Easter: Seeking Messiah (Part 3)

Simon departed from his brother’s house and headed straight for the temple, the most likely place to find Messiah. Soon the Passover lambs would be slaughtered for the feast, so early today would be the best time to seek Him. A picture of his suffering son flashed through his mind. Hopefully, I can make my petition to the Lord before the people assemble.

Outside the temple small crowds gathered and voices inquired, “Where is Jesus, our King?” Electricity sparked their emotions. Although Simon searched, He was nowhere in sight, but in the midst of the confusion was a man carrying a pitcher of water while moving purposefully through the outer court. Curiosity drew Simon to follow, and two blocks later, he caught up with the man.

courtesy of morguefile.com

courtesy of morguefile.com

“Sir, do you know who Jesus is?”

The man looked over his shoulder at him, out of breath with sweat glistening on his forehead. “I don’t know Him, but I must prepare for a supper at the direction of my master. His upper room is rented tonight for Jesus and His disciples.”

“Can you tell me where?” He pleaded.

The man offered no response as he swept away and disappeared around a corner.

Simon’s heart wrenched at this revelation. There was no hope of finding Him until after the supper with His Twelve. Shuffling back to the temple, he entered, intending to pray. He found a discreet corner and knelt, when the sound of men arguing behind a curtain interrupted his petitions.

courtesy of morguefile.com

courtesy of morguefile.com

“How dare Jesus confront the chief priests by refusing to answer where He receives His authority to preach and perform miracles.” A deep voice hissed.

“Timaus, we all agree. What I can’t understand is how He outwits us with every question we ask. In order for Him to answer us, we have to first answer Him. He outwits the Sadducees the same way.”

“Tricks! All tricks! Asking us if John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. He knew we couldn’t answer …  we must follow political protocol—or be stoned.” The volume of Thaddeus’ voice rose, followed by the sound of shushing.

“Calm yourself. We’re not about to set ourselves up to be stoned. There must be a way to trap Him for our purposes. Unfortunately, the masses believe John was a prophet.”

Another gave a short laugh. “His relative who is a cousin, I believe? A family of prophets.” The voice dripped sarcasm.

“I, for one, do believe that John’s baptism was from heaven. Why couldn’t we just say that to get His answer? Wouldn’t it have been worth it? Perhaps we could have trapped Him after all.” A dissenting voice shrilled.

“How naïve of you, Stephen. Don’t you have any pride at all?” This new voice was full of drawn swords. “That would force us to admit He was right all along.”

Silence. Simon waited, holding his breath.

Nothing.

Just then distant footsteps approached the concealed group of men.

“Quickly! We are going to have this Messiah—the One who masquerades as the Christ.” The voice exuded urgent joy.

Simon tensed and his heart galloped. Dear God! What evil are they planning against Him?

“The High Priest has again spoken with one of His disciples. The one who keeps the money, apparently, is quite interested in hoarding silver for himself.” His tone jangled like heavy coins.

courtesy of getty images

courtesy of getty images

Simon started. Judas? He sat at my table many times with Jesus when they were in Bethany. His memory searched. Had a love of money shaped him into a traitor? Impossible. Yet, he did recall Judas holding tightly to the money bag, which was always in his possession.

“What did they say? Will Judas cooperate with us?” He recognized the voice as belonging to Timaus.

“It looks promising. The High Priest has spoken with him on many occasions, offering to pay. He always refuses. It’s never enough. But this time, his offer was more silver—thirty pieces.”

“If he has always refused, why does he now agree?” The shrill tone condescended into a scoff.

“Because this time … this time, he said he would look for an opportunity to betray Him away from the crowds. Tonight is the first day of Unleavened Bread, and he claims Jesus and the disciples have a Passover Supper planned. We are readying our group of men, arming them with clubs and swords.” Viciousness wrapped around his words.

“But why go with violence? The Teacher has never been anything except peaceful. Just because He outwits us is no reason to take swords and clubs.” Stephen’s voice whined.

“Whose side are you on? This prophet is turning the people away from the authority of our High Priest! The crowds just led him into Jerusalem, intending to crown Him as their King! That. Is. Treason.”

“Yes, and if there is a political uprising, we will take the brunt from Rome. They hate us and find any excuse to tighten the bars of our prison. It’s better for one man to suffer than for all the Jews to be tortured by these cruel Romans. This Jesus must be sacrificed for the good of all.”

“We have no king but Caesar!” His tone rang with finality.

Simon’s energy surged, and he leapt to his feet. All the more reason to locate Messiah to warn Him of this evil plot, planned against Him by one of His own.

God help me find Him! 

 

Easter: Seeking Messiah (Part 2)

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courtesy of www.lightstock.com

The sun blazed orange as it set behind the hills. Simon arrived at his destination and commanded his camel to kneel so he could slide off. Hastening toward the door of his brother’s home, he knocked. It opened at once.

“Enter and join us.” A voice boomed, one which he recognized as Saul’s. Before he could take a step, the strong embrace of his brother drew him inside and led him to a table where several others reclined for the evening meal.

He sat, and as the women served, he met and conversed with guests who had also traveled to Jerusalem from other villages for Passover. The topic? Jesus. For three years, they talked of no one else.

“Did anyone witness the Teacher arrive? I’ve traveled a long way in hopes of finding Him tonight.”

Saul leaned forward to take unleavened bread, broke it, and distributed pieces to those around him. “I heard that He arrived in the city yesterday, but no one knows where He’s staying. If they did, the entire city would be at that house, asking Him for healing or more stories.”

All the men chuckled in agreement. The masses swarmed Him like bees around a hive.

One of them, Matthias of Bethlehem, raised up his head. “I was there.” He swallowed a bite of fish. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed, brothers.” His wide, brown eyes stared. “Pontius Pilate even summoned extra guards, in case of a riot.”

Their faces wore frowns of worry as they stopped eating and turned to listen.

He took a deep breath. “A huge crowd of people had come to herald him as our King and lead Him triumphantly into the city. They were a noisy bunch, crying ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ and ‘Jesus is our King!’” His expression softened and his eyes lost focus, as though reliving it in his memory.

Simon folded his arms and leaned forward. “Yes, yes … do continue. Was He mounted on a horse?”

Matthias cocked his head to one side. “I’ve never heard of Jesus riding an animal. He always walked. But someone let His disciples borrow a donkey and a colt from a nearby village.” He glanced around the table. “Can you imagine that? A king sitting on a donkey’s colt?” He snorted.

The others mumbled concern, their eyes wide and foreheads wrinkled in disbelief.

Simon stood and raised his arms. “Everyone knows a king rides a horse.

The men nodded and mumbled assent.

Matthias rose and placed a gentle hand on Simon’s shoulder. “Brother.”  He spread his hands wide and shrugged his shoulders. “The donkey and her colt were requested by Jesus Himself.” He again reclined on the pillows.

Simon paced. “How could he lower Himself to do such a thing? How will Rome view this act?”

Saul fisted his hands and thrust them above his head. “We want Him to depose Rome and become our ruler—the King of the Jews! Even if He chooses to arrive on a donkey.” The gravel in his deep voice was full of hope.

Matthias lifted his index finger and pointed to the ceiling. “Remember the prophecy in Isaiah?” He closed his eyes and lifted his face to heaven. “Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

Saul raised an eyebrow. “Don’t forget that animal represents peace. Messiah comes in peace to make peace—not war, as kings do by riding atop war horses.”

Saul’s wife set a platter of lamb in front of the men and leaned over to whisper in her husband’s ear.

He nodded as she whisked away. “My wife also heard from another witness that His disciples laid their coats so He could sit. And the crowd not only spread their coats on the road, but also branches from the palm trees.”

Matthias leaped up. “I watched them lead Jesus into the city without the animal’s feet touching the ground. Some of the crowd went ahead, while others followed behind, but they all shouted in unison: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!'”

Simon absorbed the story. He could visualize the Lord descending the hill into the city and imagine the cries of the multitudes. He turned to Matthias. “And after Jesus arrived in Jerusalem?”

He smiled. “When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, asking who He was. And the crowds claimed that He was the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Simon pondered these words, accepting some lamb as it circled to him. He hadn’t expected a political uprising now, but wondered if Jesus had. So much was happening in Jerusalem … so much that was in the way of his finding Messiah and asking for a word of healing for his baby son.

Tomorrow was Thursday. Hopefully he could find Him by then.

All I need is one word from You, Lord, and my son will be healed.

Perhaps his son had already died—he couldn’t know. Somehow, he discerned the child was still alive. He clung to that hope.

 

Easter: Seeking Messiah

Happy Easter Season! I’m taking this opportunity to tell you about some upcoming blog posts I hope you will enjoy reading. I’ll be writing Biblical fiction where a real character will experience what it may have been like during Jesus’ donkey ride into Jerusalem for Passover, His crucifixion on Good Friday, and His resurrection on Easter morning.

 I’d like to introduce you to Simon, the leper.

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Simon rocked as he sat on his camel, the sun’s merciless glare slicing  into his eyes. As he traveled the desert road from Bethany, he ducked his face into long scarf wound around his neck and wiped away sandy dirt, mixed with soured sweat. His focus sharpened, and he squinted into the distance. His heartbeat quickened and a smile spread across his weathered face.

“Ahhh. Jerusalem.” A glittering jewel, flashing like a precious stone in a king’s crown.

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He dug the heels of his sandals into the sides of his camel, ignoring its bleat of protest, and charged on. He had left his wife and infant son at home in Bethany and  was determined to arrive in time for Passover. His brother lived inside the city wall, and his family would make room in their cramped quarters.

But what drove his passion was the news that Jesus was arriving there, too. This compassionate man, who had touched him two years earlier and made him whole, had erased his life sentence of leprosy.  A miracle of restoration back to his family, and he was intent on repaying the Lord for His mercies.

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Simon had also witnessed the miracle of Lazarus coming back to life, convincing him that Jesus had to be Messiah. Although the Sadducees preached and taught against the resurrection, not the Pharisees. How could anyone not believe when Lazarus had been dead in the tomb four days?  The Teacher had commanded in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” and the man, wrapped up like a mummy, had hobbled out alive. I’ll never, never forget it.

He shook his head side to side. The Sadducees were fools in his opinion—though seeing, they remained unbelieving. He laughed aloud as he trotted, remembering that recently he had hosted Jesus and Lazarus at his supper table. He inhaled a deep breath, still able to smell the lavish worship a woman, a believer, had displayed that night.

When Mary had quietly entered with an alabaster vial, no one had paid attention. But then the rich, sweet smell floated everywhere, growing stronger until his nostrils burned with the fragrance. The expensive perfume dripped from Jesus—down his hair, his beard, and through his tunic. That’s when everyone realized she had broken the vial and discreetly poured it over His head.

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As some began to protest indignantly that she had wasted its value by not selling and giving the money to the poor, Jesus put up His hand. They immediately silenced.

He would always cherish Jesus’s words. “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

Questions somersaulted in his mind—what did He mean … His burial? Only dead bodies were anointed, and Jesus was very much living. He had to search for answers.

However, there was another reason for this journey besides celebrating Passover. He pictured his infant son lying at home, his stomach cavity pumping in and out as he attempted to inhale enough air for just one good breath. His fearful, brown eyes pleaded. Give. Me. Air.

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He had to locate Jesus. Then his son would be healed. His heart galloped and wrung at the same time, causing tears to squeeze out his eyes and tunnel down his cheeks. Absolutely must. If Jesus could raise the dead and heal lepers, He could heal his son with a single word.

Could he find Him in time? 

 

photos courtesy of morguefile and istockphoto

The Revelation Church at Thyatira

By Karen Jurgens

Jezebel works with religion and witchcraft to hinder the church from moving forward and advancing the Kingdom. ~ John Eckhard

Welcome to Thyatira. Situated thirty-five miles east of Pergamum, it was known for its wool and textile industries, whose trade guilds also doubled as social and religious clubs. Jesus appeared to this church with fiery eyes and burnished feet to deliver a message. Although He began by ticking off a list of all their commendable deeds, he ended with a stern warning:

But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality (Revelation 2:20-21 NASB).

The issue with this church refers back to Jezebel–the woman who drew her husband, King Ahab, into idolatry, immorality, and false worship, and who helped him acquire a neighboring field by arranging the murder of its owner, Naboth.

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Jezebel’s death

 

The main problem in Thyatira involved the church leadership preaching a compromising message, promising freedom from God’s moral laws. Pastors proclaimed that if the spirit were secure in salvation, then sexual sins and idol worship wouldn’t hurt them. The focus was on serving self and being accepted by the world.

Sound familiar in some of today’s churches? But people can’t get away with these sins—even in our modern age. Listen to the consequences from the mouth of the Lord Himself:

Behold, I will throw her [Thyatira] on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds (Revelation 2:22-23 NASB).

Wow, Jesus is adamant about severely punishing those who follow the Jezebel spirit. Rather ironic, don’t you think, that Jesus threw this church on a bed of sickness—the same bed where she had committed adultery.

Jezebel is one slick spirit that works in conjunction with the spirit of religion. Here’s a modern-day picture: A legalistic church tells us we’re fine if we’ve kept its rules, resulting in self-righteousness. The pastorate also loves to bestow a title of importance on people seeking recognition from the world, which goes a long way. Church members, wearing these titles like golden crowns, might be ordered to work shifts every week or month, tithe a certain amount, or perform in some other area to serve the pastorate. Of course, volunteering and tithing are good things that all church members should do, but when they’re forced or bribed into it, that’s where the line is crossed into the Jezebel spirit.

We know from scripture in Malachi 3:10 that those who tithe receive a blessing from God for their obedience. But the truth is that these rules don’t justify us in God’s eyes—faith does. We find our righteousness in the work of the cross and through trusting in Jesus who performed that work—not in just following the rules and being “religious.”

Jezebel also works with another spirit—the spirit of witchcraft—which is very subtle and thus hard to detect unless you’re paying close attention. Hidden lies inside partial truths swirl together to twist our perspectives by highlighting our personal wants and needs. This pull distracts us from God’s will and grace for the work He has called us to do. Our focus lands squarely on our needs, promoting and justifying selfishness.

Witchcraft also attacks our minds through controlling words. Watch out for the get-rich-quick gospel where a person must send a seed offering in return for an anointing or a percentage return on a donation—especially when it’s just available for the first three hundred callers!

There are true blessings from heaven and true financial miracles, but we must watch out for Jezebel, full of deceit and lies, lurking to “fleece the flock.” Hence, we all must pray faithfully about the fertile soil where we sow our seeds and plant our tithes.

Another ploy of Jezebel is through the idolatrous gospel. Unfortunately for many of today’s Western churches, their pastors are idolized by their congregations. Instead of running to Jesus and His Word, some run to the pastor and believe what he says is gospel truth.

Let’s run to Jesus and idolize Him—not a mortal man who preaches from a platform.

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What do you think? Why did Jesus so vehemently warn this Revelation church to repent of her Jezebel spirit of immorality? The severe consequences of disobedience were designed to stop people from following Jezebel’s idolatry and witchcraft.

Knowing that the Lord is patient so that all may come to salvation, these consequences were actually merciful and full of God’s grace. He is patient toward us as He waits with open arms for us to come to Him and receive His free gift of salvation. He concludes with a wonderful promise for overcomers:

 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them-I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:24-29 NASB).

Our next stop? The Revelation Church in Sardis. Meet you there.

Photos courtesy of Lightstock.com