THE GREEKS

Philip scanned the crowd at the temple. He’d never been to Jerusalem except for feasts. It was hard to imagine the place nearly empty. He spun around at the tap on his shoulder.

A group of foreigners stared at him.

The man closest to him held his hand up. “Beg your pardon, sir. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Philip swallowed. “That’s alright. I was lost in my thoughts. Can I help you with something?”

The man lowered his hand. “Yes, we noticed you’re a follower of Jesus. We’d like some time with Him. We have some questions we hope He can answer.”

Philip grabbed Andrew’s sleeve as he walked past. “These men want to see Jesus. Do you think He’ll take time for them?”

Andrew glanced at the men. “As long as they aren’t selling anything in the temple I think they’ll be safe. All we can do is ask.”

Philip and Andrew led the men to Jesus.

Philip stepped to the side. “These Greeks have some questions for You.”

Jesus looked at them. “The Son of Man will soon be glorified. When a grain of wheat falls in the ground it reproduces only after it dies. Then it produces many more grains of wheat. If you love your life now you will lose it, but if you hate your life here you’ll gain it in the next life. My soul is distressed, but I will not succumb so the Father will be glorified. Father glorify Your name.”

A voice sounded from heaven. “I have glorified it and will again.”

Some of the men spun around. “Was that thunder?”

“I think an angel spoke to Him.”

Jesus smiled. “That voice wasn’t for me, but you. Judgement has come for the ruler of this world. If I am lifted up I’ll draw all men to Me.”

The first man stepped forward. “We read in your law that the Christ lives forever. Who is this Son of Man You speak about being lifted up?”

Jesus nodded slowly. “Walk while the light is with you. Anyone who walks in darkness is soon lost.”

When the men huddled together Jesus walked away.

When they turned to ask more questions they found only the crowd.

Jesus stopped near the exit of the temple. “He who believes in Me and sees believes and sees Him who sent Me. You won’t abide in darkness if you follow My light. I don’t judge those who hear and refuse to believe. I came to save, not judge. My words will judge those who reject Me and what I say. I only speak what the Father tells Me to say. That is the only means of eternal life.”

Jesus turned and led His disciples to the Garden.

********

The first time I read this passage I had one question. “What just happened here?”

Some Greek guys come to Jesus to ask some questions and He goes off an a seeming tangent about wheat and light and losing a life to find it. Huh?

Why didn’t Jesus just answer the questions they had? Why run around in riddles like this?

After many years to think about this event, and with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, John figured it out and added some quick commentary in the middle of this episode. The prophet Isaiah had a problem getting people to believe what he was warning them about. John references a couple of verses to show the similarities with these Greeks.

Jesus knew these guys weren’t interested in discovering the truth. They just wanted to debate thoughts not change their hearts.

Two centuries later these responses of Jesus make for some great sound bites for us to memorize and, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, help us make sense of this new spiritual life we gained by believing the things Jesus said and lived out.

Jesus knew He was living in His last days before His crucifixion. A heated debate wasn’t going to change these guys. A prediction about how He was going to die might get their attention. If they were paying attention.

A word of advice here. Don’t use this passage to try to lead someone to Christ. It’ll only confuse them not convince them.

Jesus had performed a great deal of miracles before this day. They had those to think about as to who Jesus was.

Many people believed Jesus was the Messiah. Others refused to believe. Some believed and kept their beliefs a secret so they wouldn’t be excluded from the cliques they were in.

It’s not our role to judge anyone for what they believe. Jesus even refused to judge at that time. He said His words would perform that role in time.

Our role is to live out Jesus’s example of unconditional love as best we can.

Tolerating sin as anything less than sin isn’t our role either. People need to know God sees the sin for what it is. If it offends them it offends them. Better they know their behavior is inconsistent with God’s morals than for them to discover too late where they’re going to spend their eternal destiny.

Accept the fact not everyone will accept Jesus for who He is: the Savior of the world.

Most people will choose the wide path to destruction so they fit in before squeezing through that narrow gate Jesus demands us to enter by.

We don’t know who will accept Jesus’s offer of salvation before they die, so treat everyone as though they will.

It isn’t our role to decide who will go to heaven. Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats in His time.

Follow Jesus’s example. Few people will be debated into heaven.

People at the end of themselves are the most likely candidates to listen to Jesus’s offer of living in His light.

That narrow gate looks more inviting when you can see the destruction first-hand.

Jesus’s load is easy and the burden is light.

Don’t crush someone with judgment.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

STAY READY

Jesus looked at each of His disciples. All twenty four eyes were fixed on His.

“Nobody knows the time for the Son of Man’s return. The angels don’t even know. Only the Father knows the day and hour.

“You must stay ready for it to happen at any time. In Noah’s day people were making short-term and long-term plans until the flood struck. The same thing will occur before the Son of Man returns.

“Two people will be working in a field when one of them will vanish. The same thing with two people grinding at a mill, one will be left wondering what happened to their coworker.

“Since you don’t know when this will happen remain ready. If someone knows when a thief will break into their house don’t you think they’ll do their best to stop it? You must keep watching and be ready.

“Be like the wise servant who kept his fellow servants well fed when his master told him to before he went on a long journey. That servant will be rewarded with greater duties after his master returns. The opposite will happen to the wicked servant who neglected his duties because his master was gone longer than he anticipated. Awful punishment awaits that servant.

“It’s like ten virgins who anticipated their groom to come one day. Five of them took oil in their lamps. Five didn’t. When the groom was delayed they fell asleep. At midnight a cry went out, ‘The groom is approaching. Go out to meet him.’ The girls who didn’t have oil asked the ones who did to give them some of their oil. ‘No.’ They said, ‘there may not be enough oil for all of us. Go buy your own.’

“By the time those girls bought oil and knocked on the grooms door it was locked. ‘Go away. I don’t know you.’ The groom declared. If those gals had been prepared they wouldn’t have missed their chance to enjoy the wedding.”

Jesus paused. His men were still focused on Him.

“The kingdom is also similar to a king who went on a long journey. But, before he left he gave money to some of his servants. He gave five gold coins to one, two to another and one to a third one. He did this according to each man’s abilities. When the king returned he had them report to him. The man given five coins brought ten to the king. ‘Well done. You shall rule ten cities for me.’ The servant given two coins brought four. ‘Well done. You shall rule four cities.’

“The last servant returned the single coin he was given. ‘I know you’re a hard man who reaps where he hasn’t sown, so I hid your money to ensure I didn’t lose it. Here is you coin.’

“The king was furious with him. ‘You wicked servant, why didn’t you at least deposit it in the bank to draw interest? Take the coin from him and give it to the man with ten coins.’ ‘But, Sir, he already has ten,’ others protested. ‘He knows what to do with it. He who has will be given more while he who lacks will have what little he has taken from him. Take that lazy servant and cast him away where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

********

Yes, God is extremely harsh when it comes time for judgement. Never lose sight of that aspect of Him.

Never forget God is also extremely generous when He rewards His own.

As born-again believers we’re adopted into God’s spiritual family with Him as our Heavenly Father. Remember those times you put extra effort into something in your childhood just so your dad would take notice? His words of affirmation lifted your heart so high you felt like you could fly.

The same holds true with your Father. He wants us to please Him with everything we do. He will notice every detail and count each act and motivation we put into everything. When you do it to please Him He smiles. He’s waiting for that day He can reward you and take you as His own.

Rewards are only one side of the coin Jesus showed His followers just before His death. Being prepared was the flip side they, and we, need to keep in mind.

Many of these last parables focused on people being locked out of the kingdom Jesus will establish.

There are two times people will cross a point of no return when it comes to being invited into God’s kingdom. There’s the time Jesus focused on here when the kingdom is set up. People who are alive will have either accepted Jesus as their sovereign or not. Those who have will be taken into the wedding feast with open arms. Those who reject Jesus as king will be excluded from an eternity with God in heaven.

The other time people will lose all chance to decide if they’ll be accepted into God’s family is when they die.

Let that sink in.

Yeah, not only is it a secret when God will step in to end life on this planet as we know it, but we also don’t know when our life will end now.

A car accident can occur so fast you don’t even realize what caused it. Tornadoes give very little warning they’re coming right at you. Even a trip to the movie theater or school could be the last event of your life.

The same holds true for everyone around you.

We each have this one life to come to terms with who Jesus really is.

Accept Him as Lord of your life and you’re in.

Reject him as anything short of being the only sacrifice God will accept for His children and you’re out.

Get the word out to as many people as you can.

If they don’t accept this message don’t take it personally.

It isn’t you they’re rejecting, but God.

Please Him by telling them.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

TEMPLE PREDICTION

Judas stepped in front of Jesus and pointed at the temple structure. “Have You ever seen anything so marvelous? The gold is incredible. There’s no better building for God’s house.”

Jesus stared into his eyes. “Every stone you see here shall be thrown down in days to come.”

The disciples looked at Him, then at the temple and each other. Jesus walked out of the temple and led them to the Mount of Olives.

Peter, Andrew, James and John sat in front of Jesus.

James leaned forward. “What signs shall we look for before the temple’s doom?”

Andrew pulled James’s shoulder back. “And what shall we expect before Your kingdom begins?”

The other disciples gathered around their rabbi.

“Many will come claiming to be Me. Don’t fall for their deception. Wars and hints of war will happen. Several earthquakes in various places will occur, along with famines. Deadly diseases will run rampant. These are just the beginning.

“You will be hated because of Me. Don’t worry what you’ll say when they drag you before councils. The Holy Spirit will speak through you so they can’t refute your testimony. Family members will betray each other to death, including some of you.

“When you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ mentioned by Daniel run. Don’t go into your house for anything. Tribulations will increase to an unprecedented point. The time will be cut short so some will survive, the elect.

“The sun will be darkened. The moon and stars will dim. As lightning fills the sky so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Everyone will see Him. The elect will rejoice. Others will fear. Angels will sound the trumpet and gather the elect from earth and heaven.”

Jesus reached up and plucked a small leaf. “Just as you know summer is near when the trees bud recognize the signs I mentioned. God’s chosen people will not pass away before these things occur. Earth and heaven will pass before My words ever do.”

********

The Olivet Discourse is an interesting conversation Jesus had with His disciples during His last week on this earth. They knew his kingdom needed to be established because of the prophesies they’d heard about. They assumed it would begin at that time.

Then Jesus throws a monkey wrench into the works by predicting the destruction of the temple they were just in. That brings about more questions. What signs will precede that event? What signs will precede Your kingdom?

Jesus did His best to answer both questions, but He muddied the waters at the same time. Which answers are for what event?

The temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Many believe ‘the abomination of desolation’ Daniel wrote about occurred before that event. Some Jews who were passionate about keeping their country intact and independent killed the priests in the temple. That precipitated the war with Rome that led to the demolition of the temple.

Others think the abomination has yet to occur. They prefer an end-times rendition of that cataclysm. All I know for sure is we’ll know for sure after Jesus’s kingdom is established and this is all over with.

Some of the Olivet Discourse was directed directly at the disciples. Jesus told them they’d be brought before councils to be beaten. He told them the Holy Spirit would speak through them at those times. Some people misinterpret that statement to say preachers don’t need to prepare a sermon so the Holy Spirit isn’t hindered.

Great care needs to be exercised whenever a person handles biblical doctrine, whether that’s prophesies or any other type of scripture. Don’t twist it to say what you want it to say for your personal convenience.

I’ve heard too many radio preachers take a verse out of context to fit their message. That type of laziness will only come back to haunt them when they stand before God to answer for their actions. Teachers are held at a greater level of scrutiny for an important reason. Many cults are built on misused Bible verses.

The temple Herod commissioned to be built was still under construction during Jesus’s lifetime. So, why was it destroyed so soon after it was built?

It was used as a place for many confrontations between Jesus and the religious establishment of that day. That’s why it was rebuilt at that time.

It became completely obsolete after Jesus’s sacrificial death brought an end to the sacrificial system set up by Moses. That’s why it was destroyed.

The sheep and doves offered for sins committed pointed forward to Jesus, the Messiah, who would end such sacrifices.

The temple was a building that replaced the movable tabernacle the Hebrews hauled around before they moved into the promised land. Both structures were a representation of God dwelling among men with the priest being the go between for communication purposes.

Since Jesus is our ultimate High Priest who intercedes for us to God no building is needed for such purposes.

The Holy spirit who indwells us now communicates for us to God the Father. Our bodies are now considered the temple of God among men.

Our challenge is to maintain our personal temples in such a way that pleases God.

His love is unconditional so there’s nothing we can do to bring about the destruction of these temples such as the building in Jerusalem endured.

God doesn’t have a body. He is a Spirit.

Everything set up by Moses and the law served to represent our relationship with God’s spirit in a physical way. When the kingdom is established all hindrances will be removed and our relationship with God will be restored completely.

Until then many things will become worse to get people’s attention. Jesus hinted at that in His discourse with His disciples. He further described the events leading up to His return to John in the book of Revelation.

Looking closely at that book shows me the end is near.

The leaves are budding.

Let’s get the word out about the kingdom coming soon.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

THE WOES

Thadeus rushed to his room in the temple square. He removed the heavy scribe’s robe and changed into pain clothes. He pried the door open and waited until the outside conversation carried past the street corner.

Once clear of the scribe’s quarters he worked his way back to the temple. Pressing through the crowd he came as close to Jesus as he could get without drawing attention to himself.

He hid his face from the fellow scribe who had just received an answer from Jesus.

Jesus watched the scribe walk away, then turned to the crowd. “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’s place to inform you about the law. Do as they tell you, but don’t do as they do. They love to build your burdens while taking theirs away. They love for you to notice their long prayers, large phylacteries and prominent seats at gatherings. Any of you who wants to be great should strive to be a servant to everyone. When you humble yourself you shall be exalted.

But, woe to the scribes and Pharisees who close up heaven for themselves and others they lead. They devour widows houses then recite long prayers.

Woe to the scribes and Pharisees who travel far to win a proselyte then make him a better son of the devil than they are.

Woe to you blind guides who tell people to swear by the gold of the temple without swearing by the temple. Hypocrites, which is mightier, the temple or the gold of the temple? If you swear by heaven you swear by the throne of God and He who sits on that throne.

Woe to the scribes and Pharisees who tithe their spices but neglect the real issues of justice, mercy and faith. You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees who clean the outside of a cup but leave the inside full of filth. Hypocrites, first clean the inside then the entire vessel will be clean and useful.

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees. You are like whitewashed tombs that have the appearance of outward purity, but inside you’re full of dead bones and unclean things.

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees who dress up the tombs of the prophets and claim you wouldn’t have committed the atrocities of your fathers if you had been with them. You say rightly you are sons of wickedness, yet you follow along with their transgressions. Prophets, scribes and wise men are still being sent to you and you’re still killing and persecuting them today.”

The crowd shifted in front of Thadeus.

Jesus stared at him intently for what seemed like a night watch, then Jesus looked over the scribe’s shoulder toward the temple.

Thadeus watched some men pouring their coins into the treasury collection cone. Then an elderly woman approached. Her hand lifted briefly to the cone, then she walked away. The sound of Jesus turned Thadeus around.

“I tell you that widow put in more than anybody else today. They put in an offering out of their abundance, but she gave her all, a true sacrifice. It is noticed by My Father in Heaven.”

Thadeus staggered back until a wall stopped his progress.

********

To say Jesus disapproved of the way the religious leaders of His day handled their responsibilities would be an understatement.

Matthew 23 is the strongest indictment of the scribes and Pharisees on record. The outward show of the blowhards had reached a climax with the Son of God. Jesus was pushing them to make changes by declaring their hypocrisies and shortcomings.

He knew his time was short so He pulled out all the stops. The importance of purity of worship had been diluted to the point of being unrecognizable.

I would have hated to be a scribe in the crowd that day. That’s why I wrote this from the viewpoint I did. Imagine his realization of God’s hatred of the way things were conducted by him and his colleagues.

Put yourself in that crowd now. Is there anything Jesus would single out about you that might be done to get the attention of others over being true worship to God?

Are you always the first person to pray in a group setting and/or are your prayers always the longest ones at the meeting. You may feel like you just have more to say, but try to keep it to the point. God knows more about the situation than all of you in the room.

Do you flaunt how much money you give to your church or other charitable organization? I’m not saying giving large sums of money is bad. If you’re giving it just to gain influence, status or a sense of importance you need to check your motives.

Have you ever done something for someone while trying to stay invisible about it? There’s quite a sense of reward in doing so. God smiles on such actions. A random anonymous act can lift a spirit higher than anything else. Try it sometime.

Anyone in leadership holds a great deal of responsibility. Guard your heart at all times.

Those called by God to guide people to Him have an intense responsibility. Check your motives constantly.

The slope away from God’s best is gradual at the top. Stay accountable to others to secure your position.

Peers may see your sliding before you notice it. If you wait until the fallout is seen by a larger audience the climb back to the top will likely become quite messy.

Choose a peer group devoted to building God’s kingdom. If you all want to build your own followings ahead of all else you’ll all fall together.

Keep God’s truth as the mainstay of your focus. Compromise is an effective lubricant.

Quality of affect should always outweigh quantity. Depth of character must be more important than size.

Keep your flock on God’s narrow path. Remember the broad road leads to destruction.

Popularity shouldn’t be your focus. God’s kingdom needs to be.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

THE JABS

“If we can just get Jesus to say something we can bring up against the Romans we’ll have grounds for execution.” The priest sat back.

A Sadducee stood. “How about taxes to Rome?”

A Pharisee clapped. “I’ll take some Herodians to trip Him up there.”

The priest nodded. “Do it.”

****

The Pharisees and Herodians approached Jesus. “Rabbi, we know You don’t care about what others think of Your teachings because You’re convinced they come from God. What do You say about paying taxes to Rome? Must we?”

Jesus shook His head slowly. “Show me a denarius.”

They brought a coin to Him.

Jesus pointed at it. “Who is on it?”

“Caesar.”

“Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”

The group walked away looking at the ground.

Some Sadducees walked up to Jesus. “Teacher, suppose a man marries a woman and they have no children. According to the law his brother must raise children for him. Let’s say seven brothers marry one woman with none of them conceiving. Who will marry this woman in the resurrection after she also dies?”

Jesus sat down. “You are mistaken about many things. In the resurrection nobody will marry. They’ll be as the angels in heaven. As far as the resurrection goes haven’t you read about what God said to Moses? He said He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He’s the God of the living not the dead.”

A Scribe stayed back after the Sadducees left. “Rabbi, which is the greatest commandment of all?”

Jesus nodded. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Scribe nodded. “Well said, Rabbi. That is true.”

Jesus stared at the Scribe. “You declare the Messiah to be a son of David. Why then does David call Him Lord when led by the Holy Spirit he wrote: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand til I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ If David calls him Lord how is He his son?”

The Scribe shrugged, then walked away.

********

If this were a boxing match all these attempts to get Jesus to say something against Rome to use against Him would be considered jabs–quick hits that don’t do much damage.

The religious leaders were working to find anything they could use to end Jesus’s life. They failed because they never admitted His divine authority.

The tax issue would have been the most likely anti-Roman incitement. Jesus put that to rest without breathing hard.

The marriage in heaven issue could have made Him appear against God’s laws. Jesus corrected them since He did know what goes on in heaven.

The question of the greatest commandment came after these failed attempts left an admiration. Jesus answered that question and raised the bar by asking His own.

Not only did they not trap Him, but Jesus left them searching for deeper reflection into the scriptures.

That’s what you get when you criticize the author of the Book.

How have you treated Jesus?

Are you questioning His authority in your life?

Do you deny His superior right to reign?

Are you convinced He must be wrong about something?

Perhaps you haven’t given Him the respect He deserves because you haven’t searched the scriptures deeply enough.

Who is this man who walked on water?

How did He calm the storm so easily?

He healed the sick and raised dead people back to life, why didn’t He save himself from death on the cross?

Maybe these are some questions you need to ask before you question Jesus any further.

The Bible is the only place you need to look for answers.

I don’t need to defend Jesus to you. You must dig for truth in the book He wrote.

If you get your arguments from others who tell you they’re right you’re misled. It’s not that they’re right, they just looking to build a following. Search for the truth on your own.

Jesus has nothing to hide. That’s why the Bible is available today. It hasn’t changed because God hasn’t changed.

There are many good books out there written by people who have searched the Bible to discover who Jesus really is. The best one I can suggest is MORE THAN A CARPENTER by Josh McDowell.

Josh went from someone who ridiculed Christians to a defender of Jesus after he searched the Bible for answers.

 He isn’t the first person to have that change of heart and he won’t be the last.

There are three basic responses people give when you mention Jesus Christ.

  1. They admire Him as God’s Son and Savior of their life. These people have accepted Jesus’s death on the cross as the necessary step to build the bridge that fills the gap sin has made between us and God. They recognize Jesus’s resurrection from the dead as proof He has power over every enemy we face.
  2. They see Him as just another person, perhaps a great teacher of truths. These people accept Jesus lived and walked and taught. They likely rank Him up there with Mohammed, Confucius, Gandhi and a few other great spiritual leaders throughout history. They fall short of seeing Jesus as equal to God in any way.
  3. They hate Jesus with a passion. These people see Jesus as a threat to society. Many Jews don’t accept Him as the promised Messiah. Non-Jews see this Jew as a menace who indeed needed to be stopped. Attempts are made to remove any mention of Him or His influence throughout history.

If you’re a seeker you’re curious about Jesus.

You may be reading this to learn more about Him.

Please keep searching for Him, but don’t put off making a decision much longer.

Nobody knows when their time to die will come.

At that point it will be too late for you to come into His kingdom for eternity.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

THE PARABLES

Thadeus nodded, not so much because he agreed with Jesus, but from how impressed he was by the way Jesus deflected every question, accusation and inference made toward Him.

The crowd hushed when Jesus looked at the leaders and spoke.

“Here’s another parable: One day a landowner prepared a vineyard. He built a fence around it, dug a vat to press the grapes and constructed a tower in the middle of it. Then he leased the land out and moved away. At harvest time he sent a servant to bring back some of the grapes as payment from the lessees. When the men growing the grapes saw the servant they beat him and sent him away with nothing. A second servant was treated even worse. The third servant was killed. The landowner couldn’t go himself so he decided to send his only son. ‘They’ll respect my son,’ he reasoned. But, when the men saw the son approaching they gathered together and schemed to kill the son so the land would belong to them with no heir to claim it.”

A gasp rose from the crowd.

Jesus turned back to the leaders. “What do you think the land owner will do to those evil men?”

Thadeus gave his answer. “He’ll destroy those men and lease the land to those who will pay the proper rent.”

Jesus stared at the chief priests. “Have you never read the passage ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’? Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken, but whomever this stone falls will be ground into a powder.”

The priests and scribes stepped forward. The crowd filled in between them and Jesus with a cheer.

Jesus raised His hands and brought silence back. “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who married off his son. His servants went out to bring in the important people who’d been invited to the wedding. Those men ignored the servants. When a  second attempt was made the men killed those servants. The angry king brought his army and destroyed those murderers. ‘Go into the streets and bring in anyone you find to the feast,’ he instructed his servants. Soon the wedding hall was filled to capacity. But, the king approached a man dressed in dirty clothes. ‘How did you get in here without wedding apparel?’ The man said nothing. ‘Cast this man out into outer darkness’. The king commanded.

“Many are called, but few are chosen.”

As the scribes and priests walked back to the temple Thadeus thought out loud. “I thought He was going to use Isaiah’s vineyard of wild grapes the way He started.”

A chief priest’s hard stare changed the subject.

Thadeus let out one more thought. “I always wondered what chief cornerstone the Psalm referred to.”

The procession stopped when all the priests and scribes stared at Thadeus.

********

The master story teller strikes again.

Jesus had a way of spinning a yarn into a tale that spoke to whatever situation He found Himself in. He knew the priests and scribes were out to get Him. His deft use of the scriptures in stories that both warn everyone of their plot and foretold of impending doom was marvelous.

The religious leaders were obviously the wicked vinedressers in the first parable. They’d abused the prophets in the Old Testament. Now they were preparing to kill God’s Son. Even Jesus’s warning of disaster for that action didn’t deter them.

Jesus’s reference to destroying the city of those who rejected His invitation to attend the wedding of His son went ignored. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. The sacred temple was demolished. The old order of things was completely changed.

Why were these men so determined to end Jesus’s life no matter what the consequences were?

Many of you aren’t going to like my answer to that question, but God set them on that path of disaster.

That’s right. The entire denial of Jesus as the Messiah was orchestrated by God.

This was all planned before the world was even created. That’s why all those prophesies about Jesus were so accurately fulfilled.

Events in our lives are just as orchestrated by God today. Yes, even the ‘bad’ things that occur.

I’m not suggesting Satan has no part in these evils. He relishes every chance he can take to bring us down.

I’m sure he was at the height of his glory when Jesus died on the cross. But, his victory was short-lived.

His victories now should be just as limited.

Trust me, I know the pain and anguish of Satan’s schemes. I’ve been the recipient of a few of them in my life. They’ve stopped me in my tracks at times.

But, I didn’t let them stop me for long, and neither should you.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a breath, gather your reserve and take the next step forward.

That type of perseverance does two things: it builds your character and it makes Satan run away. He may come back, especially if he feels you’re a threat to his kingdom, but James 4:7 states that if we resist the devil he will flee.

Satan wants our setbacks to push us back. That’s why we must determine to move forward.

If you find yourself in a truly abusive situation do whatever you can to get out. The person doing the abusing isn’t being helped by being able to continue with such injustice. When they see consequences for their actions they may change. If they don’t change don’t go back. Move forward from where you are now.

God can change anybody by the power of His Holy Spirit if the person wants that change. If they prefer to continue to give control of their life over to Satan then you must flee.

All things are working together to make good in the end.

The best good I can think of is a full kingdom for Jesus.

Let’s bring as many people there as we can.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

NO FRUIT

“Do you think they’ll make their move today?” Matthew glanced at Thomas.

Thomas shrugged. “Don’t know. I doubt it, but who knows?”

Jesus led His disciples from Bethany to Jerusalem. Their shadows grew shorter with each step.

Jesus stepped off the road and headed to a fig tree.

“I hope He finds enough for all of us.” Matthew studied Jesus’s every move.

Jesus pushed branches around, then stepped back from the tree. “May you never bear fruit ever again.” He walked back to the road and continued to Jerusalem.

Matthew looked back at the tree. The leaves were wilting. Three of them spun down.

****

The next morning Peter noticed the fig tree’s bare branches. “Rabbi, the tree You cursed yesterday is dead. How did that happen so quickly?”

Jesus spun around. “Maintain faith in your prayers and you’ll do mightier than this. If you tell a mountain to go to the sea it will obey if you don’t doubt. Believe with your heart and you will have what you ask for.”

Matthew’s mouth dropped open as he watched Jesus turn back to Jerusalem. When they entered the city Jesus went to the temple.

A group of priests, scribes and elders were waiting for Him.

A chief priest stepped in front of Jesus. “By what authority do You do the things You do? Who gave you such authority?

Jesus pointed to the group of religious leaders. “First, let me ask you a question. From that I will answer your question.”

The priests nodded.

“John’s baptism, was it from heaven or men?”

The priests stood for a moment, then spun into a huddle. Matthew was close enough to hear their conversation.

“If we say it’s from heaven He’ll wonder why we don’t believe Him.”

“But, if we say it’s from men the people might stone us because they believe he was a prophet.”

The chief priest turned back to Jesus. “We…uh, we don’t know where it was from.”

Jesus nodded. “Then neither will I tell you from where My authority is from.”

Jesus kept staring at the priests. “What do you think? A man had two sons he wanted to work for him. When the first son said he wouldn’t work the father went to the other son, but the first had a change of heart and did go to work. The next son said he would go to work, but never did. Which of these boys obeyed the father?”

The chief priest leaned back. “Why, the first son did because he worked.”

Jesus stepped toward the group. “I tell you tax collectors and harlots will enter heaven before you do. They believed in John’s message and repented. You heard him and never changed a thing.”

********

Wishy-washy–that’s the best term I can think of to describe the religious leaders of Jesus’s day. They had so compromised the foundation of what they believed in they didn’t stand for anything.

That fig tree was an exact representation of them. It had the appearance of being alive, but it didn’t produce any fruit.

They displayed the activity of a vibrant religion, but wouldn’t change for anything. Not even when someone came performing miracles like Jesus did.

They were so into rules and making sure everybody followed their interpretation of them they couldn’t see any other way to live. They were totally blind to anything Jesus taught.

The only thing they knew for sure was this Jesus had to be stopped at all cost. He was upsetting the status quo they established. If He didn’t bow to their terms He had to pay with His life.

After all they were set in place by God Himself. Who did He think He was coming from Nazareth of all places with a questionable parentage to top it all off.

Jesus showed us the example we’re to follow when we know we’re right. Don’t back down to anybody.

Even if the most powerful people of the land say we’re wrong it doesn’t mean they’re right. It just means they’re so stuck on their power they refuse to see the truth that’s staring them in the face.

What are we to do when faced with someone trying to shut up the truth?

Let’s follow Jesus’s example and start a revolution.

That’s right, we’ve been sitting on the sidelines far too long. We need to get in the game and establish God’s truth back into our society.

Our churches need to teach God’s Word no matter what. Stop watering it down in fear we’ll offend someone. Jesus offended many people in His day.

Let’s get God-fearing folks in positions of decision in public schools. Stop complaining about what’s taught and get the truth back in there.

More carriers of truth need to get elected to public office. Few people in law making positions know what really takes place in society today. The more change we can see the quicker we can re-establish a sense of purpose again.

It’s never too late to do what’s right. It’s only too late if we do nothing at all.

Jesus had John write to the church of Laodicea warning them about being lukewarm toward the truth. He said He would vomit them out of His mouth because of their wishy-washy stance on the truth. I fear we’re becoming that church today.

Nobody could confess Jesus was lukewarm about anything. He stood up to hypocrites, power-grabbers and liars. That’s the kind of revolution I’m getting at here.

At the rate we’re going we’ll be that fruitless fig tree Jesus found that day. With a word He can end our existence.

Let’s not allow that to happen.

People are going to Hell all the time. That’s not why Jesus died on the cross. They need to hear about His sacrifice for them.

Blending into the woodwork isn’t telling them the truth. Being revolutionary will make a difference.

We’re not here to make friends but enemies.

THE enemy is counting on us to stay on the sidelines.

Let’s not let him win.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION

“Here He comes.” Thadeus nudged the fellow scribe next to him when he saw Jesus enter the gate of Jerusalem.

They and the priests with them studied His every move.

They followed Jesus as He led His followers to the temple.

They all froze when Jesus stopped in the outer area reserved for Gentiles.

“What’s He up to now?”

“Just wait and see. He’s bound to cross the line again any time now.”

Jesus stared at the men exchanging money for traveling worshipers. “The Father’s house is not a place to conduct business.”

Jesus grabbed a table and sent it tumbling. Coins rolled across the pavement. “Take this outside.” A second table fell by His actions.

He marched to some men selling doves for sacrifice and pulled a chair out from under one of them. The chair broke against the wall behind them.

“Take this out of here.”

Another chair flew against the wall.

“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.’ But, you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”

Crowds scattered as the men selling doves picked up their tables with cages on them and carried them out of the temple area. They forced their way past the people picking up coins.

A priest grabbed Thadeus’s sleeve. “Who does He think He is with these actions?”

Thadeus shook his head. “I don’t know, but for a simple Galilean He sure knows His scripture. Those were quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah.”

After the chaos subsided a blind man was led to Jesus.

Jesus smiled. “What do you want Me to do?”

The blind man grasped his cane with both hands. “I can’t see. I want to see.”

Jesus stroked the man’s cheek. “Go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

The man blinked a few times, then looked at Jesus’s smiling eyes. “Thank You. I can see.”

“Go. Your faith has made you well.”

A woman was carried to Jesus on a cot. Jesus touched the blanket covering her crooked legs. Her legs straightened. He took her hand and helped her to her feet. He patted her back as they hugged.

“Your family needs you. Go to them, mighty woman of faith.”

An echo came from a group of children. “Hosanna, Hosanna to the Son of David.”

Jesus smiled, dropped to one knee and hugged a toddling girl.

A priest stepped forward. “Why aren’t You correcting these kids? Don’t You know what they’re saying?”

Jesus looked up at the priest. “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of children and nursing infants You have perfected praise.'”

Thadeus tipped his head to the left. “A Psalm of David, this man knows His Word.”

Another scribe pulled the group together in a huddle. “We must stop Him before everybody follows Him.”

A priest looked at the crowded temple area. “We can’t now. With this many people around we’ll just start a riot. Then the Romans will put a stop to everything we hold dear.”

A chief priest stood. “Just be patient. We know He’s here. Our time will come by God’s timing.”

********

The cleansing of the temple was a dramatic move by Jesus. His passion for God’s house of worship could not be contained.

He didn’t let the opinions of the religious establishment of His day stop Him from doing what was over-due to be done.

Have you ever searched for the reason behind Jesus’s rage that day?

It wasn’t the business these men were conducting. Worshipers needed someone to exchange their foreign currency into something they could give to the temple treasury. Few doves would survive the journey of several days in a cage as they came to Jerusalem for the annual sacrifice. Doves and lambs would have to be sold for them.

No, it wasn’t the business that was the problem, it was the place of business that got Jesus’s temper stirred up.

The temple was divided onto sections for various worshipers. The inner-most place was the Holy of Holies. Only a selected priest could enter there.

Outside of there Jewish men could come, but not women. Women could come to the area walled off for them.

Between the outer wall of the temple Herod constructed in Jesus’s day and the area where women were allowed was the section devoted to Gentiles who wished to worship God at the temple. This is where the business had crept into.

The religious leaders apparently felt it was appropriate to let doves and coin exchange conducted in the place non-Jews came to.

Jesus’s heart was for all people. Gentiles could not worship well while money was changing hands and haggling was going on. That distraction needed to be taken beyond the outer wall.

Is there an area of your life where something has crept in to distract your worship of God?

Do you need to make amends to someone for your prayer life to flourish again?

Can you make improvements toward your spouse and/or family members to bring your mind into full communion with God the Father?

You may have to step back to see the distractions in your life. Erosion is a silent stealer of priorities. Its gradual efforts are difficult to detect without direct observation and confrontation.

Pray for wisdom and discernment as you attempt to uncover what you’ve been burying all this time.

Enlist the help of godly people who use the Bible as a guidebook.

Read the Bible to find examples and instruction for the best ways to worship unobstructed.

This week of Passover was a time many people would finally have an audience with this miracle worker/healer. Jesus took the time to give them His attention and focus. Their lives would forever be changed.

Give Jesus your attention by focusing on your priorities to others.

He’s waiting for you to get right with them so He can have your undivided attention.

That’s an intimacy everyone should strive for.

Take drastic measures if you need to.

Jesus wants your all.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

THE COLT

“Why in the world did you bring that to Jerusalem today? You can’t sacrifice it. The streets are going to be too crowded as it is. The last thing anybody needs is a donkey to stumble over.”

Simon tied the young donkey to a post. “I thought maybe somebody might need help in carrying stuff to the Temple. Maybe I’ll make some money with my friend here.”

The first man laughed. “You think in the strangest ways, Simon. Last year you ended up giving your whole cage of doves to a large family that didn’t have any money. You’ll never make it in the business world. You’re heart is too soft.”

Simon sat on a bench. “Even if we don’t do anything I like this little fella. He’s the calmest colt I’ve ever seen.”

Two other men walked over. “What are we doing today, setting up a petting zoo?”

Simon shook his head. “Just wait and see. He’ll be useful to somebody.”

When Simon looked back at his donkey two men were untying it. “Hey, what are you guys doing.”

One of the men looked at him. “The Lord has need of him.”

Simon swallowed. “Okay, feel free to use him for the Lord.”

When the men walked away with the donkey the first man laughed. “I told you you’ll never make in the business world. You didn’t even begin to haggle a price for renting your beast.”

Simon followed the two men and his donkey.

A crowd was gathering at Mount Olivet. Simon stopped at the foot of the hill. Thomas draped his cloak over the donkey before Jesus sat on it.

The crowd streamed down the hill and gathered along the road to Jerusalem.

When Jesus approached Simon removed his cloak and laid it on the road. Others did the same. Some cut palm branches to line the path for the Messiah.

Jesus nodded slowly at Simon when He passed.

Simon followed as closely as he could. He joined the chant.

“Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed be the King of Israel.”

A Pharisee yelled. “Make Your disciples be quiet, Jesus.”

Jesus smiled. “If they were silent the rocks would cry out this moment.”

Simon worked his way next to Jesus half way up the hill to the capital.

Jesus was staring at the wall of the city. “Oh, Jerusalem, if only you knew who was coming to you today. But, it is hidden from you. No stone will be left on top of another. Even your children will be taken down with your fall.”

Palm branches were carried up the hill to line the road into Jerusalem. The chanting became deafening.

Jesus stopped short of the Temple, dismounted and handed the donkey’s rope back to Simon.

When the crowd dispersed a woman came next to Simon. “Who is that?”

Simon smiled. “Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet from Galilee.”

He bent down and hugged the neck of his donkey. “He needed you, my friend. He needed you.”

********

Have you ever felt like a nobody who doesn’t have a purpose in life?

Every day is the same. You go to work, or you look for work, or you stay home caring for kids. Hum-drum is your battle cry. Average would be a step up for you.

Remember this donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

He wasn’t good looking or spectacular in any way. A beast of burden was his title.

Yet, his mission was recorded many centuries earlier by Zechariah. He would be ridden by the Son of God into Jerusalem at the height of His popularity.

You read that right. A donkey had a key role in scripture for Jesus’s passion.

This wasn’t just any donkey. No, this little fella had never been ridden by anybody according to Mark and Luke.

His time in the limelight came while he was young, but he was ready for it when it came.

It may not be a significant event in the grand scheme of human history.

It may only require a short amount of your time.

You may be relegated back to obscurity when it’s over.

I ask again, are you ready and willing to be used by God in some way?

I don’t know what God has in store for you. It’s different for everybody.

It may be inviting that new family from your neighborhood to church. One of those kids may go on to become a preacher because of your obedience.

You might teach that children’s class you’re burdened for. Your attention could turn a destiny 180 degrees for good.

A quick word of encouragement to your pastor about how his message spoke to you could give him the hope he needs to carry on another week.

God’s Holy Spirit lives in you to direct and empower you to step out of your comfort zone to accomplish God’s will. Every time you stuff that urging to step up and do something you know needs to be done the Spirit is saddened.

The job will get done. Will you be the one to do it when God calls you?

Why did Jesus use a little donkey for this significant event in His journey? Humility

He wanted to show how humble He was in obeying the Father’s plan. A work animal carried Him that time from the Mount of Olives.

A white stead of victory will carry Him back to that same spot when He returns to establish His kingdom.

The time is closer than it’s ever been. He said He’s coming back. Let’s do all we can to prepare for His kingdom.

Tell as many others as you can about His grace and love.

Invite them to accept His offer of salvation given on the cross.

Guide them in their spiritual journey into the family of God.

You see, you do have a role to play in this life.

Step up and do it.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

DINNER INVITATION

“He’s coming. He’s coming. I need to get closer to see Him.” Zacchaeus tried to push between people on the outskirts of the crowd.

An elbow came down on his forehead, knocking him to the ground. “Back off, buzzard. Jesus isn’t here for you of all people.”

Zacchaeus stood up and brushed himself off. The sound of the crowd told him Jesus was almost to were he was.

He looked down the road to see if there was a way in there. A fig tree caught his eye. “That’s it.”

He ran at the tree, jumped at the lowest branch, grabbed it and swung his legs to the next branch. From there he pulled himself up above the throng of flesh by the road.

All attention was on the man leading His disciples to Jerusalem. Anticipation was running at an all-time high.

Zacchaeus was unimpressed with his first sight of Jesus. Nothing made Him appear regal except His confidence.

Jesus stopped in the road and looked right at the man in the tree. “Zacchaeus, come down here. I must eat at your house today.”

How does He know my name? Doesn’t matter now. Zacchaeus dropped to the ground and brushed himself off. “Right this way. I’ll have the best meal set for You.”

The house had never been so full of people. Jesus came with His disciples. Some others came in behind them. Zacchaeus closed the door before there was only room for everyone to stand.

The meal wasn’t as exquisite as Zacchaeus had hoped, but it was good. He thought he recognized the man with disheveled hair. Soon a man who looked much like him stood behind him. “Bart, I’ve been looking all over for you. They told me you left to follow Jesus. Who led you here?”

Bart smiled so broad food fell out of his mouth. “I can lead myself now. Jesus made me to see. I can see you. I’m going to my first Passover with Jesus, the man who gave me sight.”

Food now fell from Zacchaeus’s mouth. He stood. “Jesus, I give half of all I have to the poor and will return anything taken wrongly with interest.”

Jesus smiled. “Salvation has come to this house today. I have come to seek and save those who are lost.”

A cheer rose. Jesus sat and faced the crowd. Silence filled the house.

“A nobleman prepared to go to a distant land to receive a kingdom, but before he left he gave ten servants a talent each. He was gone a long time. Upon returning he summoned the servants. The first one produced ten talents from his profits. ‘Well done. You shall rule over ten cities in my kingdom.’ A second servant brought five talents to the nobleman. ‘You shall rule over five cities.’ A third servant came and bowed at the nobleman’s feet. He unwrapped his talent and handed it to the nobleman. ‘You worthless servant, you should have at least drawn interest with this. Take it from him and give it to the man with ten talents.’ ‘But,’ some protested, ‘he already has ten.’ ‘To those who have more will be given to them while those who don’t have it will be taken from them. Now, bring the other seven and have them executed before me since they don’t want me to rule over them.'”

********

A funny thing happened on the way to Jerusalem. A man who found himself vertically challenged climbed a tree and found himself feeding Jesus and His disciples. True story.

A glimpse is all Zacchaeus was after. A life change is what he received. Jesus has a way of doing that for those who seek Him with their whole might.

An after dinner parable was offered to quell suspicions of an imminent kingdom being established.

Jericho has an interesting past. The first city conquered in the promised land was won in the most unorthodox way: marching and yelling. God did the heavy part of the conquest.

The city was rebuilt under a curse from Joshua. The first-born son of the man building it would die at the beginning of the project, the last-born at the end. Hiel, the Bethelite, fulfilled that curse.

Jericho was used by both Elijah and Elisha, as well as other prophets. Jesus was baptized by His cousin John, then tempted by Satan near here.

The good, the bad and the ugly occurred here. God was glorified through it all.

What extent would you go to just to see Jesus?

Zacchaeus wasn’t a young man. His wealth meant he likely wasn’t physically fit. That tree was his only hope at a once in a lifetime opportunity.

He didn’t mean to, but he got Jesus’s attention. It changed his life and eternal destiny.

What tree do you need to climb today?

Do you need to stand on your accomplishments that keep your family on the back burner of your life?

Should you conquer that pride of yours as a means of looking past yourself to see God’s Son?

Is there a chemical dependency that’s keeping you from getting just a glimpse of your only hope of recovery?

When you search for Jesus with all you’ve got He will come to dine with you. He will ask you to open your life to His opportunity for a new start.

A new life awaits you. Are you willing to take that step toward Jesus today? He’ll stop everything to attend to you.

If it takes a miracle He’s fully capable of that. If you require a story He’ll come up with the best one to fit that bill. He’ll make others uncomfortable just to meet you where you are so He can change you.

Perhaps you feel like you’re out on a limb right now. Jesus is about to pass you by. What will you do when He stops and calls your name?

Zacchaeus had few friends in Jericho. Jesus became one of them.

Let Him be yours today.

I’ll see you later.   Wade