A Stone’s Throw Away

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“He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed”

Luke 22:41

Who knows what Jesus is thinking at this precise moment as he entered the Garden? His disciples waited for Jesus and scripture states that he proceeded ahead of them— “a stone’s throw.”

We often share in the sorrows of the people closest to us, and Jesus wants has disciples to follow him. And they do, but not all the way. They came close, but were oblivious to the full nature of the pain that was beginning for Jesus. They slept while he agonized. He was for the first time, needing someone close.

Many of us will make the same trip to the garden. Soon every believer makes the trip to ‘Gethsemane,’ but not as mere observers. It is a distinct place of testing and of sorrow. And each will experience it for themselves. “The servant is not above his master.”

But Jesus is close— he completely understands what it means to be alone with sorrow. The believer can lean on Jesus as the pain continues. He sends his “Comforter” to each, as he escorts us through this time. He comes in grace, and is completely kind. He truly is just a stone’s throw away.

“God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

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Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

This is a chapter from my book, “They Met Jesus: Stories from the Gospels.” Hope you like it!

Chapter 37

Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

6 The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” 7 After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood.9 This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
10 and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

My name is Judas and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed; The money was fine but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I did what they could not.

Jesus loved his disciples, including me. When he came washing our feet I was humbled and disturbed. But in my mind I knew that Jesus needed an opportunity to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I would be the kingmaker and Jesus would reward me.

But this washing the feet thing made me doubt his fitness as a king. When he stripped to his underwear I had my doubts. Behaving as a common slave wasn’t in my agenda. It would take extra work to shape him and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end. If only Jesus would cooperate.

It was said that Satan entered me at this time. I hardly noticed. I know I was filled with excitement. The other disciples would come to my side, and together we would do it. Enough groveling, we were going to rule Israel and even end the Roman occupation. I believed this with all that was in me.

The tricky part was to manipulate Jesus. He must see the opportunity that awaited him. He already was immensely popular among the common man.

My plan was this, after I met with the Pharisees, I would then lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. The Pharisees insisted on an armed escort in case there was trouble among the disciples. I on the other would give Jesus a kiss to signify that he was the one, it was dark and the torches didn’t give enough light.

When I kissed Jesus on the cheek the soldiers were to arrest him. I assumed he would resist and fight. It was my hope that he would fight. This would be the spark that Jesus needed to take action. When Jesus was taken into custody I assumed that this was the beginning of the revolution to come.

I was wrong. Nothing went as planned. Jesus did not take charge and overthrow the government, As a matter of fact the opposite happened, he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I once heard him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized too late, that I helped shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me to give back the silver. They wouldn’t take it back. I threw at their feet and left the temple. I was in a daze and ugly thoughts filled my mind.

Excuse me, but I have a date with the rope.

Lord Jesus, but for the grace of God there go I. Let me be a servant and not a king. Keep me away from foolish thinking, help me to believe in your Gospel just as it is, Amen.

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Gethsemane Unappreciated

” Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” 

Mark 14:37

I honestly think what broke Jesus up the most was being disappointed by His trusty disciples.  This was devastating.  I believe that He was counting on the disciples to be there for Him.  They simply fell asleep while sitting with Jesus. Now it’s no secret that we need sleep.  Sleeping is a part of life, it is something that we require.  But we can forego it, without too many issues.  Truck drivers and med interns do it all the time–it’s no big deal.

But precious Peter sleeps through the most critical time of His best friends life–even after an explanation.  Jesus craves their closeness.  The humanness of Jesus yearns for His friends–His companions. He was lonely, and alone.

robin1aThere is a legend of the Brittany peasants that explains how the robin got its red breast. As Jesus was being led out to Calvary, a bird, pitying Him, flew down and plucked one thorn from the crown of thorns He wore. The blood spurted from the wound and splashed the bird’s breast.  It would be from that moment on the bird with the red breast– the valiant robin.

The robin did what it could.  The disciples didn’t. After sleeping for a bit, they would scatter.  They gave Jesus no solace, no comfort. All they did was to make Gethsemane harder.  Death was something Jesus knew was imminent.  The torture would brutalize Him even before the cross.  But, He would go it alone, without His friends.  Jesus would take all the sin on His shoulders and carry it away from us.

Today, we can make up for the disciples gross negligence. In some way, we can sit with Jesus, and spend time with Him, alert to the intercessory burden He carries for the Church. It is an active ministry of simple availability to being used in this way.

“Christ bears the wounds of the church, his body,  just as he bore the wounds of crucifixion. I sometimes wonder which have hurt worse.”

Philip Yancey

“So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore.  14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

Hebrews 13:13-14

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Pressed Roses

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, ESV

This world is not our friend. And then we often face issues that create ugly things–  a fight with a spouse, poor choices, money problems– a lengthy list that seems that we’re always adding new entries. And as we each of us work through our tears, as we face sickness, loneliness, fear and misunderstanding.

In this world of woe and trouble, we discover that life is itself often brutal. Myself, I must deal with clinical depression, paranoia and physical pain. It is constant, a barrage of challenging things. Sometimes they swallow me up, and I lose my way.

I was thinking this morning, of a recent find in the pages of an old book– pressed rose petals! The book had been many years on the shelf. When I opened the book they I found them.  Typically, they are fairly well preserved. They still have color and shape. And most of all, they still have a fragrance.

I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do when this happens. Do I just “read” around them, or do I physically remove them? I almost feel that they are sacred or something. Do I find an old jar and store them? But no matter what I do, I always pause and think. Sometimes though, I can even remember the incident that they were given. An anniversary or a birthday maybe? Or sometimes they are given, “just because.”

Two distinct thoughts work in me. I look at the hard, hard things that I have had to process through my past, and present, and most likely, my future. I have to believe, from all that I have read and the preaching I have heard over the years that my pain gets turned into gold (or into roses!) This is exclusively a work of God. The second thought is a little bit harder to think through. But Jesus is the rose. He is the beauty and the fragrance of heaven come to earth.

There is an old fable kept by the believers of the first century; it was said that wherever Jesus stepped while on earth, roses would spring up in His footprints. This is only a legend of course, but that doesn’t mean that it is all false. Some of these stories have more truth in them than we think.

 

Coming to Him is such pleasant thing. It shouldn’t be an agonizing ordeal. It is not a painful or real sacrifice. After all, He is the rose. Roses are beautiful, they have a definite fragrance. There is a symmetry to them, and they are special, people will cultivate them for their beauty. Roses are never a hassle, for some reason we can never send or get too many.

“I am the rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”

Songs 2:1, ESV

“A discipleship without flowers, probably isn’t worth having.”

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