the most dramatic scenes in history the Son of God with a resurrection body just settles everyone down by eating a normal meal.

He is risen indeed!





Between two worlds

19 04 2014

crown of thorns

The betrayals are done, the bruised body taken, the blood spilt, the tears wept.
The women and Joseph of Arimathea take care of Jesus broken body after the worse had been done. Nicodemas, another secret disciple, joins Joseph in this – two respected leaders risk all to associate themselves with a crucified criminal.

The authorities despite the brutal punishment already inflicted, the confirmed death, are nervous and post a guard at the tomb. Pilate remembered Jesus’ claim that in three days he would rise. The disciples who had heard this ‘claim’ so many times seem to have completely forgotten and lost hope – they are no where to be seen.

The world holds its breath as the creator of the universe lies cold and still. The promises of life and salvation, resurrection and power are paused – as yet unfulfilled. The words of Jesus ring through the minds of those who had heard him – from unbelieving Pilate to his mother Mary. A massive question mark fills the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, between despair and faith, between death and life. Will he rise? Is it all over?

A broken world strains forward every cell, every atom groaning in hope.





Home Comforts

17 04 2014

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Jesus’ time in Jerusalem leading up to passover is punctuated with the daily 2 mile walk back and forth to Bethany where he and his disciples were staying. (John 11:17)
Not sure what it would have been like to have 13 men come to stay every evening to feed and water – despite Martha’s previous worries about catering Jesus obviously felt at home with this family.

After the verbal battles with the authorities, the threatening tensions, the demands of the crowds the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus was a refuge.

It was in Bethany that Jesus was anointed with expensive perfume by a woman – in Matthews gospel the woman is anonymous and its at Simon the Lepers house. The disciples are indignant they think its a waste of money – Judas most of all. Mark tells us in 14:10 that this was the final straw that caused Judas to go to the authorities and start the bitter negotiations that would end in betrayal.

Jesus sees the woman’s heart and the fact that this lavish gesture is not just one of adoration it is like an anointing for his death. In those days a dead body would be anointed with perfumes and so Jesus is moved – this woman maybe unknowingly – is tenderly preparing his body for the death that is looming.

From a home, a place of refuge and feasting, a retreat from the conflict of Jerusalem the dark stain of betrayal and suffering begins to colour the story. As I read the story again my heart is saddened that the disciples are still so clueless while their master contemplates the laying down of his life.

Lord help me today to remember that you faced death that I might live. I am forever grateful.





Hard Questions

15 04 2014

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The people who were threatened by Jesus, who actually understood the significance of what he was saying and didn’t like it were determined to trip him up, catch him in hard questions and turn the people against him. They came on mass, chief priests and elders, ( Matthew 21:22) later in the week it was the Pharisees and Herodians (Matthew 22:15) bombarding him like a great interviewer digging for truth but they were digging for muck, blasphemy, self incrimination, an opening in his teaching through which to accuse.

Have you ever questioned someones authority, stood arms crossed or swung back on your chair answering back – then the tables were turned and you looked foolish, you were left floundering for words. ouch! That’s what happened when they questioned Jesus. They challenged his authority but he didn’t need to assert his even though he was Lord of heaven and earth. He caught them in their fear of losing their own authority, the popular vote, the applause of the crowd.

The people had loved John the Baptist, the strange prophet, because he had stood up to the Romans, he had declared a new Kingdom was coming, he had been genuine no political aspirations just a bold declaration of truth. He had been other worldly with words that rang out with a Godly authority and the religious leaders hadn’t known what to do with him either. They had breathed a sigh of relief at his imprisonment but that was behind doors as they knew the people had gone out to see him in their hundreds and no one could say a word against them.

So they had to answer  with feigned ignorance ‘We do not know’ and Jesus could silence them for the moment with “neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’

However the two stories that followed gave the Chief Priests no doubt that he saw into their hearts with all the power of a satirical  cartoonist. Tax collectors and prostitutes ( the lowest of the low) would enter the Kingdom of God before them and just to leave no room for doubt Jesus concludes ‘ The kingdom of God will be taken away  from you and given to a people producing its fruits.’

A battle of words, with blades on either side, Jesus cuts through their grasp on authority to judge their hearts. How will they react? With humble repentance or hard hearted resolution that he must go?

What hard questions would you ask Jesus?

Do you accept his authority?

Read and reflect for a moment;

Matthew 21

23 “Jesus entered the Temple courts and while he was teaching the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.





Overturning Expectations

14 04 2014

jesus nameOne moment Jesus is riding in meek and mild the next he is overturning tables and driving the stall holders out of the temple courts. One moment he is King, the next he is judge protecting  the temple courts for his father. Breaking the powers that dealt in temple money and animals for sacrifice – lining their own pockets, taking advantage of the hundreds on a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.

This act is provocative – the people expected a Messiah who would challenge the Roman oppressors not go for the jugular of the Temple authorities. The market stalls were their chance to make money and control the riff raff pressing into the temple. Jesus defiantly brings them back to Gods plan for his house; ”It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den or robbers.” Matthew 21:13.

This verse taken from Isaiah 56 is not only about joyfully worshipping in the house of God its a challenge to the religious leaders who Isaiah likened to blind watch men or dogs   feeding themselves but not taking care of the people. The passage also encourages all to worship  – the foreigner, the outcast none should be refused entry. No wonder Luke comments after this that “the chief priest and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him.” I imagine  they were spitting with hate and fury at this blatant   challenge to their authority.

What does this dramatic act say to us today?
What does it say about church and money? Every church has to mix faith with practicalities of income and expenditure. Later in the week Jesus commends a widow who put all she had into the temple offering.(Luke 21:1-4)  There is a time and place for talking about money – Jesus certainly does but never in a way that manipulates the poor or puts up barriers to people coming to God.

The money changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice clogged up the temple courts and were a barrier to the people coming to worship. Is there anything in how we do church that acts as a barrier? Our jargon, dress-code, leadership style, music or liturgy – that started well but now clogs up the house of God and leaves people outside unable to come to God.

Jesus didn’t lose it in this act – he is filled with passion for Gods’ house but he’s not out of control. His heart breaks for Jerusalem and its people so he moves on to demonstrate what should be happening in God’s house – reaching out to heal the blind and lame. (Luke 19:41-44)

Here’s the passage take a moment to read and reflect;
Matthew 21:12-17
New International Version (NIV)
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,”they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany,where he spent the night.





Journey To Jerusalem

13 04 2014

crowd at tubeI don’t really like crowds but who can resist a happening, a parade, an occasion that gathers people. Necks strained to catch  sight of the man everyone is talking about, rumours flying around  ‘he’s coming, he’s coming.’ Curiosity elbows people into the front eager to see what all the fuss is about.
A man comes riding on a donkey – each step a declaration that his time has come, a challenge to the authorities of his lineage. The Son of David, the King, the man of peace, Jesus has turned his face towards jerusalem. (Matthew 21:1-11)

Only days before Jesus had told his disciples that Jerusalem would mean suffering and death, that there the son of man would be delivered up into the hands of the authorities and after three days rise again. The disciples blind to the horror and risk of this journey up to Jerusalem dream of victory and acclaim the realisation of their own ambitions. (Matthew 20:17-28)

Soon disciples and pilgrims, in town for the passover, are shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ the whole city is stirred up with hopes and dreams of The Prophet who like Moses will lead the people out of oppression.

Some ask the great question ‘Who is this?’

Over the next few days the answer will come, the drama will be played out on the streets of Jerusalem, the Temple Courts, the cosy home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, the upper room, and finally the Olive grove where love and betrayal will almost crush the man that for today is celebrated as ‘he who comes in the Name of The Lord.’

So read the Word again and ask that great question again in your heart, ‘Who is this?’





Delicious! Psalm 19

10 09 2013

Imagine your favourite meal, the delights of the British Bake off or the most expensive celebration meal you’ve experienced. God’s word is spiritual food, it sustenance like bread and butter, chicken and rice but its also delicious – the best treat ever. In those days honey would have been a real luxury, a delight and thats what the psalmist compares God’s words too.
God’s word is valuable to be treasured like pure gold – its lasts forever, firm and true

“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” (Psalm 19:9-12 NIVUK)

We probably all recognise we read the bible so we can grow as believers laying a firm foundation of truth to our lives. Building on the rock and being warned about the sand – what to avoid, what to beware of. The word has that sort of influence in our lives, if we let it permeate our thinking and our decision making. We certainly need that as we are often blind to our own vulnerabilities and mistakes excusing ourselves all to quickly of those ‘hidden faults’.

Something to think about
Gold has to be dug out of the earth and then refined before we can enjoy its beauty. Honey can only be tasted after the bees have worked hard and risks been taken to harvest it. Are you working hard to process and savour God’s word?

Something to pray about
Lord I want to love your word, take delight in it, savour it like a delicious food. How often I reduce it to some kind of mediocre ready meal that I gulp down without really tasting. Forgive me and help me to slow down and enjoy applying it thoroughly to my life.

 








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