Soothing the Savage Beast

In 1697, William Congreve wrote a play “The Mourning Bride.”  The line, “Music has charms to soothe the savage beast,” came from this. Over the centuries, even though William Congreve has been forgotten, his memorable line continues to live on.

My vet recently said she plays soothing classical instrumental music when they are performing surgery on the animals. She said all the animals are very peaceful before, during and after surgery. If the music is changed, the animals become anxious.

My puppy is proof of this. When I had to leave him alone in the house, he grew anxious and desperate. In an effort to help him calm down, I set up a play list of soothing Celtic hymns. It works like a charm. When I return a few hours later, he peacefully greets me with a big wagging tail.

So does this also work for children? My wise friend Cammie volunteered in the church nursery, where some babies were especially fussy. She brought a small i-pod full of peaceful classical music. She set the volume so all the babies could hear it softly playing. Within a few minutes, all the fussing stopped. The babies sat peacefully playing, or sleeping. From that time on we called her, “The baby whisperer.”

Yes, it works for babies, but does it work for older children? I knew my own kids needed a quiet place to get their schoolwork done. I selected several types of instrumental classical CDs for them to use. Some were piano concertos, classical guitar, movie sound tracks and great symphonies. They were able to focus on their homework, and finished with greater accuracy. Whenever a child was first to complete the Math homework, he had the honor of choosing the next CD. Needless to say, they were all motivated to complete their homework as fast as possible.

When in your busy daily routine, does your child need a peaceful break? Whenever you see your child is stressing, you could take a stress-break by playing some soothing music.

In our busy lifestyle, our kids can get stressed by running from event to event. If you play classical music as you rush off to the next event, it will help your child to calm down as he emotionally transitions from one activity to another.

If your child has trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, try playing a soothing album on repeat throughout the night. (Be sure to eliminate any songs that are too loud or jarring, they could wake him up!)

This doesn’t just work for kids, it also works for teens and adults.

Please reply to share your success stories.

 

 

 

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Loyal Ladies Lk. 8:1-3, 23:49-56 Jn. 19:25 Mk. 16:1-7

If we compare all the lists of women who traveled a few months with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, six are listed by name. They are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus (and His brothers James and Joseph), Salome wife of Zebedee, Mary wife of Clopas, Chuza, Susanna and others. I think Mary Magdalene is often listed first because she was the most outspoken. Yet, Mary, the mother of Jesus, held the highest rank among them.

Throughout the days leading up to His crucifixion, in addition to financially supporting Him, they silently followed Jesus with eyes and ears open searching for ways they could serve Him.

On Palm Sunday, after seeing her son live in 33 years of relative obscurity, she must have rejoiced loudly with the crowds shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” It was about time He received praises.

When He cleared the moneychangers out of the temple quoting, “My house shall be a called a House of prayer for all the nations,” did Mary have a flashback of young Jesus? When he was 12 they celebrated Passover in Jerusalem. After searching three days for Him, they finally found Him in the temple. He calmly asked, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Others may have been shocked by His actions, but Mary knew Jesus’ highest allegiance was to His Father, His Father’s House and advancing His Father’s kingdom.

Unlike the others, each time Jesus spoke of His pending death, Mary would have remembered.

We don’t know if she and the other women witnessed the last supper, and garden arrest. We don’t know at what point on Friday they joined the swelling crowd in front of the Praetorium. Helplessly she could feel the anger seething all around them. Did her heart leap when Pilate proposed releasing Jesus or Barabbas? Did she and all the women shout for the release of Jesus only to hear the deafening roar demanding Barabbas’ release?

As each new piece of the story unfolded, it got worse and worse. The horrific climax came at noon on Calvary as Jesus was nailed to the cross. She deeply loved Him and felt His pain. How much of it could she bear to watch? Each time He gasped out a phrase, she listened intently. When He looked down and gave her into John’s care, her heart felt a slice of relief in the midst of drowning grief.

(For some reason, during the crucifixion, the synoptic gospel writers refer to Jesus’ Mother as Mary the mother of James and Joseph or the other Mary. Since John continues to name her as Jesus’ mother, so will I.)

Friday night, could she sleep, or were her dreams full of the horrors she had seen? If she got up did she stare out at the full moon pondering the purpose of it all. Why did it have to be so tragic? After resting all day Saturday, did they go to bed early so they could leave before sunrise?

It was still dark when they stepped out into the street clutching their spices. They silently rushed toward the tomb, hoping to pass unseen. When the earthquake shook the ground, they still rushed forward to the tomb.

When they arrived, the dawning sun lit up the garden revealing the stone rolled aside from the mouth of the tomb. As they entered the tomb, an angel said, “He is not here, He has risen. Go and tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee.”

They rushed back to the disciples with their amazing news! Sadly they refused to believe the women.

Then on the way, Jesus met His mother and Mary Magdalene. He smiled and said, “Rejoice!” They knelt down at His feet worshiping Him. Did Mary grasp His feet like she would never let go? How long did it take for her shocked emotions to catch up with the reality standing in front of her?

Because of their servant’s hearts, deep devotion and faith, they had the honor of greeting Him first. Again they became His messengers to the disbelieving disciples.

In less than 48 hours, Mary went from the depths of emotional horror, to the heights of bliss! During the dark hours after His death, did she remember the words of Simeon? “This child is appointed for the rise and fall of many in Israel and for a sign to be opposed—And a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Yes, the sword pierced her soul, but gratefully, she was on the other side and her wound had healed. Her Son paid for the sin of mankind. His blood even paid for her.

He is risen indeed!

 

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Finding Forgiveness Mk. 15:16-20 Lk. 23:26-46 Mt. 27:51-54 Jn. 19:23-24

The Roman soldiers came from all over the vast Roman Empire. They were assigned to work for Gov. Pilate in Judea. During the Passover festival, the troops must be ready to handle the large crowds. Most Romans saw duty in Israel as an obscure assignment. They had little respect for the Jews.

Friday morning was just another day for the troops in the garrison. At some point they became aware of a growing crowd in front of the Praetorium. Gov. Pilate was trying to decide a case for a man from Galilee named Jesus. As tensions in the crowd escalated, were more troops called up? Finally Pilate pronounced judgment and sent Jesus to be scourged.

They were familiar with scourgings, but there was something very different about this prisoner. His crime was being the “King of the Jews.” Now this would be fun. They could take out all their hatred for the Jews on this man, Jesus, their king. They didn’t want anyone to miss the fun, so they called the entire garrison to come watch.

Someone decided that a king needed a crown. Did they look around and find thorns growing nearby? They quickly twisted the thorns together to make a crown. They also needed a scepter, so they used a reed. They stripped and scourged Him. After they put a purple robe on Him, they bowed before Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They hit Him in the head with the reed, driving the thorns deeply into His  skull. They also spat on Him. Did the Praetorium echo with their taunting laughter? Beating and mocking the King of the Jews, was an event they wouldn’t forget. How many of them also heard the charge that He was the Son of God?

After Gov. Pilate sent Him away for crucifixion, the execution squad led Jesus and the two thieves away. When they got up to Calvary, they nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross, just like all other criminals. But Jesus was very different.

Once He was mounted, His first gasping words were, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Usually prisoners cursed them, but no one had ever forgiven them. They saw His widowed mother weeping, but who was His Father? If His mom is a widow, then His father was already dead. Why did Jesus speak to His Father?

One benefit of the job, was keeping the plunder. They got clothes, sandals and any personal possessions from all the convicts. Jesus had a lovely hand woven seamless tunic. The four guards decided to split the clothing into four stacks with the tunic as the big prize. Then they cast lots. No one knew they were fulfilling a prophecy written by King David over a thousand years before.

They saw Him care for His widowed mother. They heard him comfort the thief, confirming again that He was no criminal. Right before He died, they heard Him say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Again, they must have wondered about who His Father was.

From noon until 3:00, the sky turned dark. Then as Jesus died, the earth quaked,  rocks split and graves were opened. The centurion and his guards watched in dread. They feared God greatly. Did they tremble as the centurion proclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

How often did the centurion and his men think of nailing Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross? What other terrible things had they done to Jesus? Did dread or terror fill their minds as they remembered all the miracles affirming Jesus true identity? They had killed the Son of God. At the same time, did they remember that Jesus forgave them? Did they remember His compassion for others in the midst of His suffering?

What was the buzz in their barracks when they returned from duty? All had seen the eclipse and felt the earthquake. As long as Jesus was the King of the Jews, they could mock Him. Once they realized He was the Son of God, they were accountable to Him and His Father.

In just a few hours, four more will get tomb patrol. We already know how that will turn out.

Scripture doesn’t give us their names, but I hope to meet them one day in heaven. After all, Jesus reached out in forgiveness and they proclaimed Him, the Son of God. In the book of Acts, a Roman centurion and other Romans become Christians. Once again, we see that no sin is too great to receive forgiveness, if only we will repent.

 

 

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Our Suffering Savior

Because Jesus is the Son of God, He knew in advance every brutal detail of His suffering and crucifixion. Each day that dawned through Easter week brought Him closer and closer to the gruesome reality.

After three years of pouring His precious time and energy into His disciples, their dense disregard for His warnings and their squabbles about who was greatest must have discouraged Him. The biggest grief came from Judas who received all the benefits of being a disciple and the loving friendship of the Son of God, yet betrayed Him for a mere 30 pieces of silver.

Once they arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ heart was unbearably heavy. As He knelt to pray, He could see every slash of His 39 lashes. He knew how deeply the pricks of the crown of thorns would pierce His head. He saw it all in full color. He fell on His face, begging His Heavenly Father if there was any possible way to take away His cup of suffering. He concluded by saying, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” In His agony, He returned to prayer two more times concluding, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” His excruciating suffering was His loving Father’s will for Him.

Since perfect Jesus chose to suffer, who am I, a mere mortal, to complain when God allows suffering into my life? Sometimes He will remove the suffering, and even when He doesn’t, I need to relinquish it to Him. I also need to say, “Thy will be done.”

Even though He knew it would happen, the betrayal by Judas, arrest and trial must have hurt Jesus emotionally. Seeing Peter deny Him the third time must have hurt more. When He stood before the angry crowd that cried, “Give us Barabbas! Crucify Jesus!” He felt the shame of being rejected by so many. Only Jesus knew how many in the angry crowd just 5 short days before also shouted, “Hosanna blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna to the Son of David!” Did He feel the double sting of their rejection?

Sometimes the horrific scourging from the soldiers was lethal. After his profuse loss of blood, He could not carry the crossbeam of His cross. Simon of Cyrene was recruited for the task. As Jesus stumbled through the crowded Via Dolorosa, women wept for Him. Jesus warned them a great grief was coming to the women of Jerusalem.

After He arrived at Calvary, the soldiers drove nails through His hands and feet to hang Him on the cross. In this position, every breath, every word would be excruciating. His first words were, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” It appears He was forgiving the guards who just hammered the nails through his hands and feet.

Later, when the thief who hung beside him defended Jesus’ innocence, Jesus assured him, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Then as He looked down at his grieving widowed mother, He assured her of safety and family protection. He said, “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother,” as He also addressed John.

Four times Jesus looked beyond the wall of His intense suffering to focus on encouraging or helping others. At times of deep suffering, how quickly can I look beyond myself to help another?

Jesus also never lost sight of His mission, to pay for our sin. At the end, as His life slipped away, He proclaimed, “It is finished.” The Greek word, Tetelestai literally means “paid in full.” It is an accounting term. Because of the horrors Jesus suffered, and the blood He shed, no sin is too big to receive forgiveness. Not only did He achieve forgiveness for all His friends and disciples, but He also looked out through the centuries and saw you and me. His death is our gift. By His stripes we are healed.

“No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down. I have authority to lay it down and take it up again.” John 10:18

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Lead us not into Temptation Lk. 22:31-62 Jn. 18:10-11

Without a doubt, Peter was the spokesman and leader of the disciples. As they sat around the Passover table, Peter refused to let Jesus serve him by washing his feet. Once Jesus explained His purpose, Peter quickly agreed asking Him to wash all of him. Later when Jesus said Satan would sift them like wheat, He promised that He prayed for Peter to stay strong so he could help the others. Peter proclaimed he was ready to be arrested and die with Jesus. Jesus contradicted him saying before the rooster crowed Peter would deny Him three times.

As they ate, much of what Jesus said seemed like riddles. Peter strained to grasp the full picture. Then Jesus warned them, “Whoever has no sword should sell his coat and buy one.” After they produced two swords, Jesus said, “It’s enough.”

As they stood to depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter and the disciples didn’t know they had just celebrated the first communion at the Last Supper.

In the garden as they knelt to pray, Jesus asked them to stay awake with Him. But they all had a tough time keeping their eyes open. Jesus woke them in time to see the mob following Judas.

Pushing the sleepy fog out of his mind, Peter thought this was the moment to use his sword. The fact that he, a fisherman, was stepping up against a thousand trained Roman soldiers didn’t stop him. He fearlessly pulled his sword, swinging it at the nearest person, slicing off his ear.

Jesus quickly intervened and healed the man’s ear. He told Peter to put his sword away. Peter must have responded in stunned silence. As he followed the guards taking Jesus to trial, he must have tried to make sense of it all. Why did Jesus tell them to get swords if He didn’t want them to defend Jesus? Peter wanted to help Jesus but he didn’t know how.

When they arrived at the home of Caiaphas, gratefully John let him in the gate. Since the night was cold, he sat at a fire in the courtyard. Even though temple guards and servants of Caiaphas were sitting around the fire, Peter tried to blend in. When a servant girl said she had seen him with Jesus, Peter quickly denied it. He continued to try to blend in while he listened to the trial, and figured out what he could do for Jesus. Two more times he was asked, and two more times he denied that he knew Jesus.

As Peter denied Him the third time, Jesus looked across from the trial to the courtyard and into Peter’s eyes. A rooster crowed as Peter realized what he had done. He rushed out and wept bitterly.

Poor Peter, he was like a bull in a china shop. There was no way he could blend in or rescue Jesus. It’s sad he forgot Jesus’ warning. Twice Jesus said, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Was Peter’s mind too full of his own agenda that he forgot Jesus’ instructions?

As I combed through all four Gospel accounts, I found no mention of Peter after this until Easter morning when the women tell of the resurrection. Did Peter watch the crucifixion from a distance, or was he so consumed in personal failure and grief that he stayed away?

I like bold Peter and his total devotion, risking his life to defend Jesus. His weakness was writing the next part of the script when Jesus told him to pray for strength to withstand temptation. How many times am I so focused on my plans to do something good, that I neglect to pray for strength to withstand temptation? Times of stress can catch us off guard, leaving us vulnerable to sin. Our first priority in times of stress or crisis is to pray. God wants to guide us and give us victory over temptation.

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Judas Mt. 26:14-16, Jn. 13:1-30, Mt. 26:47-50, 27:1-10

Judas enjoyed the popularity and power of being one of Jesus’ disciples, but probably his favorite part was being the treasurer of the group. So when he saw Mary pouring the nard on Jesus, all he could think of was the waste. He quickly spoke out, asking why the money was wasted? It should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Others sitting near him agreed.

Then Jesus spoke up. He defended Mary. That was the final straw for Judas! There was more than one way for him to get money. Luke says Satan entered him at this point. He went to the chief priests asking how much they would pay him to betray Jesus. After agreeing to the price of 30 pieces of silver, he returned looking for the perfect moment to betray Him.

On Thursday evening as they sat around the table to eat the Passover Feast, Jesus said, “Not all of you are clean,” as He washed their feet. Did Judas realize Jesus was speaking of him? Did he feel the slightest hint of guilt after receiving a foot wash from the man he was going to betray?

Then as they sat eating, Jesus sadly said, “One of you will betray me.” Jesus said the one He gives bread to is the one. Then He dipped a piece of bread and handed it to Judas. At this moment, Satan again entered Judas. Could Judas feel the presence of his evil guest? I’m sure it muted what remnant of a conscience Judas still possessed. Was he still chewing and swallowing the bread from Jesus as he rushed out into the dark empty streets?

After he told the chief priests, he must have felt so proud and powerful as he lead a great multitude with swords and clubs to the Garden of Gethsemane. He stepped up to Jesus proclaiming, “Hail Rabbi.” as he kissed him. (The Middle Eastern kiss was a standard form of greeting between friends. It was a peck on the cheek.) Why did Judas choose this as his sign? Was he proud of his friendship with Jesus? His kiss of betrayal is our universal symbol of betrayal.

Then Jesus sadly looked at him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Did it pierce Judas’ heart to hear Jesus call him friend? Amazingly, Mark records Judas’ last order, “Lead Him away safely.” Clearly Judas didn’t grasp the full impact of his deeds.

After the trial, Judas will return the money claiming, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” I believe Satan possessed Judas until after he completed the betrayal. After Jesus was condemned, Judas was no longer necessary. Once Satan left, Judas fully grasped his role in the evil scheme.

What a tragic story of betrayal. As greed and pride increased in his life, they led to a downward spiral. Whenever we see pride or greed creep into our motives or actions, we need to decisively resist them. Jesus can give you victory anytime you humbly confess and ask for His power to relinquish it. He is our source of victory.

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The Perfect Gift Jn. 12:1-8

Sometimes when I give a gift, I want to give something they really need or at least really want. When it’s time for me to receive a gift (like before my birthday, or Mother’s Day) my daughter usually asks me what I want. Other times, she quietly notices when I complain about something not working right. Later I am surprised to discover she has given me the perfect gift.

Now, imagine what it must have been like for Mary. She wanted to give a gift to Jesus. What do you give a man who really does have everything? Since Jesus raised her brother, she owed Him a massive debt of gratitude. She faithfully listened to His prediction that He would go to Jerusalem, suffer and die. As she pondered this grievous reality, she felt an urgency to give or do something for Him before He died. Then she found the perfect gift. Nard was so exclusive, it was a sign of nobility or royalty. Sure, His skin could be anointed with cheaper perfumes, but Jesus, the Son of God deserved the very best.

There was only one problem, it cost around $30,000 by today’s standards. Where could she get so much money? She, Martha and Lazarus lived in a home, yet they had no servants, so we know they are middle class. We also presume they are single, since there is no mention of spouses or children. Their parents aren’t mentioned, which implies they either died or are elderly in the background. In those days, a single middle class woman usually had a dowry so she could marry a good man. The only reasonable option was that Mary chose to give her dowry. She gave everything, including her future, in the form of a lavish gift for Jesus. She loved Him more than anyone else.

As the men sat around the table enjoying their feast, she walked up to Jesus, broke an alabaster vial and began pouring. First she poured it on His noble head. Did the din of masculine conversation slowly stop as all eyes turned to stare in disbelief? Their noses instantly told them it was nard. With each drop that dripped over his head, down his hair and beard and onto His shoulders, her future of marriage and a family of her own dripped away. (Now the practical economist in me would have stopped at this point. I would have saved the rest to recover some of my dowry.) Once His head and shoulders were drenched, she poured the rest on Jesus’ dusty feet, wiping them with her hair. It was an intimate act of total devotion.

In the midst of this, Judas Ischariot grumbled about the waste of money. It should have been spent on the poor. Martha and Lazarus were silent. While others criticized her, Jesus spoke up to defend her. He knew her pure motives and ultimate desire to prepare Him for burial. Then He looked out over the centuries to today. He predicted that she and her magnificent gift would be remembered.

Mary carefully listened to Jesus and discerned what He needed most. No one else gave so completely. Looking at her commitment takes my breath away.

Today He is seated at His Father’s right hand. What can we give Him? What He wants from us is to tell His story to those who don’t know Him yet. The mission field has come into our neighborhoods and communities. Which neighbor or colleague could you share His Easter story with?

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Eliminating Distractions Mt. 21:12-17

Whenever company comes to my home, I want to make sure they have a comfortable visit. So the last ten minutes before they arrive is very busy as I rush around cleaning up any last minute surprises. (If I clean too early, my unpredictable puppy will mess up the area right as our guest arrives.) Last minute clean up is pretty normal. Most people feel responsibility for making guests comfortable in their homes.

This is the way Jesus felt about His Father’s House. He wanted all the visitors, both Jews and Gentiles, to feel comfortable. Since He saw the cheating of the money changers and sellers, He wanted to protect the visitors from being cheated. He couldn’t ignore their need.

The temple had four courts. The first and largest was the court of the Gentiles. At the entrance to the three remaining courts reserved for Jews only, signs were posted. They warned that any Gentile who trespassed would be killed. The moneychangers and merchants set up their booths in the court of the Gentiles. All the space, noise, stink and commotion crowded the Gentiles who came to pray and worship God. Jesus said His Father’s house should be a house of prayer. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t say it should be a house of preaching.

After Jesus drove out the moneychangers and animal sellers, a peaceful atmosphere returned. Then the blind and lame approached Jesus. He healed them. Then on cue from the Holy Spirit, children cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

Once Jesus removed all the distractions, healing and praise followed. They didn’t know it, but these blind and lame people were the last to be publicly healed during the public ministry of Jesus. How fitting that God anointed children to praise Him in response to these healings.

When I think of Jesus’ concern for maintaining the right atmosphere at the Temple, I wonder if I help or hinder creating an atmosphere of prayer and worship at church. Too often at church, my mind is full of my agenda; who I need to talk to, and what I need to do. My first priority should always be on meeting God and praising Him. How can you help create the right atmosphere at church?

 

 

 

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Hosanna to the King! Lk. 19:28-40 Jn.12:12-13

Thronging crowds of Jewish pilgrims from across the Roman Empire gathered to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover each year. But something extra special was happening this year. Jesus the great prophet and miracle worker recently raised Lazarus from the dead. Many wondered if He was the Messiah. The people were especially excited about a chance to see Him.

Since Jerusalem was too full to accommodate all, they overflowed into the neighboring towns and villages. After resting on Sabbath, all the pilgrims eagerly prepared to enter the temple to initiate their week-long celebration. Did those staying in Bethany, Bethphage and the Mount of Olives know Jesus was staying nearby?

As they filled the road, suddenly the buzz circulated that Jesus was also there on the road, riding a donkey. They all knew King David rode a donkey into Jerusalem in times of peace. So Jesus riding on a donkey reminded them He was the Son of David also riding in peace.

They instantly knew this was history unfolding before their eyes. How many parents lifted their children to give them a glimpse of Jesus the Son of David, their Messiah.

As they laid their coats on the road to give Jesus the royal red carpet treatment, others cut palm branches and laid them on the road before Him.

The electric excitement of the crowd erupted into loud shouts. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The people in the crowd all shouted the same phrases. Who wrote their script? Who orchestrated their words and actions? The Holy Spirit rushed through the crowd guiding it all.

The explosive cheers on the road drifted over the walls of Jerusalem. People inside the city heard and understood Jesus was coming. Even though they couldn’t see the crowd on the road making a carpet for Jesus, they quickly cut palm branches and ran out to meet Jesus. They joined the shouting.

Again we ask, how could the people inside know to bring palm branches? The Holy Spirit also filled them with excitement and directed their actions. Jesus said if the crowd was silent, the rocks would cry out.

For 33 years Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory while He taught and healed among us. On the start of His final week with us, God opened the windows of heaven and poured down the praise He so rightly deserved. All the pilgrims on the road that day had the privilege of participating in Jesus’ grand procession. No one knew about Jesus’ ultimate destination. No one knew their grand procession would be called Palm Sunday. They had the privilege of honoring Jesus out in public. How can you publicly honor Jesus outside the walls of your church?

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Surprise Visit Luke 19:1-10

Jericho erupted with the excitement of Jesus’ arrival. He just healed the blind men, and everyone wanted to see Him. As the crowds flooded the streets, Zaccheus rushed to see Him too. But he had a problem. He was too short to see over the heads in the crowd. This was worse, because he was a chief tax collector. All the years of getting rich at the expense of his neighbors, had earned him many enemies. When he tried to wiggle through the crowd to inch closer to Jesus, several shoulders and elbows blocked his way.

Lonely Zaccheus desperately surveyed the situation. How could he get close enough to Jesus? Then he saw the perfect solution! Since he could tell where Jesus was headed, he rushed ahead to a stately sycamore tree stretching above the road. He managed to climb into the lower branches before Jesus arrived. He didn’t care what  anyone thought of him. All he wanted was a glimpse of Jesus. (Besides all eyes were on Jesus. Who would look up into the tree?)

When Jesus arrived, He looked up at Zaccheus. He called him by name. Did Zaccheus grip the branch tighter in shock?  Then Jesus told him to come down because He wanted to visit in his home. Very few people wanted to visit his home, but Jesus wanted to spend time with him. Jesus cared about him.

Zaccheus scurried down and gladly received Jesus into his home. He prepared a great meal for Jesus and his disciples. Spending time with Jesus convicted him. So he announced that he would give half his wealth to the poor and repay anyone he stole from fourfold. Then Jesus proclaimed that salvation had come to his home.

Zaccheus is the last new person recorded by the gospel writers that Jesus reached out to during his earthly ministry.

Zaccheus had been lost, but Jesus sought him out. Suddenly all Zaccheus’ wealth meant nothing compared to knowing and following Jesus. His loyalty shifted from love of money to love of Jesus. He would never be the same. Of all the people in busy Jericho, Jesus chose Zaccheus. I believe Jesus knew his heart was open yearning for God. The closer we move to Jesus, the more our affections change. Is there anything in your life standing between you and a deeper relationship with Him? If so, let it go. Once you release it, you will be so grateful you are free of it, as you embrace a deeper fuller life in Jesus.

 

 

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