DayBreaks for 3/31/18 – Saturday, the Glorious Silence

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DayBreaks for 3/30/18: Saturday – the Glorious Silence

From the Perimeter holy week devotion guide, by Caleb Click:

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (ESV) – For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

“Buried.” In our Easter celebrations, the death and resurrection of Jesus receive most of our attention and with good reason. The heart and soul of the Christian faith rests on those realities. But here, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that it was of first importance not only that Jesus died and rose, but that he was buried. Christians across the centuries have echoed those words of Paul in the Apostle’s Creet, saying with one voice, …he was crucified, died, and was buried. Sitting at the very center of it all is this reality often confessed but rarely considered: that Jesus’ body joined bullions before him in a tomb, that he entered the grave and for three days remained inside, closed off from the world of the living. But why? Why does this matter?

But this mystery doesn’t stop there. It sweeps us up with it. Romans 6:4 says: We were buried with him by baptism into his death.  Colossians 2:12 announces that we who are in Christ have been buried with him in baptism.  In the gospel story, Saturday’s mourning has as much importance to us as Friday evening’s despair and Sunday morning’s joy. Again, the question: why?

I think the answer is this: burial is a goodbye. It’s recognition that the life of the one we loved is gone and what remains in their place is only silence That the words they once spoke live on only in our recollection. That their touch exists only in memory. That the person with all their vitality and power is gone. Saturday morning is the disciples’ coming to terms with a Jesus they think is no more.

And here is why that matters, why it’s such gloriously good news. Jesus wasn’t simply a man who died; he was the spotless lamb upon whom our sins were laid (John 1:29). The disciples mourned on Saturday, but they didn’t realize that it wasn’t Jesus who was no more; it was our sin. It was everything we once were. When he rose Sunday morning and left the tomb, our sins stayed inside. Buried. Silenced. A memory and recollection stripped of its power. We don’t continue in sin because we were buried with Jesus and, while we have been raised, the old man still lies buried in that tomb, never to leave again (Romans 6). We don’t fall captive to the lie of thi world that our hope is in our performance, because the body of flesh was cut away and cast into a tomb from which it will never escape, and we now stand in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ (Colossians 3).

TODAY’S PRAYER: Father, we recognize that the burial of Jesus was a goodbye. A goodbye to our sin and its condemnation. To the person we were before Christ. To the life we once lived and the power the flesh once had over us. Thank you that the glorious good news of a silence does not leave us in pain as the disciples first thought, but one that truly makes us free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/30/18 – Our Passover Lamb

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DayBreaks for 3/30/18: Our Passover Lamb

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:

1 Cor. 5:7b – …For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

There is a saying, “All good things must come to an end.”  Actually, that’s a lie.  Not all good things must come to an end.  Paul tells us that faith, hope and love abide.  The Word of God abides forever.  God is forever.  And for Christians, heaven will be forever.  But I would have to suspect that on Good Friday so long ago, Jesus took great comfort in knowing that all bad things must come to an end, and in fact, as far as His earthly suffering was concerned, Good Friday marked the end.  Anyone who watches The Passion of the Christ must believe that the crucifixion itself, as horrible as it was, must have been welcomed as the end of the road – Jesus knew it would soon be over.

What happened to Jesus?  Was He murdered?  Was He killed?  Was He executed? Was He (as Texans might say), ‘lynched’?  While lots of words might have been chosen, I wonder how many on Good Friday would have said that He had been “sacrificed”?  Probably not many, except perhaps the Three-in-One.

In A Violent Grace, by Michael Card, Mike was musing on the events of Good Friday when he posited this insight: “It was one thing for pastors today to speak of Christ being a substitutionary sacrifice and a propitiation for our sins.  It was another for a priest in Jesus’ day to lay hold of a soft white lamb and slit its throat…For Jesus, it began the night he was born.  The first to come and kneel at His manger were shepherds.  He arrived in the season when lambs were being born – that’s why the shepherds were in the field all night.  The worshiping shepherds saw a baby boy a sweetly sleeping, but they never expected that the lamb who was born that night as a baby was the Lamb of God.  Thirty years later, John the Baptist was standing up to his waist in the Jordan when he saw Jesus approaching.  ‘Look!’ he exclaimed, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’  With those words ringing through the air, Jesus began three years of public ministry…I wonder if one of the last sounds to reach Jesus’ ears during the final hours on the cross was the bleating of lambs.

One thing is for sure: the final sounds Jesus heard on the cross were not comforting.  He did not hear the voices of the crowd shouting “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  He did not hear his followers weeping for him, nor did he hear his apostles words of comfort as he hung suspended between heaven and earth, for they’d all (save one) cowardly run away.  And so, perhaps, with the Passover being observed in the city just across the valley, perhaps the sound of lambs was indeed the last sounds he heard. 

I hope that we will hear the sounds of the Lamb that was sacrificed.  And that we won’t just hear it, but we will take it to heart.  It was my fault that Jesus was on the cross – and it was yours.  The next time He needs us, I hope He will hear us.  He is our Passover Lamb and because of Him, the death angel has passed us over and we live in a new life.

May your Resurrection celebration be a special one.  Listen for the Lamb!

PRAYER: Great Lamb of God, have mercy on us sinners! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/29/18 – The Time Has Come

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DayBreaks for 3/29/18: The Time Has Come

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

John 17:1 – After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

“The time has come.” 

These words should haunt us, coming as they do from Jesus’ lips.  John, and the other gospels writers have taken us on an amazing journey of discovery of the Son of God.  His power has wowed us.  His love has stunned and surprised us.  His tenderness has given us hope.  And now, can’t you hear the weariness, and yes, apprehension, in his voice? 

How we view the arrival of something depends on what we anticipate that “something” will be like: good or bad, blessing or trouble, peace or distress.  I hate it when the appointment comes when I’m supposed to go to the dentist.  I’ve taken others to the hospital for major surgery, and the dread is palpable as we travel in the car.  We hate the moment when we are due to pile into the car for a trip to the funeral parlor for a service for a loved one who has died.  On the other hand, we rejoice when the time has come to leave for the airport to pick up your spouse or children or grandchildren whom you haven’t seen for a long time, or to go away for a much needed and long anticipated 3-day fishing retreat away from the noise and troubles of the world.  In either case, the anticipation can be excruciating. 

Either the sadness and dread can drive us into the ground, or the joy we anticipate gives us the butterflies in our stomachs that makes it hard to keep our feet on the ground when we walk.  In many cases, we don’t know what to expect – and the anticipation, the unknowingness involved – makes us nervous and anxious, hopeful yet not too hopeful lest we should be disappointed.  “The time has come.”  With Jesus, it wasn’t a question of anticipation for he knew fully what to expect.  He created the nervous system that would report the details of the crown of thorns, scourging and nails to his brain.  He had known all his life why he’d come to this earth.  Every event of his life had led to this tipping point, this fulcrum.  And when the time comes, what does Jesus do?  He prays.  How did he feel about this “time” which had come?  We see mixed emotions:

FIRST: In the garden we see his human side, trembling and fearful of the great anguish and suffering that lay ahead, begging with the father that this cup, and this time, could pass.  And who can blame him?  Think of your own most terrifying and dark moment – didn’t you cry out for it to pass?  Didn’t you cry out for God to take it away?  Jesus was as human as we are.  He had all the same feelings as we do.  His nerves fired pain impulses just every bit as exquisitely and perfectly as those of any other human being.  He made no exceptions for himself when it came to being able to identify with us in our humanity, he permitted himself no indulgences or luxuries to bypass human suffering.

SECOND: In Hebrews 12:2, and here, we see something about how the Divine side of Jesus dealt with this time.  He was God – every bit as much God as he was human.  As God, he could see the future outcome of events and happenings, and he could foresee the joy at the end of this “time” which had come.  And that joy he beheld was your face and my face.  It was being able to see us eternally before the throne of God in heaven in His Presence, and knowing that it was because of this “time which has come” that was to make it possible.  That joy, of seeing his brothers and sisters redeemed from the pit of hell and cleansed from the stench of sin, that gave Christ the power to move into this time which has come, and pray, “Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.”

“The time has come”…what does that mean for you and I?  It means the time has come for us to be done with our past lives of sin and rebellion, to put our faithlessness and infidelity to God in the past.  The time has come for us to walk by faith, not by sight.  The time has come for us to take up our cross and follow him.  The time has come for the church to rise up in the power of the Spirit and speak truth into the world once again.  And ultimately, the time will come for us to face our own death and destiny.  Jesus had prepared himself along the way for the moment when his time would come.  Have you?

PRAYER: For Jesus’ resolve in the hour of his trial, Father, we are eternally grateful.  For strength for our own time which has come, we beseech Thee.  For the courage to speak truth into the world and the lives of those around us, we plead.  For Your mercies, which are new every morning, we give You praise.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/28/18 – One Moment in History

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DayBreaks for 3/28/18: One Moment in History

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

Pretend for a moment that you were in possession of a time machine. If you could pick one moment out of all recorded history to go back and see, what would you choose? In a newspaper recently, journalists had voted on the greatest story of the 20th century. According to one paper I saw, they chose the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima as the biggest story of the century. It certainly is worthy of strong consideration. I remember the stunned silence (even outdoors!!) on the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon and the first moonwalk took place. It was as if nothing, not even the wind, dared to move that afternoon.

Still, all things considered, I think that I’d probably pick the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the event I’d most like to observe. You see, no human eyes were witness to it, so no one knows what it looked like. There was no one to watch as God came back to life, except God Himself.

I don’t think that I would want to see the crucifixion. It would be too painful to watch knowing that it was my fault that it was happening. We want to get past the ugliness, horror and bloodiness of Calvary in our rush to get to the Resurrection Morning, don’t we? But we can’t afford to do that. If we do, we will miss the most amazing lesson in all of human history: that the God of heaven, who hates sin with all His heart, loves His creation even more than He hates sin and proved it on the cross. That, if anything, is the lesson of Calvary. It is a lesson we need to be reminded of every time we get the chance.

Don’t rush past Calvary on your way to sunrise services. Stop and look long and hard at the price that was paid for your sin and for mine. It wasn’t cheap – God’s grace is anything but cheap. The price wasn’t paid on Resurrection morning, but on the Friday before. That is where the atoning was done, that is where the blood of the Lamb was spilled and when it was sprinkled on the altar. The Resurrection was merely the joyous cosmic shout of God proclaiming the victory that was won on the Friday before!

The cross – good Friday – is where we need to stop and ponder our lives – and the God who could possibly love us so much.

PRAYER: Father, help us pause often this week to ponder with all the wonder, amazement and humility that human hearts can hold what you did for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/27/18 – The Prison and the Prisoner

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DayBreaks for 3/26/18: The Prison and the Prisoner

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

Thomas Costain wrote a book called The Three Edwards, and in it he tells about an historical event from the 14th century.  Two brothers, Raynald and Edward, were bitter enemies.  Edward mounted war against Raynald, captured him and imprisoned him in Nieuwkerk Castle. 

But this was no ordinary prison.  The room was relatively comfortable and there was no lock on the door – no bolt, padlock or crossbeam.  Raynald, though a prisoner, was free to come or go at will.  In fact, it was better than that: Edward promised Raynald full restoration of all rights and titles on a single condition: that Raynald walk out of his cell.

There was only one problem: Raynald couldn’t walk out of his cell.  The door was smaller than a typical door…and Raynald was enormously fat.  He was so fat that he could not, no matter how much he squeezed and heaved and pushed, get himself through the doorway to his cell. 

So, in order to walk free and reclaim all he’d lost, he only had to do one thing: lose weight.  That would have come easily to most prisoners that were fed bread and water.  But it didn’t come easily to Raynald.  Edward has disguised a great cruelty in his apparent act of generosity to Raynald.  Every day, Edward had Raynald serve the richest, sauciest foods, sweet and tasty, along with as much ale and wine that Raynald could drink.  Raynald ate and ate and grew larger and fatter.  He spent 10 years trapped in that unlocked cell, and was freed only after Edward’s death.  By that time, his health was so ruined that he died soon afterwards.

As I read this tragic story, I was struck by several truths:

FIRST: Satan takes us prisoner by capitalizing on our desires, weaknesses and tastes.  He doesn’t need to create those things in us, he just takes advantage of our appetites.  And then he sets out to do his best to see to it that we stay sated with the pleasures of sin.

SECOND: Raynald had a choice – he could only eat as much as was truly necessary, he could have exercised in his cell, and he could have walked through the cell door after losing enough weight.  But Raynald was too fond of his sweets and tasty delights – thereby becoming his own warden, held in a prison only by his own weaknesses.  The same is true for us – Satan can’t keep us in the prison.  It is our choice – to continue to smother ourselves and indulge in our passions and sin, or to leave the prison behind.

THIRD: We think that the things we long for in our human nature are what will make us happy – that if we have enough of something, then we will be free at long last, not realizing (or at least not admitting to ourselves) that we are only perpetuating our imprisonment.  Freedom awaits us outside the imprisonment of our desires.  What would you rather have: freedom or another piece of cheesecake?

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross. – Jesus

PRAYER: Father, our hearts and stomachs and eyes lie to us about what it is that we really want and what it is that is really good for us.  Give us the strength through Your Spirit that lives within us to deny ourselves for that which is far better and which will never fade away.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/26/18 – The Proclamation

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DayBreaks for 3/26/18: The Proclamation

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

SARPOURENX, France – A mayor in southwest France has threatened residents of his village of Sarpourenx with severe punishment if they die because there’s no room in the cemetery. Mayor Gerard Lalanne posted an ordinance in the council offices advising the village’s 260 residents that “all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish.” It added, “Offenders will be severely punished,” Homes Worldwide said. The 70-year-old mayor, who is hoping to be re-elected in local elections, told journalists, “It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me.”  

Easter is coming but will soon be over and I shall miss it once it’s gone.  Of course, there’s no reason we can’t revel in the joyful proclamation “He is not here, he is risen!” all year long – and indeed, we should.  It is at the very heart of the Christian message, for if Christ is not risen from the dead, we’d have no greater hope or joy than any other religion whose founder lies moldering in the grave. 

I would imagine that mayor Lalanne issued his proclamation rather tongue-in-cheek.  I just don’t think that one can legislate the prevention of death.  Try as one might, you will never be able to keep cemeteries from filling up.  The human march toward death is certain and inexorable.  The bell tolls for we. 

Jesus would take a different approach than Mayor Lalanne.  Jesus is a realist – we will all die, and after that face judgment.  But rather than filling up cemeteries, Jesus is all about emptying them out through the resurrection.  And we need never fear another thing: there is no message such as “There’s no room at the inn,” or “Heaven is full…no vacancy.”  If Easter is about anything, it is about room – room at the foot of the cross, room in an empty tomb, room in cemeteries where the dead are raised and room in heaven for “whosoever will” that desires to come home to the Father. 

PRAYER: Lord, we believe that the day will come when all who are in the grave will hear your voice and every grave will open and surrender to You.  May we never lose hope, may we invite all we know to come home!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/23/18 – The Beginning of Glory

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DayBreaks for 3/23/18: The Beginning of Glory

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

What would you have given to be the only human being to witness Christ’s first breath as he came back to life?  God, for whatever reason, didn’t give that privilege to any mortal.  I’m not sure why, but my guess is that we couldn’t have borne the sight or the glory of that moment in time.  It appeared for all intents and purposes that the cause of Christ had come to an end.  His disciples certainly thought so.  After all, he was brutally slain, wrapped, put in a sealed tomb.  Over, done, kaput, fini. 

It seems hard to speak of the cross as an instrument of glory.  That’s because we think of glory as something shining, beautiful, amazing.  Methinks that God also finds obedience to be glorious, and if that is indeed the case, the cross of Christ was truly and specially glorious. 

But the glory that most of us associate with Easter is the glory of the resurrection.  We hope to share in that resurrection glory, even as we hope to avoid the glory of the cross.  We look forward to the resurrection, but not to taking up our cross to follow Christ in order to get there. 

We would be remiss, however, if we only see Easter as a historical artifact of the first century, or even of the Christian church.  As we gather this Sunday to sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” with its glorious “Alleluias!”, let us remember that Easter is more than just history: “Easter is not the celebration of a past event. The alleluia is not for what was; Easter proclaims a beginning which has already decided the remotest future. The Resurrection means that the beginning of glory has already started.” – Karl Rahner, Everyday Faith

Trillions of years from now, the Alleluia choruses filled with His praise will only have just begun.  The events of that first Easter truly did settle, once and for all, the “remotest future” – even the future that will know no time, for time will be no more.  But let’s not just wait until we are resurrected to explore and live in the glory, for the glory has already begun and it grows stronger with each act of obedience, with each song of praise, with each cup of cold water and each act of compassion.  It grows like an eternal and never ending wave rising up to the praise of the Lamb that was slain, who lives forevermore!

I know it’s not Easter yet, but it’s still true: Christ the Lord is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

PRAYER: Let our shouts rise to the heavens, Lord, may Your glory fill our hearts and the earth even as they fill Your home.  May we bring You glory, and live in the glory that You have revealed to us in Christ Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/22/18 – There Was No One There

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DayBreaks for 3/22/18: There Was No One There

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2008:

Have you ever felt absolutely and totally alone?  I am not the kind of person who minds being alone – in fact, I rather enjoy it…most of the time.  But when I worked in high tech, I traveled a lot and there were many times when I’d go to a strange city (or even a strange country) and loneliness would settle over my soul like a shroud.  There are many places where loneliness raises its head and comes to sit next to you.  Once it arrives, it tends to stay.

Some of the loneliest places I’ve been read like a list of places most folks would like to visit: Ireland, Sao Paulo, London, and in America, Mississippi and Alabama.  I don’t know why I felt so alone here in the US, but when you’re in a foreign country (even one like Ireland or England that speaks my native tongue) you can feel desperately alone.  Without my family, my wife, my dogs or friends, loneliness haunts like a spectre.  The more foreign, the greater the haunting.

The story of Gethsemane is one of the most painful stories for me to read in the entire collection of Scripture, and having been there, is even more painful to me.  It appears to be the time of Jesus’ greatest loneliness, with perhaps the exception of the cry of dereliction from the cross itself.  Anticipation of agony is oft times worse than the pain we anticipate.  I wonder if it was that way for Jesus.

In his novel, More Like Not Running Away, Paul Shepherd wrote: “I’d always known, in one place in my throat, how Jesus must have cried in the garden—crying not to die, because there was no fear of death, and not to leave his friends, because he walked alone, and not to suffer, because the blood and bruises and thorns were part of his perfection—but crying because he could not find his Father’s face, because when he would suffer all that he could bear, the pain of every person, living and dead, in that dark moment, there was really nobody there.”

Jesus truly had no peers to swap celestial stories with.  He had no one on the planet who understood what he faced just in a matter of hours.  There was no one else who truly understood the weight of the world’s sin as it came and settled on him like a hot blanket on that Palestinian night.  If ever anyone was in a foreign land, it was Jesus.  If ever anyone found “there was really no one there,” surely it was He.  “We esteemed him smitten by God…” 

For all who have ever felt loneliness, for all who have ever felt that there was “no one there,” take heart in knowing that Jesus has been to that desolate place before you.  And no matter how alone he felt at the moment he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he soon proclaimed with great confidence: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit!”  In the midst of his massively heavy aloneness, He still had confidence in the Father He knew and loved, and was supremely confident that the Father saw and loved Him and would not ultimately let His Holy One be abandoned. 

Dare we hope for the same assurance?  Absolutely, for His Father is our Father and is unchanging.

PRAYER: Fill our loneliness with the confidence of Jesus that we may, in childlike trust and faith, abandon ourselves into Your hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/21/18 – Without a Doubt

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DayBreaks for 3/21/18: Without a Doubt

From the DayBreaks archive, 2008:

How strange are the mysteries of God!  To paraphrase: “If you want to find your life, you must lose it.”  Or, “He that is the greatest shall be the least among you.”  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”  Certainly, perhaps the greatest understatement in the history of the universe was when God declared, My ways are not your ways, nor my thought like your thoughts.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts. 

It seems strange that in dying, death was defeated.  Christ took death in both of his arms and pulled it into his mortal body, and in doing so, defeated it.  Through the resurrection, death and its power were forever broken and we need not fear the moment of our physical death for one second longer.  This is the peace that Christ has bought us: that we have been reconciled to God the Father through Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection.  All that previously stood between us has been removed, torn down, ripped asunder like the veil in the temple. 

“He died, but he vanquished death; in himself, he put an end to what we feared; he took it upon himself, and he vanquished it; as a mighty hunter, he captured and slew the lion.  Where is death?  Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer; but it did exist, and now it is dead.  O life, O death of death!  Be of good heart; it will die in us also.  What has taken place in our head will take place in his members; death will die in us also.  But when?  At the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead in which we believe and concerning which we do not doubt.” – Augustine, Sermon 233

It is one thing to stand at the gravesite and hope for resurrection.  It is another, as Augustine put it, to “believe and concerning which we have no doubt.”  It is through a life of close fellowship with God that such confidence comes.  The resurrection was the first fruit of Christ’s victory – a victory that he is eager to share with each of his children!

PRAYER: Lord, it is difficult for us to believe and accept that death holds no power as we see people dying all around us.  May we, as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, clearly understand that it is our victory, too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 3/20/18 – Between a Rock and Heaven

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DayBreaks for 3/20/18: Between a Rock and Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, 2008:

Some people have trouble making decisions about even the most trivial of things.  I’ve had the dilemma myself.  Just today when I went to the Burger King (not something I do often!), I was torn between getting the Angus steak burger or Tenderoast chicken.  I would have preferred the steak burger, but went for the chicken so I wouldn’t feel as guilty.  Silly, isn’t it? 

There are decisions that are not trivial at all.  Who to marry?  What career to pursue?  What home to buy is a pretty big one, too.  We make other important decisions sometimes by default and without a lot of conscious thought: who will be my friends?  I can’t remember ever really asking myself that – it seems that my friends are my friends because we’ve spent time together and it just turned out that way rather than as the result of a conscious decision. 

As we near Holy Week, let’s not forget these words from Henri Nouwen (“A Spirituality of Waiting,” The Weavings Reader): “Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the Good News to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say yes or no. That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: He had to wait upon how people were going to respond.”

Nouwen is right: up until Jesus showed up on Holy Week, the people really had little to choose from.  There were plenty of rabbis, of course, but only One who made the kinds of demands that Jesus was about to make on them.  Up until he arrived on the scene, people had no choice to speak of: they could choose between sin or a life spent trying to perfectly live the law.  Neither were very attractive nor would either yield good results.  One was destined to lead to shame, degradation and dissolution, while the other would lead to frustration, guilt, discouragement and failure.  But when Jesus offered something different during and after Holy Week, people for the first time had a choice.

Jesus also said that he came to bring a sword.  A choice is much like a sword – it will cut things and make them separate.  There can be no middle ground, there is no living in the space that the sword cut through.  You must be on one side or the other.  It’s not popular these days to be exclusionists, but that’s what Jesus was.  “You are either for me or against me” and “I am the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father BUT BY ME.”  As much as we might wish it were otherwise, that’s the plain and simple truth.  We don’t do anyone favors when we soft pedal the choice that Jesus puts before us – in fact, if we do soft pedal it, we are doing people a great disservice.

We must say either yes or no to Jesus.  The world is waiting to see what we’ll choose. And we need to put that choice in front of the world, too.

PRAYER: Lord, give us hearts and minds of wisdom that when we hear Jesus’ invitation to choose, we will make the right choice that leads to life eternal.  Give us the courage of the truth to speak the truth about the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.