Ever been in a situation where you are put in the position to make the tough decision? Ever been in a situation where you need to decide the outcome? Did you look for a way out? Did you look for wisdom? Where did you turn? Who did you talk to about it? How do you know what is right or wrong? How do you know what the penalty should be? Is it just? Is it too severe? Do you care? Do you give people choices? Do you manage what options are available? How do you control the situation?
This morning’s reading starts with just such a situation…
Jesus before Pilate
(Matthew 27.1, 2, 11-14; Mark 15.1-5; Luke 23.1-5)
28Early in the morning Jesus was taken from Caiaphas’ house to the governor’s palace. The Jewish authorities did not go inside the palace, for they wanted to keep themselves ritually clean, in order to be able to eat the Passover meal. 29So Pilate went outside to them and asked, “What do you accuse this man of?”
30Their answer was, “We would not have brought him to you if he had not committed a crime.”
31Pilate said to them, “Then you yourselves take him and try him according to your own law.” They replied, “We are not allowed to put anyone to death.” ( 32This happened in order to make come true what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he would die.)
33Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34Jesus answered, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?”
35Pilate replied, “Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and the chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?”
36Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”
37So Pilate asked him, “Are you a king, then?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.”
38“And what is truth?” Pilate asked.
Jesus Is Sentenced to Death
(Matthew 27.15-31; Mark 15.6-20; Luke 23.13-25)
Then Pilate went back outside to the people and said to them, “I cannot find any reason to condemn him. 39But according to the custom you have, I always set free a prisoner for you during the Passover. Do you want me to set free for you the king of the Jews?”
40They answered him with a shout, “No, not him! We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a bandit.)
–from John 18
What if you were on the other side? What if you were innocent and they were ready to condemn you? What if pride was driving the decision? How would you feel? How would you respond? Will you break the chains by the blood Jesus shed on the cross and the truth of your testimonies about how God has transformed your lives? Will you stand on the truth?
The Woman and the Dragon
1Then a great and mysterious sight appeared in the sky. There was a woman, whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was soon to give birth, and the pains and suffering of childbirth made her cry out.
3Another mysterious sight appeared in the sky. There was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and a crown on each of his heads. 4With his tail he dragged a third of the stars out of the sky and threw them down to the earth. He stood in front of the woman, in order to eat her child as soon as it was born. 5Then she gave birth to a son, who will rule over all nations with an iron rod. But the child was snatched away and taken to God and his throne. 6The woman fled to the desert, to a place God had prepared for her, where she will be taken care of for 1,260 days.
7Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, who fought back with his angels; 8but the dragon was defeated, and he and his angels were not allowed to stay in heaven any longer. 9The huge dragon was thrown out—that ancient serpent, named the Devil, or Satan, that deceived the whole world. He was thrown down to earth, and all his angels with him.
10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. 12And so be glad, you heavens, and all you that live there! But how terrible for the earth and the sea! For the Devil has come down to you, and he is filled with rage, because he knows that he has only a little time left.”
13When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he began to pursue the woman who had given birth to the boy. 14She was given the two wings of a large eagle in order to fly to her place in the desert, where she will be taken care of for three and a half years, safe from the dragon’s attack. 15And then from his mouth the dragon poured out a flood of water after the woman, so that it would carry her away. 16But the earth helped the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the water that had come from the dragon’s mouth. 17The dragon was furious with the woman and went off to fight against the rest of her descendants, all those who obey God’s commandments and are faithful to the truth revealed by Jesus. 18And the dragon stood on the seashore.
–from Revelation 12
It’s not about what we do and don’t do, it’s about walking in relationship with God! With Jesus at our side, He gives us wisdom and discernment through the Holy Spirit! Living in relationship with Him, we are able to find peace and courage to do more than we could have ever asked or imagined through Christ who strengthens us! It is so much bigger than our abilities! God has gifted us with talents for a purpose! So let’s live a purpose filled life! Let’s worship the creator rather than the created!
1-2It is not right, Job, for you to say that you are innocent in God’s sight, 3or to ask God, “How does my sin affect you? What have I gained by not sinning?” 4I am going to answer you and your friends too. 5Look at the sky! See how high the clouds are! 6If you sin, that does no harm to God. If you do wrong many times, does that affect him? 7Do you help God by being so righteous? There is nothing God needs from you. 8Others suffer from your sins, and the good you do helps them. 9When people are oppressed, they groan; they cry for someone to save them. 10But they don’t turn to God, their Creator, who gives them hope in their darkest hours. 11They don’t turn to God, who makes us wise, wiser than any animal or bird. 12They cry for help, but God doesn’t answer, for they are proud and evil. 13It is useless for them to cry out; Almighty God does not see or hear them. 14Job, you say you can’t see God; but wait patiently—your case is before him. 15You think that God does not punish, that he pays little attention to sin. 16It is useless for you to go on talking; it is clear you don’t know what you are saying.
–from Job 35
Do you want peace? True peace? A peace that goes beyond all understanding?
The Lord’s Universal Reign of Peace
1In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it, 2and their people will say, “Let us go up the hill of the Lord, to the Temple of Israel’s God. He will teach us what he wants us to do; we will walk in the paths he has chosen. For the Lord’s teaching comes from Jerusalem; from Zion he speaks to his people.” 3He will settle disputes among the nations, among the great powers near and far. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again. 4Everyone will live in peace among their own vineyards and fig trees, and no one will make them afraid. The Lord Almighty has promised this. 5Each nation worships and obeys its own god, but we will worship and obey the Lord our God forever and ever.
Israel Will Return from Exile
6“The time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will gather together the people I punished, those who have suffered in exile. 7They are crippled and far from home, but I will make a new beginning with those who are left, and they will become a great nation. I will rule over them on Mount Zion from that time on and forever.”
8And you, Jerusalem, where God, like a shepherd from his lookout tower, watches over his people, will once again be the capital of the kingdom that was yours. 9Why do you cry out so loudly? Why are you suffering like a woman in labor? Is it because you have no king, and your counselors are dead? 10Twist and groan, people of Jerusalem, like a woman giving birth, for now you will have to leave the city and live in the open country. You will have to go to Babylon, but there the Lord will save you from your enemies. 11Many nations have gathered to attack you. They say, “Jerusalem must be destroyed! We will see this city in ruins!” 12But these nations do not know what is in the Lord’s mind. They do not realize that they have been gathered together to be punished in the same way that grain is brought in to be threshed.
13The Lord says, “People of Jerusalem, go and punish your enemies! I will make you as strong as a bull with iron horns and bronze hoofs. You will crush many nations, and the wealth they got by violence you will present to me, the Lord of the whole world.”
–from Micah 4
Jesus is the answer to your prayers, your hopes, and your dreams! By receiving him into your heart, your life will be transformed! When will you receive Him? When will you choose life? Is today your day?
1People of Jerusalem, gather your forces! We are besieged! They are attacking the leader of Israel!
God Promises a Ruler from Bethlehem
2The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.”
3So the Lord will abandon his people to their enemies until the woman who is to give birth has her son. Then those Israelites who are in exile will be reunited with their own people. 4When he comes, he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the Lord and with the majesty of the Lord God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness, 5and he will bring peace.
Deliverance and Punishment
When the Assyrians invade our country and break through our defenses, we will send our strongest leaders to fight them. 6By force of arms they will conquer Assyria, the land of Nimrod, and they will save us from the Assyrians when they invade our territory. 7The people of Israel who survive will be like refreshing dew sent by the Lord for many nations, like showers on growing plants. They will depend on God, not people. 8Those who are left among the nations will be like a lion hunting for food in a forest or a pasture: it gets in among the sheep, pounces on them, and tears them to pieces—and there is no hope of rescue. 9Israel will conquer her enemies and destroy them all. 10The Lord says, “At that time I will take away your horses and destroy your chariots. 11I will destroy the cities in your land and tear down all your defenses. 12I will destroy the magic charms you use and leave you without any fortunetellers. 13I will destroy your idols and sacred stone pillars; no longer will you worship the things that you yourselves have made. 14I will pull down the images of the goddess Asherah in your land and destroy your cities. 15And in my great anger I will take revenge on all nations that have not obeyed me.”
–from Micah 5