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“Now when He said ‘I am He’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”  John 18:6

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above……From then on Pilate sought to release Him…” John 19:11, 12

The Story of Easter, for me from as early as Christmas, is a story I’ve heard repeated so many times.  Yet it is amazing how the Spirit will bless us with new avenues of learning, of new insights to living, even in the stories that seem so familiar.

Perhaps for me the revelation of how hard Jesus had to work to even get mankind to fulfill their obligation in the Easter process, has to do with the level of mankind’s arrogance I see in the world today.  For over and over again, mankind turns to solely human based solutions to problems in this world as if there was no Creator, or the Creator had no power with which to intervene.

So let’s look at mankind’s dark, humiliating defeat in the time of Easter.  For three years, very long years for the Jewish authority, Jesus had been teaching, preaching and healing.  The Jewish religious authority was the pre-eminate power in their society.  While there was a Jewish King, he was a puppet of the Romans thus hated by the people.  The true leadership was in the religious leaders and they despised Jesus.  In their minds, there was no way Jesus was the Christ.  He was a fraud and had they not feared the Romans, they would have dealt with Him themselves long ago.

However, now they had Him.  The Jewish leaders finally had a man on the inside, Judas Iscariot and their plans and schemes were falling into place.  See their first failure had been that they could not turn the people against Jesus.  They could not convince the people that Jesus could not be the Christ.  They were powerless to explain His miracles and the people would not buy into Jesus being the chief prince of Beelzebub.  They couldn’t arrest Jesus publicly or the people would riot against them and the Romans would then quickly and mercilessly put down the riot.  So they had to arrest Jesus in secret and they now had just the way to do it.

Jesus like to meet with his disciples, away from the crowds at night.  Through Judas they now knew where they could find Him.  This should be easy, Jesus plus eleven men, most not armed, non trained in the art of warfare.  They gave Judas, many men, a detachment of troops, with officers.  These men came armed.  Jesus didn’t stand a chance.

Yet notice what happened.  Sure enough they found the small band in the secluded garden, Just as Judas had promised.  Better still, instead of running and hiding behind His followers, Jesus comes forward and tells them openly that He is who they are seeking.  This should be a tailor made arrest.  Take Him by the arms, bind Him and lead Him away; simple as that.  What happens? Nothing like that.  The gospel doesn’t explicitly explain why; but instead of launching forward, the men are repelled back and drop to the ground.  Why?  I believe that in that very moment; the spirits inside them understood the gravity of the moment.  The created spirits inside them knew that they were not contesting against flesh and blood but against the very Creator, Himself.  They were trying to arrest the true Son of God…..and it terrified them.  They were in such a state of turmoil that Jesus had to ask them again, point out to them that He, Jesus was standing right there and to get on with the arrest without harming any of His disciples.  Finally, at Jesus behest, they take action and arrest Him.

Okay, the soldiers are one thing but the Jewish religious establishment will have their act together more; they’ll triumph easily over Jesus, won’t they?  Hardly.  There needed to be a trial and the Jewish council had quite a long time to plan this but when the time came, the utterly failed.  Jewish law allowed that when two men would agree on testimony against a third, then that was proof enough of the third man’s guilt.  So the council called upon witnesses to testify against Jesus and many rose to give it.  The problem was, no two witnesses agreed.  They all testified something different against Jesus. On the basis of that Jesus could not be condemned, He must be set free.  In exasperation, they turn to Jesus Himself, who could have kept silent and been saved.  Yet that was not the Father’s plan so Jesus tells them plainly, as He had done before, that He was the Son of God.  Then, and only then, could the Chief Priest and the council move forward to condemn Christ.

Whew, well that’s the soldiers and the Jewish religious leaders stumbling, but the Romans, the dominate earthly power will have no problem showing their power and putting Jesus to death. Right?  That should have been the case because the Romans were known for being ruthless in putting subjugated people to death for sometimes petty offenses or just to show their power to do so.  But again, human power, no matter how seemingly indomitable, pales and shrinks back in the presence of God’s Holy Power and Jesus Christ is God on this earth.  Pontius Pilate seemingly pleads with Jesus to give him any shred of evidence, any glimmer of a case of why Jesus should not be condemned to death.  Even when Pilate declares his power over Jesus it is more of a whining whimper than it is a declaration of supreme power.  When Jesus tells Pilate that Pilate has no power except that which has been given to him from above, one might imagine Pilate would be incensed and insulted by that remark and condemn Jesus right then and there.  Instead, although Pilate will not admit it, he knows that it is true and wants desperately to find a way out of being involved in this Man’s death.

Thus across the entire human spectrum, you see the folly, the failure, the utter weakness of human power and how hard Jesus had to work to have His own death happen, to carry out the plan of His and Our Heavenly Father.  Those who would otherwise seem so arrogant, becoming completely impotent in the face of Jesus Christ.

Flash forward a few thousand years and we sadly find that our human arrogance has not diminished.  This world is hell-bent on acting as if human kind is the highest form of existence.  When human or natural calamities strike us we so often turn to our own devices; our intellect, our understanding, our force of arms, our human institutions of government, healthcare, justice and others as the sole and right solution to lift us out of our self imposed chaos.  We have so many who, in their ascendant nature, feel they no longer have “need” for God and look down and put down anyone else who puts their faith in the Almighty.

Jesus Christ will not be crucified again; once was enough.  And as the leaders of a millennia ago did not know what to do with, were completely thwarted by the risen Jesus Christ, today’s leaders, today’s world are not doing any better.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us strive to not fall into the trap of our own arrogance.  Let us not sink to defeat through the reliance on our own devices.  Let us humbly come before the risen, living, triumphant Jesus Christ and call and rely upon His name.  Let us abide in Him letting the truth of the Holy Spirit and the strength of Christ’s love sustain us through any earthly trial.  Let us also learn through the triumph of Christ’s humility not to be arrogant about our life in Christ as if we’ve earned that life through our own righteousness.  Rather let us share the love of Christ as He did to all, even those who rejected and hated Him. These are the lessons of Christ’s victory which the world refuses to learn.  Let us be loving, learning students of Christ allowing Him and Only Him to be the source of our redemption.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are Your creation.  Yet we humbly confess that we are stubborn creation.  We confess that we are often tempted to go our own way, in our own arrogance, leading to our own defeats.  Have mercy on us Heavenly Father and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would return to You and be washed clean and forgiven by the precious blood of Jesus Christ which was given to us for our salvation.  Give us the desire and then the strength to abide in Christ that we may bear living fruit to the praise of Your Most Holy Name.  We pray this in the Name of the victorious lamb, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

“Then the multitudes who went before and those that followed cried out:  ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” Matthew 21:9

“Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Matthew 26:66

Let’s take a moment to ponder Easter week from the disciples perspective.  What a way it started out.  Much of the last year of Jesus’ ministry had been filled with both miracles but also strife.  As Jesus became more well know, He was attacked more and more by the religious establishment.  His fame concerning healing and miracles had reached such a significant level that He found it difficult to stay in the towns and cities due to the crowds.  Now Jesus had decided to go to Jerusalem to observe the passover.  The disciples had trepidation over this.  Some tried to dissuade Jesus believing He might be killed and they along with Him for even trying to enter the city.  Still, all decided to accompany Him, no matter the risk.

Yet, now Jesus was entering the city of cities; Jerusalem.  And far from being ostracized or condemned by the crowds, Jesus was being hailed and praised by the crowds.  The Jewish authorities who wanted Him silenced were no match for the jubilant outpouring from the crowd.  What an unexpected turn of events that must have been for the disciples.  For there was Jesus being praised and glorified by the crowds and because they were His disciples, they strode in triumphant as well.  Later that same week we are told that many, some powerful were coming to the disciples seeking an audience with Jesus.  Every time a detractor or accuser came to question or verbally attack Jesus, he was completely thwarted and turned away by Jesus; much to the marvel of the crowd.  This must have filled the disciples with such confidence and elation.

Then, in a few short days it all turned around.  It started with the feast of the Passover; the last supper.  What would seem to be a solemn but joyful event quickly turns anything but when Jesus declares that one of His closest, one from this beloved group, would betray Jesus.  Then Jesus starts to talk in detail about His departing and coming again.  Jesus leads them out to a garden where He does something they have never seen before; Jesus becomes sorrowful, almost seemingly fearful, though most don’t witness it because they have fallen asleep.

Finally the unthinkable happens; Jesus is arrested.  Jesus is put on trial and in a matter of a few short days the disciples witness the very same people who cheered Jesus as the Son of David, coming in the Name of Lord, jeer Jesus and demand that He be crucified!  They watch as He is led off condemned and some even watch Him die.  They must have wondered to themselves can it get any worse than this?

It seems that in barely the length of a week’s time, the disciples have witnessed and experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.   They have watched the world revere, cheer and seemingly love them.  However, so very quickly, they have watched the world, chastise, belittle and even condemn them.  How is one to react to that?  How would you and I react to that?

If one is not to find oneself being driven crazy by the capriciousness and duality of this world, it would seem that we would have to remember and keep focused, not on the world but on Jesus Christ.  For if we look to the example of Jesus Christ, He did not get swept up in the heady, glory filled days of the beginning of the week.  He completely realized what was coming and how the world can be so fickle as to praise in one moment and condemn the next.  Yet even in His lowest of low moments, when it seemed all had deserted Him in the garden, He knew His Father was there.  Jesus knew the love of His Father and knew that love would see Him through.

So likewise for us, if we find ourselves in a place or circumstance of triumph, we must resists the temptation to be swept up in the adoration and become proud and feeling deserving.  Let us instead humbly give thanks for our good fortune to the One who has blessed us with it, knowing that He, Our Heavenly Father is always faithful where the world is anything but.

Also, should we find ourselves in a place of abject disillusionment and despair with seemingly no place to turn; no hope of survival, let us, like Jesus, remember we are never alone, we are never without hope.  For we serve and have the love of the Creator of the Universe, the All Powerful and All Knowing God Almighty.  We have His solemn promise that He will never forsake us nor abandon us.

No doubt about it, we live in a tumultuous world.  Should we decide to be worldly, we will find ourselves catapulted to relatively fictitious highs and rocked by devastating lows.  In either of those situations love, true love will be hard to come by.  Thus, let us leave the roller coaster of the world behind and instead strive to become one with He who promises a peace and joy surpassing all worldly understanding.  His high is the only one worth shooting for.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world of extremes where we can go from triumphant highs to tragic lows.  Pour out Your Spirit Upon us, Merciful Father, that would not be tempted to be swept up in the prideful adulation or led to self destruction in the tragedy.  May it be that in all circumstances we would be reliant and focused on You and Your Love knowing that is the only true sustainment that we need or should desire.  That Your blessings are the reason for our triumphs and Your mercy will see us through our tragedies.  That in all things and at all times we would strive to bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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