They Did Not Know It Was Good

This evening as I was sitting in our Good Friday service, listening to our minister eloquently speak on the significance of Good Friday, I couldn’t help but think that for everyone who was present that day, it was not such a good Friday.

The fact of the matter is that not one individual who was present that day knew with certainty what was really occurring, not even the disciples who had spent the last three year with him. Indeed, even the last week with Jesus did not prepare them for what they experienced, even though Jesus himself spoke of what was coming.

Following an evening where Jesus was falsely accused, tried, struck, beaten, and flogged, it wasn’t such a good morning. For those who watched Pontius Pilate as he tried to set Jesus free by offering Jesus or Barrabas, it was not such a good day (oh, how fickle the people when riled up!).

For Jesus’ followers watching him along the road to Golgatha, and seeing him so faint that another carried his cross, it wasn’t such a good day. For Mary, Jesus’ mother to watch her son being nailed to a cross, and then hoisted in the air to fall with a thud into the earth, the small death to her heart was not a good day. For the many disciples who were probably scattered, maybe fearfully watching while their heads were covered, hoping that no one recognized them, it was not such a good day. Especially, for Peter, who had denied Christ three times the evening before, it was not a good day.

For John who listened as Jesus spoke to him from the cross and gave him the responsibility of being a son to Mary, it was not such a good day. For the women who had followed Jesus and been given value and had been known Christ’s love, it was not a good day. Even for the centurion, who realized a huge error had been made and acknowledged that surely this was the son of God, it was not a good day.

Photo by Alicia Quan on Unsplash

For Joseph of Arimathea, who begged for the body of Jesus to be laid in his very own tomb, it was surely a day filled with sorrow. And for Mary Magdalene who had been delivered from seven demons, and the other Mary who were sitting across from the tomb and watching, it was not a very good day.

The good news is that after three days, what was surely so sorrowful for all who loved Jesus became a day of joy as the news of his resurrection filled the rooms where they were gathered. But even then, I am not sure they realized the huge ramifications of what Jesus had finished.

But for us, we who can look back and see what Jesus has done–for us it was a very Good Friday.

The Last Week

Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash

Today is Palm Sunday, but for Jesus it was a week that was just beginning. Palm Sunday is a day that many churches celebrate with waving of palm branches, emulating the people of Biblical times who proclaimed “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” while he entered Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. It is a day when I will be speaking to a group of individuals at an Assisted Living facility. As I wondered about what to speak on, I realized that, of course, I need to speak about the last week of Jesus’ life.

All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, share the triumphal entry. When Jesus came to Jerusalem the crowds were already being stirred up by the disciples and started chanting together “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You see the crowds welcomed him thinking he was going to be their earthly king. They were expecting a Messiah who was going to deliver them from the Roman rulers and establish the kingdom of Israel once again.

In fact, they did not recognize that they were actually fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

But that same crowd who cried out “Hosanna,” cried out “Crucify Him” when they realized that their dreams were not coming true. So let’s talk about Jesus’ week and the things he did after his triumphal entry.

Jesus honored his Father by visiting the temple.

The first thing we see is Jesus going to the temple. And what does he encounter there? The outer courts were filled with people who were taking advantage of those who came to celebrate the Passover. By selling sacrificial lambs and doves at inflated prices, they were taking advantage of people. Jesus was angry with a righteous anger. It led him to turning over tables and scolding the merchants for their greed and dishonesty, even accusing them of being a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:12-13)

Even while anticipating his death, Jesus did things for others

 Jesus continued to heal. The blind and deaf came to him at the temple and he healed them. He had compassion on the servant who had his ear cut off by Peter, and he healed him. Despite knowing he was facing his death at the end of the week, he still had compassion on the afflicted.

Jesus still taught, sometimes in parables, and sometimes in illustrations, but he used every opportunity to teach his disciples and followers.

He taught in parables still–the parable of the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. He taught about the signs of the end of the age. He taught about the greatest commandment, as well as the seven woes. He taught about prayer as he prayed for himself, his disciples, and all believers.

Jesus honored others with praise.

We read of his visit in Bethany where he was anointed with a costly perfume., possibly by Mary the sister of Lazarus. While she was criticized by others for wasting this costly perfume instead of selling it, he praised her for her act of worship. He pointed out the sacrifice of a poor widow’s offering as something to be praised, rather than to be proud and self-righteous in your giving.

Jesus was still pursued by the Pharisees, who sought to entrap him in any way they could.

The Pharisees questioned his authority when they asked by whom he did his miracles. They tried to trap him by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar. And finally, they tried to find any way they could to take his life.

Jesus spent the Passover with people he loved.

Jesus knew his time was short, but he chose to spend it by washing the disciples’ feet and sharing one last supper with them. Jesus comforted his disciples after the news that he would be killed. He also took the opportunity to talk to them about the coming of the Holy Spirt and the work of the Spirit.   

Jesus chose to have his disciples with him while he went to pray in the garden, even though they slept while he prayed. And as he was greeted by Judas’ kiss, he did not falter in his determination to do God’s will.

Jesus stayed true to his mission

Throughout the false accusations, the mockery, the beatings, and the actual crucifixion, Jesus did not waver in doing God’s will. Knowing that the worst part of all was taking on our sins and becoming the sacrificial lamb by the shedding of his blood, Jesus still stayed faithful and resolute to his purpose.

So that is how Jesus spent his last week here on earth. But the good news through it all? Sunday’s coming!

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11

The Color Fan

When I built my current home I had my entire villa painted white. I wanted to live in it a while so I could soak up the atmosphere and decide on the personality of each room. When I finally got to the job of choosing colors for some of my rooms, I looked at my paint fan and was overwhelmed with the choices offered. It seemed like every color in the spectrum was presented and they all reflected unique perspectives. Each color had subtle differences, making my choices difficult.

When I was looking at the different options available, I thought about how much this paint fan was like people. People come in all different personalities, made up of different shades that are formed by their innate gifts, culture, experiences and beliefs. When they intersect with our lives, we find some of them we love and instantly connect with, and others take time to grow on us. 

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A Defining Day

On May 16, 1981, I woke up with a great sense of excitement and a little bit of apprehension. It was cloudy and rainy, but I did not let that dampen my anticipation of the day. In some ways it seemed like I had waited a lifetime for this day, but in others it seemed wonderfully new.

As I showered and  dressed, I realized that my whole life was about to change. No longer would my decisions impact only me, they would impact us. No longer would I be able to take off and go somewhere without a thought for telling someone where I was going. No longer would I eat toaster pastries for supper and consider that a meal.

A little voice inside my head said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” No. Wait. Continue reading

What’s Her Story?

We all have them in our churches. Women whose lives are full of hurt and pain, who struggle with job loss, economic woes, health issues, parenting issues, and more. They sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, trying to trust God with their struggles and frequently wearing a mask to cover their pain. We will never know their stories unless we make the effort to invite them into our lives and discover who they are.

A friend and I listened as a woman shared her story of a son who is struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. She lived in fear as she watched his hallucinations and bizarre behaviors become increasingly more frequent. The hours leading to his involuntary hospitalization were something I would never wish for anyone. My heart ached for her and her pain. We held hands as we prayed for her family. My friend and I both prayed that God’s healing hand would be on this family, but it was her prayer that made me cry as I truly saw the heart of a mother who loved God. Continue reading

Does Praise and Worship Really Matter?

This morning I was very tempted just to stay home in anticipation of bad weather. Instead, I braved the gloomy skies and headed out to church. I was so blessed to participate in praise and worship and be reminded of how great and good our God really is! There is something refreshing about praising God and taking the focus off of myself and putting it on my Creator instead.

I want to start off this year by talking about why praise and worship is so important to me. Continue reading

Me Too – Why we are silent

In the past year we have seen the Bill Cosby scandal, the Fox CEO Roger Aile scandal, and now, the more recent Harvey Weinstein scandal. The hashtag #metoo has been garnering loads of attention since the Weinstein scandal hit the news. The dam has broken and the rolling tide of Me Too has become a force of its own.

Social media has been inundated with the two simple words, “Me Too” to emphasize how many women have had issues. I am seeing men respond, “Well, men get harassed and abused, too.” They do but not even close to the magnitude that women are. Since I am not a man, I can only speak to the women’s issue. This issue has been pervasive in society and swept under the rug for generation upon generation.

I had to sit back and ask myself, why now? Why is all of this coming to the forefront now? It has been happening for generations. Why have we not spoken before? Continue reading

A Different World

In the past few months, we have been surrounded by crises and events that seem unimaginable. Hurricanes have left havoc and despair in their wake, earthquakes have caused unimaginable damage and death, shootings have shook us to our very core, racism has reared its ugly head in ways that should have been put behind us years ago, and politics . . . well, I do not even want to go there. Continue reading

Begging Isn’t Enough – Do Something

Ever since Target enlightened the public on their stance on the use of restrooms by transgender individuals, Christians have been in an uproar. While I understand their concerns, I am also concerned about their handling of the issue.  Quite frankly, transgenders have been using the restrooms they identify with for years. And before you start lambasting me and assuming I absolutely approve of this, please remember that kindness and mercy is far better in our dealing with non-Christians than hate and destructive rhetoric. Continue reading

The Truth About Success

Today I was contemplating what makes a person truly successful. How do we measure it? How do we know when someone achieves it? How do we even define it?

success-coaching-headerFor some individuals success is defined by reaching the pinnacle of power, for others it is defined in hearing applause for a job well done, for the career person it may be defined by successfully climbing the corporate ladder. Each person identifies their own interpretation of success, and it is based on their cultural values, moral values, and personal goals. Continue reading