Category Archives: Holy week

Third Trial – Sanhedrin (around 6 AM)

66 And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,  67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:  68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.  69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.  70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.  71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.

Waiting until daybreak to see Him again,the Sanhedrin, which is the high council of the Israelites, now have their chance to question Him.  Jesus knows what they are up to.  When they ask Him if He is the Christ, He knows if He answers Yes, they will not believe Him, and he tells them that.  He also knows they will not answer His questions or let Him go.  When they finally ask Him if He is the Son of God, He simply says “Ye say that I am”.  He does not admit to it, and yet they find Him guilty anyway.

The tension is now mounting, and it seems we see Jesus remaining calm, ready to face whatever comes His way.  This is His peace, the peace He said He was going to leave with us when He goes (John 14:26-27).  Do you have this peace ruling your life when times get hard?  The trust Jesus had in the Father was complete, and that is why he could have such peace.  When we fully trust God, nothing can rattle us at all.  It is truly a peace that passes all understanding.  I pray you will have His peace in your times of trouble.

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The Second Trial (around 4:00 AM)

Matt 26:57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.  59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;  60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,  61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.  62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?  63 But Jesus held his peace, And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.  64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.  66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.  67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,  68 Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?  

Before the High Priest, Jesus holds His peace when they bring in witnesses. They could not find anyone who would lie about Him, but they did find a few who shared what they heard Him say about tearing down the temple.  Finally, the high priest had enough of His silence, and He asked Jesus a direct question – are you the Christ, the son of the Living God.  Jesus simply answers that he had so said, and that one day soon they would see Him coming in the clouds of heaven.  At that, the high priest rent his clothes and pronounced Jesus guilty of blaspheme, and deserving of death.  The council members started hitting him and spotting on Him, asking Him if He could identity who was buffeting Him.

Jesus stood silent through most of this time though.  He took the questions of Caiaphas in, and said nothing to defend Himself.  Not until a direct question was asked, and then He answered truthfully, knowing that what He said would cause the high priest to go ballistic.  Sometimes the truth can get you into trouble.   There are times that I will skirt around the truth when I know trouble will come out of it.  That’s just the honest truth!  I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, so I get a little sneaky.  After all. if you’re wife asks if her dress looks nice, you want to make her happy, right?

We all need to strive to tell the truth in every situation.  Jesus did not back down, and neither should we.  In the face of much worse trouble then I will ever get into, he told it exactly like it is.  And we also need to learn when to be silent.  The world needs talking continually.  As Christians, we need to bridle our tongue and take the road of humility.  Humility is quiet unless it has to speak.  It does not interrupt or say mean things.  Humility considers the other person before it says anything.  Let’s make sure we walk in humility and guard our tongues.  Follow Eph 4:29 when speaking.  Let no corrupt communication come out of you, but only that which will edify the hearer.

The Power of Prayer

Mark 14:32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.  33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;  34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

Jesus was well aware of what would be happening in the next 24 hours.  By this time tomorrow, He would be in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Aramathea.  Most people estimate they got to the garden shortly after midnight, and He gave up His life at 3 PM that afternoon, so really only 15 hours.  In the space of that time, He would have the absolute worst day anybody has had in the history of the human race.  He would go through 5 trials, be rejected by the people, be beaten, whipped, spit upon, a crown of thorns placed on His head, told to carry His cross uphill to Calvary, have nails put in His hands and feet, have the cross hoisted into the whole, and be crucified.  All that in 15 hours.  I can see why He would be sore amazed!

So He took His most trusted disciples a little further to watch for the coming arrest, and to pray with Him.  He needed prayer.  Prayer for strength to go through with it. Prayer for courage to not speak any harsh words when confronted.   Pray for peace, His peace, that passes all human understanding.  And also, they needed to be strong.  They needed to pray so they would be able to stand the test that was coming in just a short while.  Their prayer life needed to be bolstered, just as ours always does.

I feel bad for people who don;t pray until they need God to intervene in a situation.  they are missing such a blessing.  A full, rich prayer life will keep us in God’s hands, and we will know His peace and joy even in the midst of the struggles of life.  When we have a habit of praying in the good times, things are so much easier in the bad times.  We have a built in trust of God – we don’t have to get prayed up in order to believe He will move on our behalf.  In Eph 6:18, Paul finishes his description of the whole armor of God by admonishing us to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit”.  Our prayers are a vital part of our armor – don’t leave them out when preparing for battle!  This is the one part of the armor that we should never take off!

 35 And he went forward a little, and fell onthe ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.  

“Is there any other way this can be done, Father?”  That was what Jesus wanted to know.  The utter torment He was about to face overwhelmed even Jesus.  This fleshly body He was in was about to be ripped apart, piece by piece, and He really wanted no part of it.  He wanted a way out.  Remember that He is human here.  He can feel pain just like we can.  He can have fear and worry just like we can.  I think sometimes we skim over this scripture because we have heard it so often, and never really given it a lot of thought.  Let’s think for a minute.

Suppose you knew that tonight, a man was going to break into your house with a loaded gun in his hand.  You knew he was going to tie you up and beat you with his fists as hard as he could until you were almost unconscious.  Then he was going to tie you up, the ropes pulled so tight they cut into your wrists and ankles.  Then he was going to cut each one of your fingers off, one at a time.  Finally, he would shoot you in both knees before he left the house, leaving you in the dark.  If this was me, I would do anything I could to avoid being in that house tonight, and I would let the police know to double check the neighborhood for this guy.  There is no way I would stick around for him to come.

Jesus wanted another way out and He asked His Father if there was another way.  he asked that the cup would pass from Him.  The cup of sin that He was about to drink – a concoction that held all the sins of the world.  As foul and bitter tasting as you can imagine.  he did not want to drink it, but he would do whatever the Father asked.  He had been doing this all along, why stop now!  Whatever the Father asked Him to do, He did, right up to the today.  It did not matter what he wanted.

This should be our attitude.  Not my will, but thine Father.  When I do these devotions every day, I ask the Lord to guide my thoughts and my fingers – not my words, but His.  When I write my poetry, not my words, but His.  When I put together a worship service I pray that he will guide me where He wants to go during that worship service, and that I don’t step out on my own.  I want to be in His hands and hear His voice and follow His directions – always.

37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?  38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.  

I have a tendency to give Peter, James and John a hard time for falling asleep on Jesus.  He did ask them to watch, after all.  He told them His soul was “sorrowful unto death”.  He had told them several times he was going to die in Jerusalem – hadn’t they been listening?  Now the time was close, and they fell asleep in Jesus most difficult hour.  How could they, knowing what they should have known?

But then I think about myself.  It’s easy for me to look back and say I would not have fallen asleep.  But in reality, I can’t count the times that I have begun to take my prayer time and fallen asleep, or gotten too tired to continue and just stopped praying. I have no room to criticize them at all.  We will see that they fell asleep three times.  Now I may not have done that!  It was between 1 and 3 in the morning, so I’m sure they were plenty tired.  It had been a long day the day before, listening to Jesus teach all day long in Jerusalem.  They dd not realize they would need the strength of that prayer to carry them through the next few days and weeks.  They didn’t know what was coming.  Jesus tried to get them prepared, but they slept instead..  When the battle came, their armor was not ready.

39 And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.  40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.  41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

Jesus prayed the same prayer 3 times.  All three times He gave His will over to His Father’s will.  All three times the disciples slept.  Now the betrayer was coming and Jesus was ready.  He was prayed up!  He did not try to run or make it difficult to find Him.  His prayer time had given Him the strength to face what was to come.  As hard and torturous as it would be, Jesus was ready to face the whole thing.

The disciples, on the other hand, were not.  They had slept through their time of prayer.  We would see them in disarray and disbelief when the Roman soldiers arrived with Judas.  Peter would take up a sword, all of them would eventually run off in fear, leaving Jesus alone with them.  None of them would be taken with Him.  None.  they were not prayed up.  They were not ready for this battle.  They slept through their opportunity to gain the strength they would need.

What about you?  How is your prayer life?  Are you prayed up, ready for any battle that might come your way?  Are you regularly going to the Father and telling Him you will submit to His will, no matter what it is?  Are you strong in the Lord and in the power of His might?  I urge you, as I urge myself, to get into a good prayer habit and stay in it.  It will make your life so much better!

Prepare to be Pruned

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

It is so important that we remember these two facts.  Jesus is the vine, the true vine. Without Him, the branches are of no value whatsoever, and they can not possibly produce fruit.  All nourishment and strength for the branches comes from the vine.  The vine is what holds the branches together.  The vine grows and produces more branches, and also feeds the existing branches so they can produce branches. Nothing is produced without the vine.

God, the Father, is the husbandman.  Everything He does is for the benefit of the vine. His most important task is keeping the vine healthy and strong.  After all, once the harvest is done and everyone sees the fruit of His labor, the husbandman will get all the glory, not the vine or the branches.  It would be ridiculous for the branches to say “We deserve some of the glory.  After all we grew the grapes!”  They could not do a thing without the vine, and the vine can do nothing without the husbandman taking care of it year after year.  The glory needs to be put where it belongs!

 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  

Many have a hard time with this verse because they don’t want to believe that God will actually “take away” or “purge” them.  Let’s take a close look at what Jesus said here.

First He addresses those branches that are not bearing fruit.  They appear lifeless and of no use to the vine.  Most likely they are draining the vine of essential nourishment that could go to a more productive branch.  The husbandman has to care for the vine first, so when He sees a branch that is simply not bearing fruit, He has to do something.  This branch can harm the whole vine, and in return all the other branches.  The Greek word used here is “airw” (pronounced “aheero”)  It is a primary root word which can mean several different things depending on the context and tense used.  It can mean to take away or remove.  But more often then not, it means to lift up or raise up.  This same word is used to tell us that Jesus “takes away” the sin of the world.  How did Jesus take away our sin? He took it upon Himself on the cross.

If a branch is unfruitful God will lift it up and do everything He can to restore it to usefulness.  Many times, the non-producing branches may be down in the dirt, and they need cleaned off, or they might be bent and need straightening out.  God will do whatever is needed to make that branch fruitful.  However, if the branch does not respond to the tender care of the husbandman, and continues to be unfruitful, drawing precious resources away from the other branches, the husbandman has an obligation to the vine and the rest of the branches to take that branch away from the vine.  This is a drastic measure, and is only a last resort.  But the husbandman has to look out for the vine first.

Now, the branches that are producing he “purges”.  This means he cleans them, prunes small offshoots from them and prepares them to be more fruitful.  He carefully gets rid of anything on that branch that would rob the branch of the resources going to it.  Without purging, this branch  could become unfruitful in the future, and the husbandman will do anything he can to keep that from happening.

Let’s bring this close to home.  As followers of Christ, we are the branches.  God expects us to be fruitful.  I am not going to get into a discussion of what fruitful means today except to say I think there are 2 types of fruitful. The first is that we witness to those around us and help them see the way to salvation.  The second is to be so full of the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23) that it flows out of us and onto other people.  Both of these, to me, demonstrate fruitfulness.  If we are not fruitful, God will do everything he can to make us fruitful.  If we are fruitful, God will  work on us to make us more fruitful.  In either case, it means God will allow things into our life that will take away those attributes and qualities that are detrimental to our fruitfulness.  We call these trials and tests, but really they are growth methods.

When these things come into our life, it is essential that we go through  them, not try to find a way around them.  When we see God working on someone else’s life, it is important that we pray God will give them the strength to endure through, and not try to pray the test away.  We must begin to see these things through God’s eyes, not our own  He is purging his vine – making it stronger and more fruitful.  Certainly we don’t want to interfere with that!

Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  

Abiding in Christ is not a mystery.  It is simply living according to His words.  Nothing more, nothing less.  We tend to make it a mystery, and I think that’s because we have a hard time doing it, so we try to make it seem harder than it really is.  His word cleans (purges) us and makes us a productive branch.  When we live according to His word, we abide in the vine and will bear much fruit.  And remember, even when we are bearing much fruit, we still will need purging every so often.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Verse 8 is the ultimate result, and the one thing I want happening in my life.  I want to make sure the Fathers glorified.  I had someone say to me the other day that they had sung in their church and no one came up to them after and said it was a good job.  He was a little upset about that.  I asked him who he was singing for.  He thought for a moment and really did not have an answer.  I told him to make sure he is singing for God the next time, and not the congregation.  Then God will receive the glory, and it won’t matter what the people say.  We must always have in mind what will bring glory to the Father.  This is our duty!

In conclusion, I urge you to examine your life today.  Are you a fruitful branch, bringing glory to the Father?  Do you joyfully allow those things into your life that will help you grow and mature so the Father is glorified even more?  Let God purge you and make you a stronger, more fruitful branch.  believe me, it will benefit you as well!

Trusting God

One thing that fascinates me is that John is the only one who recorded the words of Jesus between the upper room and the garden.  These words are so important to us, and yet three of the four writers of the New Testament left them out.  My guess is that John was probably the closest to Jesus, and He recalled the words, and how important they were to him.  In any case, today and tomorrow we will look at some of these last words of Jesus to His disciples.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 

The command to let not our hearts be troubled is one that we ignore all too often.  We get troubled over the minutest details in life and wonder how things will work out.  We worry and fret about things we have absolutely no control over, imagining our worry will do some good.  Often, we try to figure our way out of difficult situations before we even get into them!  Oh, how foolish we can be.

The simple truth is that God has it under control – we believe in  God, we should believe Jesus. In this passage He is referring to the fact that He is leaving and He will prepare them a place.  But the greater picture is that He is always taking care of us, and we do not have to worry about tomorrow.  2 scriptures come to mind.  Matthew 6:34, which tells us not to take any thought for tomorrow, because it will take care of itself.  We just need to do what the previous verse says (Matt 6:33) – seek the kingdom!  keep our eyes on the prize – Jesus!

The second scripture is one that I try to live by every day.  It is the scripture that prompted me to move from Massachusetts to Iowa 39 years ago.  Proverbs 3:5 tells us to Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and not to what we understand to be happening around us.  If we fully trust in Him, our heart’s will never be troubled by situations around us.  We will be at peace (more on that later)

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 

All the time the disciples spent with Jesus, and here they are still asking to see the Father.  They had seen all the miracles and teaching first hand, and had seen the crowds throng to Him.  How could they miss it?

How can we?  I know so many people who read their bibles, go to church and have a good prayer life, but they still don’t really know Jesus.  They don’t understand He demands their allegiance, and He requires their obedience.  This is not an optional service we are in.  Oh, we are free – free from sin and the shame and guilt that accompanies it.  Now we have new marching orders – win the lost, heal the sick, open blinded eyes, cast out demons – the same call that Jesus had on His life.

This is not a casual thing!  In case you haven’t noticed, we are in an all out spiritual war in this country and around the globe.  It’s time for Christians to put on the whole armor of God and fight the battles God sends their way – one at a time.  The ultimate battle has been won, but skirmishes are still taking place.  God will give you the strength and stamina you need to be victorious – you just have to engage in the battle.

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

I have seen way to many preachers and evangelist and Christians use these verses to say that God will give us anything we want.  Anything.  But that is not true.  Asking in Jesus name means asking according to the word and will of God.  Jesus name is the Word, which became flesh and  dwelt among us (John 1:14).  If we ask according to His will and His word, He will do it.  Let’s make sure we are not just throwing up prayer request that have no correlation to ether of those things.  This is serious business!

Then Jesus says if we love Him, keep His commandments.  When you look through those things that Jesus commanded, you will get a real good picture of the Kingdom of God, and you will also see why the church is so far away from it so often.  Briefly, He tells us to live in forgiveness, not to judge, to love one another, to correct any offenses we have right away, to be peacemakers, to live a meek life, to be merciful – shall I go on?  These are things that I believe we all strive to do – I know I do – but fall woefully short most of the time because our flesh gets in the way.  I need to work harder at fulfilling His commandments to show that I love Him!

 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 

I rely on the Holy Spirit every day.  He comes in and brings a calm to my life when all is not calm.  He guides me in putting these little devotionals together and in writing my poems.  He comforts me when I am troubled, and watches over me when I sleep.  He is an ever present friend and helper, and I depend on Him a great deal.  I hope you do as well.

For many years,  I read the bible through in a year.  It was a very fulfilling thing to do, but eventually it became a task rather than a pleasure, so I stopped.  But the benefit I got from that is that the words are in my head.  I may not have everything at my fingertips, but they are in there.  And I may not be able to give you addresses where things can be found, but they are in there.  If they are in there, the Holy Spirit can “bring them to my remembrance”.  That is what I see as the advantage of reading the bible all the way through at least once.  Of course, He can bring things into your mind that have not been put there as well.  But we should be students of the word, and that means the whole word.  It all works together to form and shape our devotion to God.

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 

He left His peace here.  Are you enjoying it?  In this world, there is much turmoil and trouble – it never seems to end.  But when we have a solid relationship with Jesus, and place our unwavering trust in Him, we can enjoy a peace that the world will never understand.  We will not be troubled by any storm or test that comes our way.  We will simply trust God, and know He has it under control.  This is the place He wants us all to be.  Are you there?