Not Guilty

Not guilty echos forward into eternity. A prophetic voice foreshadows what it to come. Our Abba and his Son look upon us and declare “Not Guilty”. There is to be no more blood shed to atone for sin. That way is done. And it is done now. What might it be
like to live “Not Guilty” today?
- free of guilt and shame?
- of not being enough?
- of messing up or making mistakes?
- of taking out our anger laced fear on others?
- of finding someone to blame?

John 19 contains the reality of great suffering. Please be gentle with yourself as you pray through these texts. Christ is with you.

John 19:1-6 (NLT)
Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

Place yourself in this conversation. Who are you? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you want to say to Jesus? What does he in turn say to you?

This can be a painful passage to pray with. Invite Jesus to minister to you in your pain or just be with him in his pain. Together you are sharing in his suffering and he in yours.

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Love Un-numbed

The long, painful path to the cross has come to an end. We have felt the weight of dwelling in these texts which extended beyond the church calendar. We have chosen to allow the text to shape and change us. 

After much dialogue with his Father, Jesus discerned the time to choose and allow the humiliations of his enemies.  We observe the provision of a companion, an advocate for Jesus in his suffering. And we witness what love looks like un-numbed.

Mark 15:16-20 (NLT)
16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.
24 Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Is there a color you associate with this word?
Bring your own experience of being mocked into your prayer with Jesus. How is he with you in it? Does have something to say to you?
Be with Jesus in his humiliation, either at a distance or by his side. Is there something you want to tell him?

Attending to Jesus in Suffering

Now in the garden, Jesus beckons those he loves to share in his sorrow - to stay present and pray with him in it.  This is a hard thing to ask, to stay awake and keep watch with ourselves and another in anguish. It seems like we are hardwired to avoid suffering and we choose many means to avoid it. Falling asleep, checking out, numbing our sorrow with toxic substances or addictions all temporarily serve to keep us unaware of the pain in us and before us. Jesus longs to show us another way to be with sorrow and suffering with him. Jesus will give us the courage and strength to be present to reality and to be with him in it.

Mark 14:32-42 (NIV)
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus.

How have you experienced keeping watch with Jesus in sorrow or suffering? What helps you stay awake to keep watch?

Is there a place where Jesus is inviting you to keep watch with him now? Have a conversation with him about it. How is he praying with you and for you in the watch?

Speak to your Abba about the cup you would like removed from you? What does the Abba say to you or show you?

You're Not In the Driver's Seat

Sometimes we would like to remake God into whom we want God to be. Sometimes we live out of a distorted perception of who God is. Or, sometimes we buy into popular "easy speak" about who God is because it feels safer or more comfortable and might be all about our happiness. 

When Peter declared Jesus to be "the Christ" he apparently had a distorted perception of what that meant rather than how God actually was revealing himself to be in the person of Christ. Jesus clearly tells the disciples what was coming, and it was a path of suffering, death and yes, also the reality of resurrection and new life.

Of course, we would love to get to resurrection without entering the pain and suffering path. Pain comes, suffering comes, as unavoidable realities of human life. We are invited to embrace them not run from them, learn from them, rely on God in them, and allow them to change our heart into a heart like Christ's. The process of dying to a self-absorbed life can be painful but it holds great hope for becoming fully alive. 

Mark 8:30-9:1 The Message (MSG)
Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.

But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”

Then he drove it home by saying, “This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you who are standing here are going to see it happen, see the kingdom of God arrive in full force.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
•    What stood out to you in this passage?  A word, a phrase?
•    What is your inner response?  Can you name it?
•    Any thoughts about how you might like to remake Jesus into someone else other than who he is?
•    Where are you with the invitation for dying to self, your human way of seeing, a spiritually false way of living?
•    How have you witnessed the kingdom of God in “full force?”