Tag Archives: Psalm

Palm Sunday

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Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14- 27:66
Psalm 31:9-16

The long Matthew lesson for today covers the arrest and trial of Jesus.  You may see my comments in the Read Through the New Testament section by doing a search for Matthew 24-28.

But this is Palm Sunday, so go back to Matthew 19-23 and read the comments on chapter 21.

Psalm 31 gives us an account of the life of Jesus.  I am in distress.  I am the dread of my friends.  They plot to take my life.

Isaiah has a similar account.  I offered my back to those who beat me.  But he offers victory in the end.  It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.

There were times in Jesus’ ministry when the crowds following him numbered in the tens of thousands.  His entry into Jerusalem was roaring with praise.  His Apostles knew he was the Messiah and were no doubt eager for him to march to the palace and claim the throne.  Imagine their surprise when he went to the Temple instead and tried to clear out the market.  Talk about asking to be executed.

Palm Sunday is misleading.  The crowds loved what Jesus did for them.  The wanted and needed to be healed, so they followed a healer.  But they did not understand what it meant to follow.  Jesus acted the substance of following on Friday.  He expects obedience in all ways, even to death.

In this world, a follower cannot expect to live in a palace, but must always do those inconvenient things that upset many, yet help the needy.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Mountain of God

 

Exodus 24:12-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9
Psalm 99

Ambrose: If anyone therefore desires to behold this image of God, he must love God so as to be loved by him, no longer as a servant but as a friend who observes his commandments, that he may enter the cloud where God is. (333-397 AD)

Starting with chapter 19, Moses makes several trips up and down the mountain.  Just to clear away the Charlton Heston mistake, the first time the Ten Commandments, and others, were given, Moses and all the people were standing on the plain just outside the camp.  They were not burned into stone.

But the mountain is what we are considering today.  In Exodus, God descends to the mountain and Moses (with others at different times) ascends the mountain.  We could say they met half-way except that God was already with them.  In Psalms, we are to go to God at His Mountain.  In Matthew, Jesus went up the mountain to talk with Moses and Elijah, kind of reversing the roles from the Exodus account.  Finally, Peter comments on what he heard on that same mountain when he, James and John were invited along.

What does it take for us to ‘enter the cloud where God is’?  The scriptures tell us that Jesus had 120 faithful disciples, 12 of whom he appointed apostles.  Yet, when it was time to climb the mountain of God, he invited 3.  Why?  They were ready; they had grown in their faith and could look upon the heavenly body of the Messiah without dying.

Consider what it would do to look upon Perfection with sinful eyes; to feel the heat of Truth on our false flesh.  I want to be ready to go to the Mountain of God, but for me and most of us, it might be best to do it after we have given up these bodies.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Why Galilee?

Isaiah 9:1-4
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23
Psalm 27:1, 5-13

If we look at a map of Israel and find the Sea of Galilee, the land to the west of it is where Jesus spent most of his three-year ministry.  In ancient times, Zebulun and Naphtali were located in that region.  Both Isaiah and Matthew make note of the towns and the region.  Why is it important?

Isaiah adds the detail that, In the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles; another clear reference to the coming Messiah.  Centuries later, in the time of Jesus, Judeans looked down on Galilee because there were so many Roman cities in the district.  In fact, Sepphoris, one of the finest examples of such a city, was just five miles from Nazareth.  In spite of that, Isaiah had the Messiah coming from such a place.  Think perhaps of a future President coming from a mountain in Montana.  Come to think of it, that might be reason enough to vote for him, but back to Jesus.

He very deliberately went to Capernaum on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee and used that city as his base of operations, later using Peter’s house as home-away-from-home.  When he first arrived in the city, he preached the same message John the Baptizer gave.

However, his call of Andrew and Simon is in marked contrast to the way John the Apostle recorded it in last week’s reading.  In John, we see Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptizer.  He and an unnamed disciple heard John call Jesus the Lamb of God and they went to investigate Jesus.  Andrew at once became a follower and brought Simon in as well.

Matthew says that Jesus saw the two of them in their fishing boat and called them to follow him.  This is one of many such confusions that occur among the four Gospels.  Such things are the stuff of attacks on the validity of Christianity.  Generally, the people who make the attacks have not bothered themselves with such things as the backgrounds of the authors, the style of writing in the First Century, the purpose of the individual Gospel, and many other important matters.

To keep it short, none of the Gospel writers were writing history.  They all had a theme, a message that was foremost in their minds.  They used loosely collected stories told and retold over 30, 40, 60 years.  They did things that would have a modern historian blacklisted for life.  They made up things that fit their theme, things that were like stories they knew, but needed to be changed to fit the theme.

I am a historian by training and it is alien to my creed, but if I wrote history in the First Century, I would make up things to fit the story.  That is how the ancients wrote history.  Remember that the Gospels are not history anyway, they tell the Good News of The Messiah Who Has Come to Save Everyone Who Lives or Has Ever Lived.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Behold, The Lamb Of God

Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42
Psalm 40:1-12

David cries out, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.”  He also says, “I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.”

Even as David sank deep into the sins of adultery and murder, failing God on a grand scale, he never doubted God’s faithfulness to him.

Paul reminds the church at Corinth that God remains faithful even as we fail him.  He gives us gifts to use for good.  We must strive to do as He commands us.

We sin when we lose sight of God, of Jesus.  Sometimes we know we choose to sin and we do it anyway, but mostly we sin without realizing it.  I might say something encouraging to a friend, but he hears it as a criticism.  We live in sin.

There is no way to describe the Lamb of God without is sounding mystical.  It is not science, it cannot be proven.  I have to accept it on faith.  It is not, however, without evidence.  Millions of lives changed by accepting that faith.

When John spoke of Jesus as the Lamb of God, everyone who heard him knew that he was referring to the sacrificial lamb offered every morning and evening in the Temple as well as the Passover Lamb once a year to make them clean so they could approach God.

By accepting my sin as his own, Jesus died taking that sin to the grave.  He came out of the grave, but my sin stayed buried.  I believe that.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Better A Day In Your Courts

Pharaoh

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
Psalm 84

 Key verses from each of today’s readings:

For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

When churches do the Christmas pageant, we seldom include the run to Egypt.  We like the cozy pictures of the baby in the manger visited by shepherds and astrologers from the East.  We forget that those Easterners told Herod about the birth of the new King.  Herod was so determined to keep his position of power that he murdered several members of his own family, so killing a baby was a no-brainer.  Because the astrologers failed to tell him where the child was, Herod ordered all males two and under executed, believing the future King would be among them.

We cheer that God was able to save Jesus, but are sickened at the loss of so many lives.  If we stop to ask why God didn’t intervene and save all the boys, we miss the point.  The Messiah, Jesus, was the only way for those boys to be saved, and all the rest of us for that matter.

Our lives and deaths in this world will occur with or without God.  Being an adopted child of God gives us no special protection in this world.  It does protect us from death.  Not from dying, from death.  When these bodies surrender to all the bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, fellow humans, and aging, we get new bodies that will never be under attack or wear out.  We will be gathered in as the remnant to spend all of time praising God and living the lives God made us for.

A few verses ahead of the Jeremiah text is:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence