The Stone The Builders Rejected

(Luke 20:9-18)

This section of scripture is the parable of the man who planted a vineyard, let it out to tenants and then went away. The focus is on the tenants and how they reacted to those sent by the master of the vineyard to receive the fruits of the vineyard. There are a few ways to look at this parable, but here today I will consider only one of those, for it provides a dire warning for the people of the world as well as the people of God.vineyard2

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Jesus Sent to Pilate

(Mark 15:1-15)

After Jesus was put on trial before the chief priests and elders, they held a meeting and decided to bind him and deliver him to Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus whether he was King of the Jews and Jesus responded, “You have said so.” (Verse 2) Despite the many charges made by the chief priests and scribes, none of which they could prove. Jesus made no answer and so Pilate wondered.

jesus-before-pilateNow the reason they brought Jesus before the governor may have been twofold. First, as governor they needed his consent to put Jesus to death. And second, by focussing on the fact that Jesus was King of the Jews they hoped Pilate would sentence him to death on the basis that he would be perceived as a threat to the rule of Rome over the land.

As the event continues we see that Pilate recognises that the priests had brought Jesus to him not for any crimes committed, but out of envy. (Verse 10) Pilate had a tradition that he would release one prisoner back to the Jews at the time of the feast each year. Knowing the envy of the priests he chose to offer Jesus or Barabbas, who was a rebel and a murderer accused in the insurrection. The comparison between these two should have led to the release of Jesus for Pilate deliberately offered a truly evil man that no person in their right mind would want back on the streets.

However he underestimated the power and the will of the priests. They stirred up the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. Pilate was completely perplexed over this matter for he said to the crowd when they sought Jesus’ death, “Why, what evil has he done?” (Verse 13) In the end he gave over to the crowd and having scourged Jesus he delivered him to be nailed to the stake and released Barabbas. (Verse 15)

Here is a lesson for us today. There is a rule of the mob or the crowd. Riots and insurrection are caused by the rule of the mob. Crowds become charged with emotion and take on a life of their own which cannot be reasoned with and cannot be easily controlled. Look at any television report where there is a mob out of control. Look at the eyes of the people in the crowd as they run to cause violence and destruction. They are not in control of themselves but are driven by adrenalin and emotion.

Emotion is the tool of the devil. By whipping people into a frenzy they lose their self-control and can be pushed to all kinds of evil as the devil leads them. Mob rule is satanic for it ignores what is good, right and true because mob rule is based upon emotion and not reason. This is exactly what happened before Pilate when Jesus was condemned. It takes only a few well placed people with axes to grind to whip a crowd into a frenzy, which is how the chief priests whipped this crowd into murdering the Lord and Saviour of the world.

It is the same today. Occasionally you hear of riots that have been orchestrated by certain pressure groups. All they need is a crowd and a few people to drive the agenda throug emotion and the process is set off and running like a runaway train. It is literally a train wreck waiting to happen.

Stay away from mobs. If there is a large gathering of people getting together to protest an issue, beware. It does not take much for it to turn to insurrection and violence as the mood of the crowd is pushed and pulled by those who want to stir up violence. I say it again, beware of mobs and crowds that can turn to violence. There is no good to be done in such a situation, and if you find yourself in such a place…flee!

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Jesus Betrayed

(Mark 14:42-50)

Here we see the betrayal of Jesus take place. All that he said would happen came to pass. Judas came by night to this private garden with a contingent of soldiers and others to betray him into the hands of the chief priests for trial and his murder.

Jesus-BetrayedWhat is typical of the way this took place is the same as criminals and the evil have conducted their affairs throughout history. They came under false pretences, under cover of darkness, in hefty numbers and appearing to be something other than they actually are. Judas had given the soldiers a sign saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away under guard.” (Verse 44) In a false act of greeting he came to Jesus calling him “Master” and kissing him to betray him into the hands of evil men.

This is the nature of evil people. They will appear to be your friend, but their intention is deception for their own ends. Is it any wonder that Jesus did not trust himself to men (John 2:24-25). And they do their deeds under the cover of darkness and in secret places for they fear being exposed for the frauds and the evil that they are. Thus as Jesus did not trust himself to men, we need to beware of men as well for if they did it to him, they will do it to the followers of the Lord as well.

Now we see that one of those with Jesus struck back by drawing a sword and cutting off the ear of the slave of the high priest. In another version of this event we see that it was Peter who did this act. But there Jesus said for him to cease and he healed the ear of the man struck, for Jesus knew he was to go through this ordeal and death and he did not want the disciples to suffer as well. (John 18:9-11) This was to fulfil prophecy that he was not to lose any of those the Lord God had given to him.

At this point the disciples all forsook Jesus and fled, as Jesus had already told them they would. Despite their earlier bravado, when confronted by the angry mob they ran for safety, which was what the Lord told them they would do and what they needed to do so that the gospel would be preached after Jesus’ death. They would suffer grief over this, and Peter especially who would shortly deny even knowing Jesus, but when they came around and repented they would return to their faith and seek the Lord as they moved forward.

The lesson here for us is that when we too fall, we must pick ourselves up and return to the Lord as well. We must not allow our weaknesses and failings to prevent us from standing with the Lord. Even if we fall and fail over the same issue many, many times. When we come to our senses we need to turn to the Lord with a repentant heart and be prepared to move forward. In due course we will have the victory over the issue as he strengthens us when we look to him for the truth.

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Let This Cup Pass

(Mark 14:32-42)

Jesus took the disciples, Peter, James and John with him into the gardens at Gethsemane to pray, knowing his betrayal was at hand. He was greatly distressed and deeply troubled as he knew the suffering that he was to suffer on our behalf. And in this section we see how deeply that pain was affecting Jesus.

let-this-cup-passOne of the scriptures in this section has been badly translated in almost every bible I have seen. It is verse 38 which reads, “…Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” You will note I have made the word “you” bold. The original Greek text does not have this word “you” in it, and when it is removed it changes the whole context of what is being said here.

Typically when people read and explain this section of scripture they believe that the Lord is upbraiding the disciples because they fell asleep. It is generally explained as being that the disciples spirits are willing, but their flesh is weak and thus instead of watching with Jesus they nod off. But is this what the section is really talking about? I believe it is something altogether different from this normal view.

Consider for a moment what is going on and what is about to happen. Jesus is praying to the Father asking if it is possible, the hour, that is his impending death, might pass from him. He says, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Verse 36) Jesus was about to suffer extreme humiliation, pain and great suffering and he is asking the Father if there is a way out.

So who is being tempted in this situation? The disciples? No. It is Jesus who was being tempted to escape the suffering that was to come. Were the disciples being tempted in any way? No, they were simply tired and unable to remain awake. Jesus knew that he had to go through this pain and suffering so that the New Covenant could be brought into effect and so that we could receive life. But he knew it would be painful and he was seeking whether there was any other way to do what had to be done.

Thus when he said, “…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” he was not talking about the disciples but his own spirit and flesh. In his spirit he was willing to go through what had to be done, but in his flesh he did not want to go through the suffering. It was Jesus speaking about himself when he was saying these things and he was looking for support from the disciples in his hour of need and trouble.

Three times he besought the Father over this, which shows how pained he must have been, but in the end the answer from the Father was “No.” And even though he would have liked an alternative way to achieve this result, Jesus was obedient to the Father and went through the deadly process which was to our advantage. At no time did he disobey but through his obedience he showed himself worthy of all praise as the Son of God.

Jesus was not worried about the disciples spirit being willing but the flesh weak and failing, he was concerned that his own flesh would cause him to fail. He was concerned that the weakness in his own flesh would cause him to run and to disobey God the Father in the very hour for which he came. That is why he prayed the way he did and that is why he sought the support of the others.

And we learn from this too that sometimes when we ask God for things, the answer will be “No.” Sometimes we will have to likewise go through difficulties and troubles for the purpose of strengthening us so we can learn to stand. But always let us remind ourselves of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wondrous gift that he gave us through his suffering. For it was through this one act of obedience to the Father that he assured we would have access to the Father and to life, if we believe in him and live according to the will of God.

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Jesus Speaks of His Betrayal

(Mark 14:12-21)

In this section we see Jesus eating his final Passover with the disciples. The disciples ask where they should prepare the Passover for him and we see him operate the word of knowledge advising them where to go. He tells them they will find a man carrying a jar of water and to follow him and when he enters a house to tell the owner that is where they would eat the Passover. Furthermore he says that this house would have a large upstairs room furnished and made ready for them.

Clearly there is no way anyone could have known and described these things except by the hand and insight of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was given this fore-knowledge and insight as to this matter as he did also on other occasions.

But then we see him announce at the table that one of those eating with him would betray him. I discussed this in part in my previous post and will emphasis again some of the key learnings from this sequence of events.

The disciples were quite sorrowful when they heard this and began to ask him, “Is it I?” Clearly none of them wanted to betray the Lord, except of course the betrayer, Judas Iscariot, and as such they were deeply troubled and concerned.

Now the important thing to see in this, which I mentioned last time, is that when Jesus said this, no one immediately turned and looked at Judas. No one had any idea who the betrayer would be which shows how effective Judas was at disguising his intentions. He did not stand out as the obvious choice for the the betrayer but was well hidden.

Satan is just like that too. He is not like the typical depictions in the art and fancy of man as a red devil with horns and a pitchfork. Instead he is cunning, deceptive and well disguised. When Jesus talks about wolves in sheeps clothing this is what he is talking about. The emissaries of Satan are well camouflaged, they blend in with those around them, they do not stand out for that would work against their evil deeds.

Consider this. If an evil person comes to you ranting, raving and with threats of violence and ill-will, you will be immediately on your guard. But if someone comes speaking words of honey, agreeable and smooth-talking, they can slip right under your guard and wreak havoc.

The devil is such a being; cunning, smooth-talking, deceitful and a teller of half truths. But also in these things he is destructive and focussed on the destruction of those who seek the Lord. Consider how he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. Smooth-talking and a teller of half-truths that deceived Eve into taking fruit from the one tree that she had been told not to touch. The devil used his deceitful ways to slip under Eve’s guard and condemn all of mankind to death as a result.

This is the message we get from the betrayal of Jesus. It was one of those closest to him that would turn against him, and the rest did not see it coming for the betrayer was so well hidden. But Jesus knew who it was for it was revealed to him. Likewise we are to be on our guard. Like the wolves in sheeps clothing who will be known by their fruits, we must watch and listen to see what is coming from those around us.

The words of the wolf will soon show what is in their heart. For it is from the heart that the mouth speaks. The thoughts and intentions of all people are what come through in their speech and although they may try to hide it, and will hide it for a time, eventually they will be seen for what is in their heart.

But to know and see where they stand we must come to a knowledge of the truth and seek the Lord diligently. If we are to stand against the evil these men would do we need to know the truth. If we are to stand we need to set our feet solidly on the rock of Jesus Christ and go to him when we need insight. Then we will see the betrayers as Jesus saw through the disguise of Judas and knew the source of his betrayal.

Betrayal of Jesus

(Mark 14:10-11)

Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples hand-picked by Jesus to walk with him and assist in the ministry. But unlike the other disciples he was selected also for a separate purpose. And there are lessons we can learn from Judas that will help us today too.

Jesus said of Judas in John 6:70, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” Judas was going to betray Jesus even though he walked with him and was one of the chosen disciples to spread the word. But we also must understand that Judas was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was not apparent to the rest of the disciples that Judas had an evil heart. He was well hidden and disguised among the disciples and he did not stand out so that any of the rest could identify him as the betrayer.

When Jesus announced to them all that one of them would betray him, “…the disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.” (John 13:23) They individually asked “Is iy I” because they truly did not know who it could have been amongst them that was the likely candidate to do this dreadful thing.

This is how Satan works. He is the master of deceit and deception. He does work the “big evil” things as well, but his most insidious work is done in secret through lies, deception and half-truths. Paul wrote of the way the devil works among men in disguise and deception saying, “…such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surpise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthains 11:13-15)

Today we also will see the servants of the devil among us as Paul showed they were amongst the church in his day. Today the work of Satan through his people will continue to infiltrate the church so as to sway and deceive the people in the church to accept lies, believe falsehoods and to try and take them away from learning the truth. His mode of operation, like Judas, was deception, betrayl and deceit carried out in secret. Thus it is imperative that we gain a solid understanding in the word. We must learn the truth that will set you free. We must follow the sound words given by the Lord to his people and we must seek the truth and be guided by the Holy Spirit so we understand what the Lord is showing us.

As for these deceivers, they will become apparent. They are false teachers and wolves in sheeps clothing and they will be seen for what they are in due course. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 17:15-20) And their fruits are their behaviours. For although they may look like sheep, they are wolves and a wolf will always act like a wolf. Wolves always seek to destroy and devour, but they are cunning hunters. These people are also cunning for they are well disguised, just as the devil disguises himself as an angel of light. But they will not remain hidden forever.

Thus we must watch and know that if a devil could infiltrate the twelve apostles selected by Jesus, a devil can also infiltrate the church today. Watch carefully so that you are not taken in by the smooth talking and cunning of such false teachers that only want to lead you away form the truth to serve them rather than the Lord.

Humiliation of Jesus

(Matthew 27:27-31)

After Pilate released him into the hands of the chief priests, the soldiers took Jesus to the praetorium where he was humiliated. The humiliation of Jesus was in the form of mockery and abuse. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him as if he were royalty, plaited a crown of thorns, put a reed in his hand as a sceptre and mocked him. He was struck and spat upon and they treated him shamefully.

This was all to fulfil prophecy for it was written by the prophet Isaiah, “In his humiliation justice was denied him.” (Quoted in Acts 8:33) Jesus humiliation was of the worst kind for he was truly and innocent man. What is more, in their mockery the soldiers dressed him as royalty, pretending he was a king, and yet not recognising him as the King of kings.

All of this the Lord did and suffered on our account. All of this shame he took on our account so that we might have the chance to be freed. In him we receive salvation, but the price he paid in humiliation, mockery, abuse and ultimately death was enormous.

We need to recognise his suffering and be thankful. In the same situation would we be prepared to suffer in the same way? Probably not. But Jesus who had first descended from magnificence and the right hand of God suffered all of this on our account so that we could be saved.

His humiliation was our salvation. His weakness before these men became the strength in which we live. His sacrifice became our great salvation and the means by which we are reconciled to God.

We cannot give thanks enough for his sacrifice. There are insufficient words to praise him for this magnificent gift. He has given us the gift of life, which we do not deserve for we were all sinners. He gave us this gift even while we were sinners and effectively the enemies of God. But by the grace of God, by his undeserved kindness and compassion towards us, he suffered this humiliation and death so that we could be released from our bondage to sin and become the children of God. His gift is inexpressible and it is for this reason all people should praise God.

Jesus Before Pilate

(Matthew 27:11-14)

After his betrayal, the chief priests sent Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. In this section we see Jesus before Pilate as his accusers testified against him. But throughout these proceedings Jesus stood silent, not answering a word to a single accusation made. This section of scripture is more a recounting of historical events, but there are some things we can take from it and learn.

The brining of Jesus before Pilate was done to fulfil prophecy. Isaiah spoke of these things saying, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Jesus gave no defence against the accusations made. The accusations were lies and he knew it. He had also previously said that had he wanted he could have called upon the Father to send great armies of angels to fight on his behalf, but then how would the prophecies be fulfilled? How would the New Covenant have been brought into effect and how would we have received redemption and salvation?

It was necessary that these things occur and as I have said in prior posts, these things were done to fulfil prophecy, which did two things. First it proved the accuracy, validity and performance of the prophecies thus showing that the words of God can be trusted. Second it showed proof that Jesus was the Son of God and the Christ or Messiah sent to save mankind from sin.

We can trust in Jesus and in God to bring about all of the prophecies in due course. The plan of God and the words of the Father stand firm and will not be changed. Many other things may change, but the course that God has set is steadfast and sure and all of the things prophesied in the Bible will come to pass.

And this provides us with comfort. For knowing this to be true we can watch the events of the world around us and understand these things in the light of the truth. We can look at things like climate change, earthquakes and tsunamis, wars and all the things the people of the world fear, knowing that these things must take place. The Bible tells us of all these things and many more that will occur. So rather than fear these things as the people of the world do, let us instead recognise that this is part of the predefined plan of God and know that the time of Jesus return is drawing near.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

(Matthew 27:1-10)

Judas for the sum of thirty pieces of silver had betrayed Jesus. In betraying Jesus Judas had been taken over by Satan to do this deadly deed. Although those involved at the time were probably unaware, this all happened in accordance with prophesies that were hundreds of years old. This whole process, including the sum of the thirty pieces of silver was pre-ordained by God and would follow the course he had set.

The prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah had both prophesied about the fact that Jesus would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Jeremiah also prophesied about what would be done with the money. Judas when he came to himself sought to repent of the action he had taken and took the money back to the chief priests. They would not take it back and release Jesus, so Judas threw the money down in the temple and left. This was to fulfil prophecy too. The chief priests said they could not take the money and put it into the treasury for it was blood money, and to do so was against the Law of Moses. So they used it to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers, and that field became known as the Field of Blood. As for Judas, he went out and committed suicide, for there was no way he could repent of the deed he had done by spurning and betraying the Lord. We see this principle discussed in Hebrews 10:26-29 saying,

26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.
28 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?

Judas certainly fell into this role. He spurned all that Jesus had offered him as a disciple and as part of the twelve. He threw this all away to betray Jesus, and in his final hour, knowing there was no path back, he killed himself.

Most of this section is an historical account of what happened at the time. What we can learn from this and take from it is this. These actions were not happening by chance. They were all pre-ordained and set in concrete in prophecy hundreds of years earlier. Everything that was done was to fulfil prophecy and everything prophesied came about as it had been said. Each of the prophecies was established and came to fullness in Christ.

These things are proof of Jesus as being the Christ and the Son of God. They are clear evidence that he was who he said he was, and thus the New Covenant established in his blood is truth as well. Furthermore, every other prophecy in the bible that has not yet been fulfilled will come to pass in due course. God has ordained these things and set the processes, times and seasons in place so that these things must happen. We can take heart that the word of God is true and not just a bunch of well-planned stories, as some would suggest. All that is written in the Bible is truth and the fulfilling of the prophecies, as we saw in the events surrounding the times of the Christ, is proof of the truth of the words of God.

So these things must encourage us. We must know and have faith that the things spoken of in the Bible are true and will happen. And we must be comforted in the knowledge that as we look to Jesus we will receive his grace, blessings and salvation. We must also know for a truth that he is coming again soon as was prophesied and that time is not too far away. Every day brings his return closer, so we must learn and prepare for his return now.

The Trial of Jesus before Caiaphas

(Matthew 26:57-68)

The trial of Jesus before Caiaphas could only be described as a kangaroo court. They had already pronounced judgement before he was brought to trial. All they needed was for someone to provide a reason for taking their drastic action and give them reason to put the Lord to death.

However this was not as easy as they presumed. Many false witnesses were brought forward to accuse him, but none of their testimonies corroborated. Under the Law of Moses, judgment could be made on the evidence of two witnesses. However they could not find two that agreed. Their witnesses were false and their legal process was a mockery.

Eventually two people came forward testifying that Jesus had said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” (Verse 61) However they were wrong for Jesus was not saying he would destroy the temple of God. In John 2:19 it shows he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then in Mark 14:58 it says, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” In both instances he is not speaking about the destruction of the temple of God in Jerusalem, but as John showed, “…he spoke of the temple of his body.” (John 2:21) Their testimony was wrong for they misinterpreted his words for they could not understand what Jesus was speaking about.

In fact what the Lord was telling them was that when he was put to death he would rise after three days. His death and resurrection would then indeed have the effect of destroying not the temple of God, but the temple worship. All of the practices and customs followed under the Law of Moses would cease to be relevant when the New Covenant was ratified in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. People would no longer need to go to worship God at the temple in Jerusalem under the processes of the law. Instead they would need to worship God in spirit and truth. Jesus explained this matter in some detail in his conversation with the woman at the well in John 4:20-24.

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

When Jesus was standing before Caiaphas, his accusers had no understanding of what this statement meant. And despite all of the miracles, healings and wonders he performed, not to forget the teachings of life that he brought to the people, they still did not recognise him as the Christ. In verse 63 we see the high priest ask again saying, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” When Jesus said that it was so and that they would only see him in future coming on the clouds and seated at the right hand of Power, that is the Father, his accusers called his statements blasphemy. Jesus was speaking the truth and they called his truth a lie. They used their lie then as justification for putting the Lord to death and treated him shamefully, striking him and spitting in his face.

This was indeed a low time and a time of great sorrow. Jesus did not deserve this treatment for he had spoken the truth. He is the Son of God, he is the Christ and he is the Lamb given as a sacrifice so that we may be set free from sin and death. He is the Saviour of mankind and the death he was about to go through at the hands of these men would be their undoing and our pathway to righteousness and freedom. He is the door to life and we enter life through him and through his death when we enter baptism. The power of his blood as a sacrifice is greater than the power of the blood of goats and bulls offered under the law for the forgiveness of sin. The power of his blood was to remove sin once and for all and forever and to set us free from the law so that we could walk in righteousness and stand in the presence of God. His sacrifice was our blessing and we should praise him always and forever for what he did on our behalf, for we are undeserving of this wondrous gift. May we praise the Lord always and thank him for his inexpressible gift of grace and love that we could find life in Jesus Christ.