Worship

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped

Read: Matthew 28

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. (Matthew 28:8-9)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

Reflect:

“The worshipped him.” Worship. This is the first fundamental change in Jesus’ followers after his resurrection from the dead. As well as following him, listening to his teaching and trying to imitate his way of life, as any disciple did with their rabbi, now Jesus’ followers began to worship him.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, worship (as a verb) means “to show reverence and adoration of a deity.” As I followed the rabbit trail of words associated with worship in the Oxford Dictionary, I came across words like reverence and respect, adoration and admiration, veneration. These are deep, strong responses that are only appropriate in response to a divine being, a deity.

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus’ followers began to show reverence for him that was only appropriate for a divine being, for God. They hadn’t worshipped Jesus before his death. So, what changed?

Jesus had told his followers he would be put to death and three days later, rise. But now God had done it. Jesus had been dead and now he was alive again. Clearly this could only be the work of God. So the disciples realised, deep in their souls, that Jesus Christ truly was (as he still is!) God himself. So, naturally, they worshipped him.

Some doubted. That’s also natural… it’s not like this had ever happened before. The most similar incidents (such as the raising of Lazarus) were all deeds of Jesus as well. But through their doubt and confusion, the disciples realised that Jesus was different. Jesus was not merely a man, Jesus was also God.

crux:

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped – reverenced and adored as God himself.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I confess it is easy for me to slip into thinking of Jesus as only a man; a superior, marvellous man. I somehow forget that he is God. Or I say it, but somehow it doesn’t sink in deeply. So I think intellectually, academically, “Jesus is God” but I do not worship Jesus, I do not really respond to Jesus as divine.

Please help me to worship Jesus. May I adore Jesus, admiring all his lovely attributes and achievements. May I reverence Jesus, respecting him for his qualities and abilities. May I love him and enjoy him, tremble before him and fear him.

Amen.

Guilty

Every person is guilty – only some are forgiven

Read: Matthew 27

A:  But Jesus remained silent.
B:  The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the Living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Matthew 26:63-64a)

B’:  Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
A’:  When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. (Matthew 27:11-12)

Reflect:

In the overlap of chapters here, Matthew has constructed a chiasmus*.

Remember, the chapter divisions and verse numbering system was added over a millennium later, so it makes no difference that this literary feature should occur over a chapter boundary. The beginning and end of the X crossover literary shape are 26:62 where the high priest asks Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony?” and 27:13 where Pilate asks Jesus, “Don’t you hear this testimony?”

Throughout the chiasmus, different responses to Jesus, particularly to the identity claims of Jesus, are highlighted. Jesus is identified as “the Messiah, the Son of God” at the beginning and as “the king of the Jews” at the end of the chiasmus. Then, after dual mentions of death (26:66) / burial (27:7) and prophecies (26:64 and 27:9), there is a major contrast set up in two passages. Peter disowns Jesus and repents of his sin with weeping; Judas, who has betrayed Jesus, regrets his sin and commits suicide.

Finally, there is the centre of the chiasmus where the main idea is revealed and the crux of the rhetorical form displayed. 27:1 reveals the guilt of those who planned to kill Jesus, the Jewish leadership: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.” They planned, they plotted. They deliberately determined to put Jesus Christ to death.

This chiasmus reveals that Jesus was the only innocent person present on that day. Jesus was not guilty of blasphemy, because Jesus really was the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus was not guilty of treason, because Jesus really was the king of the Jews. Jesus Christ was innocent, but those who put him to death were guilty of blasphemy and treason both.

crux:

Every person is guilty – only some are forgiven.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for forgiving my sin and thank you for the surprising pleasures you have given me today.

Thank you for the opportunity to pray for my friend as she enters her 36th week of pregnancy, after I saw her at the shops during my lunch hour.

Thank you for the chance to talk to my students about who I believe you are, for the chance to tell them that all people are sinners, but those who submit to Jesus as Boss and trust in him as Rescuer are forgiven sinners. Thank you that they raised the questions, so I was free to answer.

Thank you for the time to hold my daughter’s hand as I drove her home from the bus.

Thank you for the quiet conversation with my son in the car as we drove to the city.

Please help me to keep honouring you in my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

A chiasmus is my favourite literary structure. It is a rhetorical scheme “in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.” It has its origin in the meaning “crosswise arrangement” from the Greek name of the letter chi, which looks a bit like the English letter X. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

John 1:1-2 is a short and sweet chiasmus :

A: In the beginning was the Word,
B: and the Word was with God
X: and the Word was God.
B’: He was with God
A’: in the beginning.

The centre of the chiasmus is the centre and most important point of the author’s argument. Hence, in John 1:1-2 above, John is using claims of Jesus’ eternal existence and presence with God to prove Jesus’ identity as God.

In the same way that a chiasmus is a crosswise arrangement of words or ideas used to highlight the central idea, this blog is about the crux: “the decisive or most important point at issue… the ‘cross’.” (Oxford Dictionary of English)

The crux of life at crux.live is Jesus Christ and the Cross, and the truths that I need Jesus, so I seek to know Jesus, so I may love Jesus and live in Jesus and live like Jesus.

(This rhetorical ramble was originally posted as part of Light.)

 

Scripture

All of Scripture reveals God’s plan to save sinners by the sacrifice of his Son

Read: Matthew 26

“Do you not think I can call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve leagues of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

“But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56)

Reflect:

Matthew began his gospel with specific reference to the Old Testament Scriptures that were fulfilled in the events of the birth of Jesus. Now, as the Easter narrative begins, Jesus’ own words draw attention to the fulfilment of prophecy.

Jesus predicts the disciples will desert him (which they do, v56) with the words, “for it is written” (v31). He quotes Zechariah, one of the last written books of the Old Testament. Jesus later refers to the Scriptures as a whole (v54) as well as to the prophetic writings as a collection (v56). Jesus knows Scripture, he knows when and how it will be fulfilled, and he knows it must be fulfilled.

Scripture is not solely a record of God’s interaction with his people, as if it was a plain historical text. (It is certainly not plain!) Nor is Scripture just God’s revelation of himself to his people, as if it were a dry theological treatise. (It is not dry at all!) Rather, Scripture is also a record of God’s plan to save sinners through the sacrifice of his Son – a plan now achieved by this sacrifice and awaiting only the triumphant return of Jesus to claim these people as his own.

crux:

All of Scripture reveals God’s plan to save sinners by the sacrifice of his Son.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your deliberate plan and foreknowledge whereby you purposed to save sinners – including me – by the sacrifice of your Son. Thank you for making your plan public in the written record of Scripture. Thank you for saving me from my sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thank you!

Please help me when I teach on Tuesdays in my KYB group. Please help me to keep in mind that all Scripture is about Jesus and how you would save and did save sinners through him. Please help me to explain this, to make it clear from the text. Please help me to see Jesus in the pages of Proverbs, which we are studying at the moment. Please help me to keep pointing these ladies to how Jesus Christ fulfilled these Scriptures and all of Scripture.

Amen.

Sorting

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for others

Read: Matthew 25

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.'” (Matthew 25:10-12)

Reflect:

This chapter has three parables that Jesus told to warn people that they would be judged by God at a certain time for their deeds on earth. Judgement is not a popular idea today, or, I imagine, in Jesus’ day. No one likes to be told that their present way of life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standard. But Jesus told at least three parables warning of coming judgement, so I need to take notice.

In the first parable, the virgin brides are judged on whether they are ready to receive their groom.

In the second, the servants are judged on the way they managed their master’s money in his absence; on whether they were faithful or not with the tasks that he gave them.

In the third parable, the people are judged on how they responded to Jesus in his “distressing disguise” (as Mother Teresa described it); how they responded to the sick, poor, hungry, thirsty, needy, imprisoned.

crux:

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for their neighbours.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Good Judge, the Just and Fair Judge, the Righteous Judge.

You have the right to judge because you are our Creator and King.
You have the right to judge because you are Righteous and True.
You have the right to judge because you are Steadfast and Sure.
You have the right to judge because you are Love and Light.
You have the right to judge because you are God, the only God.

Please grant me mercy LORD, for I am a sinner, guilty before you, in need of the forgiveness won by your Son for me.

Please enable me to keep watch; to stand firm in faith and be ready to receive Jesus Christ when he returns to claim his kingdom. Please help me to be faithful with the gifts you have given me through your Spirit; please help me to use them wisely and generously to equip your saints for the good works you prepared. Please help me to care for my neighbours, especially my family and my church.

Amen.

Firm

To stand firm to the end, I must stand on the words of Christ

Read: Matthew 24

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

Reflect:

One day, Jesus will return. I’m not sure I’ve fully understood all the details, but I am sure about that fact. And on that day I will be saved: fully, completely, eternally… if, in the meantime, I stand firm.

How do I ensure I will stand firm? The first thing I need to do is choose my ground. Jesus said (Matthew 7:24-27) that the person who builds their life on his teaching will be like a person who builds their house on a rock – he said this before concrete. I need a firm foundation if I want to stand firm. I need Jesus’ words.

Psalm 1 advises that the person who meditates on God’s word day and night will be like a tree planted by a stream whose leaf does not wither – this was written before hydroponics. I need deep roots that reach down to Living Water if I want to stand firm. I need the whole Bible – morning and evening, waking and walking.

I need Jesus’ words, which will stand to the end.

crux:

In order to stand firm to the end, I must stand on the words of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are immortal, eternal, everlasting. You have no beginning and no end. Your words endure forever.

But, like the grass which withers and the flowers that fade, I will pass away. LORD, please enable me to stand firm in my faith until the end. Whether I meet my end in death or in the return of my King, I pray that you will keep me standing firm, holding tight to Jesus, until that end.

Keep me reading your word and responding to it. Keep me loving and enjoying Jesus. May I be satisfied with the blessings that I receive every time I meditate upon your word. Please help me to read it in the mornings as well as the evenings because as you know I’m struggling to get out of bed in the colder, darker mornings of Autumn.

Please help me to stand firm, on the eternal words of your Son.

Amen.

Teacher

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others

Read: Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)

Reflect:

As a teachers, I can imagine few greater professional criticisms than this one.

It’s like saying to a literacy educator, “You make it harder and more confusing for your students. You don’t read yourself, and you take books away from people trying to learn to read.” This criticism sounds extreme when translated to a modern parallel in this way. But that is the sort of complaint Jesus made against those who were meant to be teaching God’s Law.

Jesus told the Pharisees they were blocking the way to God’s kingdom when they should have been showing the way and leading the way. They weren’t just bad teachers, they were anti-teachers.

Alas! Jesus said their end will be desperate: “Look. Your house is left to you deflate.” (23:38) All their hypocrisy would leave the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem, empty and deserted; a wasteland rather than a place of worship.

In contrast, I see Jesus, the perfect Rabbi, who led his disciples faithfully and humbly. How his heart must have ached to see such anti-teachers as these influencing God’s people.

crux:

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your Son Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived. Your Scriptures are the greatest revelation that has ever been given. Your Spirit is the greatest guide who ever led the way.

May I follow in Christ’s steps. May I be a teacher who opens doors, not shuts them. Please use my teaching at work to reduce recidivism. Please use my training to help people to gain the skills to work to support their own needs and those of their families. Please use my teaching to help men keep in contact in a positive way with the families from whom they are separated.

But LORD, I want so much more than that for my students. May they learn how to read and then choose to read your Word. May your Scriptures be plain before them so they know the glory of your grace for them in Jesus Christ. May they read their way to meeting you and entering your kingdom by the blood of your Son.

Thank you for your love to the “least of these”, LORD. Please bless them with an open door to become citizens of your kingdom by your mercy. Please grant them a future with you.

Amen.

Testing

Jesus was tested and came out on top

Read: Matthew 22

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. (Matthew 22:23)

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)

No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:46)

Reflect:

On Tuesday, we got the results of our youngest son’s scholarship test in the mail, telling us how his test results compared to the other 2500 smart kids who sat the same test. Turns out, he’s quite a bright kid, comparatively speaking. But none of his results mattered until we got the letter that told us whether or not he had a scholarship. For that, we had to wait until today. (He did! Yippee!)

The thing about today’s chapter is that it’s all about testing. Jesus was being tested by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, even the Herodians. Everyone wanted to see if they could trap Jesus. As ACER wrote of their scholarship tests, “These are difficult tests.” The Jewish religious leaders sent their best and brightest to offer their most difficult puzzles and conundrums for Jesus to solve, fully expecting him to fail.

But Jesus was able to solve every puzzle they set before him. Unlike his “expert” critics, Jesus knew both the Scriptures and the power of God. Jesus knew revelation both public (in the Scriptures) and personal (through experience of God’s power).

Whether or not we’ve done well raising an intellectually blessed son to succeed academically to this point, it must be a far more important duty for us to teach all of our children to know the Scriptures and to experience God’s power in their lives, through his Son and his Spirit.

crux:

Jesus was tested and came out on top.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You know I’m super excited about the results of S’s tests and his academic scholarship. Thank you for blessing him with such an awesome brain!

Please help Jeff and I to teach the kids about you as well as about school stuff. Please help us to show them how you are at work by your mighty power in our lives and in theirs.

And please help me to remember that no matter where I ‘rank’ myself as a mum, regardless of where my kids ‘rank’ socially or academically, your Son Jesus is the Be All and End All, the Alpha and Omega, the Supreme Sovereign Lord of All.

Amen.

Respond

Jesus wants people to respond to him and enjoy their relationship with God

Read: Matthew 21

“For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him.” (Matthew 21:32a)

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Reflect:

Some days reading the Bible is like wading through treacle. It’s just a hard slog. I read the words and then I re-read them. I leave the Bible aside a bit to mull over it, then come back and re-read again. The message still doesn’t want to stick.

Part of the problem today is that I slept in and didn’t read the Bible first thing when I was fresh, so I’m coming to the Bible filled with evening angst. Also, I’ve had about a million things to do today and I’ve had to make two million decisions. It’s been a Busy Day, the kind of day I try very hard to avoid, but which is sometimes unavoidable. So my brain is tired.

But actually, the words of Jesus are quite difficult too. At first I think he’s teaching a basic lesson about children obeying parents (21:28-31a). But then I see the thread that joins these story vignettes together. It’s not generalised obedience, but response.

Jesus says, “choose how you respond to me.” (I’m paraphrasing.) One way will bring you into the kingdom, the other will get you kicked out. But there’s no avoiding the choice.

My eldest daughter asked me today what “agnostic” meant. I explained according to the dictionary definition, but according to Jesus there’s no such thing as a fence-sitting agnostic. Either you yield your “fruit” (the efforts of your heart, soul, mind and strength) to the “owner” (God) of your “vineyard” (your life) or you will be brought to a wretched end. Two choices: two very different futures.

crux:

Jesus wants people to respond to him and enjoy their relationship with God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It’s hard not to judge when I read a passage like this. Hard not to judge myself for yielding such flawed fruit up to you. (I need to be reminded of the gospel every moment.) It’s hard not to judge others for refusing to care about the owner of the vineyard that is their lives.

But now I want to rest and relax and just appreciate the way you call and call and call again for people to hear your voice, repent and believe the good news. Thank you for sending the prophets, for sending John the Baptist, for sending Jesus your Son. Thank you for keeping after me until I surrendered to you.

Please do not let me get so caught up in Busy that I don’t have the mental energy to appreciate your revelation, your word, your voice calling my name in the wilderness of my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

War

There’s a war on sin in my heart, a war only Jesus can win

Read: Matthew 20

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. (Matthew 20:32)

Jesus had compassion on them. (Matthew 20:34a)

Reflect:

I wonder what I would ask for, if Jesus asked this question of me. Would I even have a ready answer? Or would I mumble and tremble and stumble and end up asking for something worthless, so Jesus felt pity for me rather than compassion?

These two men knew their problem and were bold enough to ask for the solution.

What is my problem? My biggest problem is sin.

Two days ago I prayed asking for a member of my church to rebuke me for any sin of which I was unaware. This afternoon, I got a call from my dear friend who hosts the weekly ladies’ Bible study I lead … in answer to that prayer. I knew immediately that I had sinned, not doing the good I should have done. I even told her on the phone I knew she was telling me [about this situation with another person] because of my prayer to expose my sin.

Yet still, all afternoon, I’ve been struggling with my attitude; battling against my tendency to offer excuses and self-justify; wrestling with my unrepentance. The war on sin is real – the battleground is my heart.

What do I want Jesus to do for me? I want my heart to be purified.

crux:

There’s a war on sin in my heart, a war only Jesus can win.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God. You are righteous, pure and blameless in all you do.

Thanks be to you that your word promises me, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). I need your righteousness, the gift of your righteousness apart from the Law.

Please forgive my sin against X. Please forgive me for being selfish with my time and not visiting her when she was sick and in need of a visit. Please help me to visit her quickly and not put it off again.

You know my heart, LORD. Purify me so my sins that are red as scarlet before me may be as white as snow. Purify my heart, I pray.

Please forgive me for not caring enough about other people’s emotions, and only valuing my own emotional desires. Teach me to love sacrificially, LORD, as Jesus did for me.

Teach me to respond to your Spirit’s niggling voice when I need your prompts to enact love. Speak louder, LORD, when I don’t listen.

Please forgive me. Help me when I go tomorrow to make my apologies to X in person.

Amen.

One Flesh

A “one flesh” marriage is a worthy goal, but it can’t become my god

Read: Matthew 19

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Reflect:

One flesh. As a married person, I love that expression, but I know it also has its dangers.

In recent years, Jeff and I have started celebrating what we call “one flesh moments” with a high-five. When both of us answer a question from the children with identical words, we high-five. When we both laugh at a joke no-one else understands, we high-five. When we look down at ourselves and realise we are wearing coordinating outfits, we high-five. Actually, that one’s just me. I high-five Jeff on that occasion whether he wants to celebrate or not. And when we sit down to talk about a big issue and realise in the first 60 seconds that we already think exactly alike, we high-five for another one flesh moment.

Of course, these moments of mutuality are partly a natural result of living in the same household for almost two decades. Our first memorable one flesh moment came when, after a decade of marriage, we sat down to a game of Articulate! Your Life and absolutely blitzed the opposition, a newly-married couple, because we could anticipate what our spouse would say; we had a shared language developed from shared experiences.

These one flesh moments are also the fruit of our very deliberate efforts to love each other biblically: to make decisions together that bless each other and our children; to set goals together and work towards them as partners; to support each other as we develop our interests and passions; to support each other in our weaknesses and struggles; to work as a team in our parenting and in ministry. We work very hard to be united in all we do.

I thank God for my husband, but it is important I don’t let my husband become a false god, an idol in my life. I need to remember that it is God who loves me best, even when he chooses to show his love through Jeff. It is God who leads me, even when he uses Jeff to provide the guidance. It is the LORD who is the true God.

crux:

A “one flesh” marriage is a worthy goal, but I can’t let it become my god.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the gift of my husband. I am very aware that he is fairly awesome, as husbands go, for you have made him so.

Thank you for the many blessings you bring into my life through Jeff, including:
the delicious dinner he’s cooked tonight,
our helpful Bible talk this afternoon,
his hugs when I came home from work,
the way he apologised for not getting up to be with me this morning before I left for work having already made my lunch the night before,
and his care for our kids on their last day of school holidays.
Please help me to always be aware that it is your Spirit within Jeff who warms his heart to love me.

Please help me to treasure our marriage and always seek too be closer in unity with Jeff. Please also keep me from idolatry, so I may never value my husband above my God, nor my marriage above my salvation.

LORD, I’m very conscious that not every single Christians wants to be single and not every married Christian enjoys the one flesh experience. Please comfort them, strengthen them, encourage them, bless them with your love, with your companionship, with union with your Son and your Spirit. Please grant them and us deep, abiding satisfaction in our relationship with you our God.

Amen.