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Posts Tagged ‘the Pharisees’

As an eighteen-year-old in my first year at university, I remember studying a play called Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett for our English course. I can still recall where I was sitting in the sloping lecture theatre, the day we all watched a live performance of this play. And I can well remember how confused and ignorant I felt. What was I missing? Did everyone else understand what was happening—or not happening?

I looked around and, to my relief, many others seemed bemused too. We were all wriggling in our seats. And we were bored, oh so bored, as we waited and waited for the person who seemed to be expected to turn up in the play. But even more, we were waiting for that performance to end! If nothing else, Samuel Beckett clearly conveyed to us the hopeless feeling we can get when we have to wait forever for something.

There are different sorts of waiting, it seems to me. I remember what it was like to wait for exam results at school and university. I would be filled with excitement as I anticipated those good marks for the subjects I loved. Yet I felt distinctly nervous at the prospect of seeing a big ‘F’ for ‘Fail’ beside those subjects I did not care for.

And I well remember waiting for our three children to be born, each one of them overdue by around a week. We were so excited to welcome them into the world. Would we have a boy or a girl? Who would they look like? Yet I dreaded the thought of those hours of labour that I knew awaited me. I was not looking forward to that, yet it was part of what needed to happen for the baby to arrive.

These various waiting experiences came to mind this past Easter as I read again what happened after Jesus was crucified.

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Luke 23:50-51

The phrase ‘waiting for the kingdom of God’ caught my attention. Joseph, it seems, was a just and godly man—but he was more than that too. John’s Gospel tells us he was actually ‘a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.’ (John 19:38) Yet at this point, he found the courage to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body, along with Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had earlier visited Jesus at night. Joseph was looking for the coming Messiah. He was expectant. He was ready and waiting to believe and follow him. And, despite his fear and the danger he and Nicodemus might face from their fellow Jews, he acted, treating Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, with true dignity and reverence (19:39-42).

I wonder if that is how I am treating Jesus right now. Am I focussed on living for the Messiah who died for me? Am I filled with hope and expectancy, as I wait for that day when I will see him face to face?

I hope I, like Joseph of Arimathea, am waiting well for Jesus in a way that honours him.

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Jo 17I wonder how long it is since you picked up a novel or story of some description and were totally drawn into another world. It can be a weird journey, can’t it, to feel our head and heart are somewhere else entirely in a kind of parallel universe, while we try to function as usual in our every-day lives?

During a recent interstate road-trip, we discovered a lovely, second-bookshop in one country town and decided to stop and browse there. I wanted something to read and, feeling a little tired and nostalgic, I opted for an old novel—A J Cronin’s Crusader’s Tomb, published in 1956. I remembered reading The Citadel years ago, so was looking forward to another book by this author.

I loved Cronin’s beautiful writing style and was soon completely drawn into the story. But what a sad one it was! I felt so much for the main character, who stumbled from one disaster to the next, in an attempt to become the artist he wanted to be. In the end (spoiler alert!), it was only after his death that the greatness of his art was acknowledged. At least I knew his family was provided for and those who had maligned him and his work during his lifetime were proved wrong. But how drained and depressed I felt after that final chapter! Should I perhaps have invested my emotional energy into reading something more positive and uplifting?

At that point, I remembered a period last year when our church focussed on some of the amazing events during Jesus’ ministry, as recorded in John’s Gospel. Rather than miss something because of how familiar these stories were to me, I decided to take the account of the man born blind (John 9) and write a version in the first person, trying to get right inside the man’s head and imagine what his whole experience of being healed by Jesus must have felt like. What a journey it was for me too! Here is how I began:

I cannot see, but I hear him nearby, this man they call Jesus. He says he is the light of the world and that the work of God will be displayed in my life. But who is he? What does that mean?

Now I hear him spitting and feel his hands gently putting mud on my eyes. What is this all about?

Then he orders me to go to Siloam … and I know I need to do exactly as he says.

I wash—and things begin to take shape around me! For the first time, I see people and animals

and houses and sky

and trees and earth

and food and water

and … oh so much!

I see colour and light and shade and am overwhelmed with the brightness and variety before me.

I try to adjust to it all, as my heart bursts within me. Who is this Jesus who has opened my eyes?

Have you had time lately to read some of those amazing accounts of Jesus’ ministry here on earth? These stories are powerful. These stories are true. These stories are worth investing our time in. And these stories can be life-changing, as we allow God’s Spirit to speak to us through them and impact us in a deep way.

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Jo 17There I was, happily reading John’s Gospel when I noticed I had previously put two exclamation marks beside a particular verse. Then I discovered two more in another spot—and I realised why. What the Jewish leaders were saying and how they were responding to Jesus just seemed so crazy-ridiculous to me!

I read how the Jewish leaders pester Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the Christ. Jesus points out he already has—and how his many miracles back up his claim (10:25-26). They try to stone him, but when Jesus asks which of the many great miracles from God the Father has upset them so much, they dismiss them, as if they are unimportant:

We are not stoning you for any of these,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (10:33)

I then read how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44). While many Jews put their faith in him as a result, some head off to the Pharisees, who call a meeting to discuss the matter:

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him …” (11:47-48)

Their conclusion, in collaboration with the chief priests, strikes me as sad but kind of funny too:

So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (12:10-11)

Doesn’t it seem weird to you that the best idea the Jews can come up with is to kill Lazarus? If Jesus had brought him back to life once, could he not do it again?

Finally, I read the saddest verse of all:

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (12:37)

As I reflected on all this, I remembered a time when I was a student at Queensland University and a keen member of the main Christian group there. One year, we held a mission on campus and tried to strike up conversations about Jesus with passers-by. During one such discussion, some sceptical philosophy students clinched their arguments with us with the following very definite statement:

‘If Jesus were to appear here right now and do some miracle, then we’d believe in him, for sure.’

An older minister helping us then chimed in.

‘Would you really? … Would you really?’

At that point, they left, uncertainty written all over their faces.

I sat for a moment, remembering and reflecting. If God had not opened my eyes to see who Jesus truly is and changed my life forever, I could well have had the same response as these students—and the Jewish leaders. I too could be lost in that sea of scepticism and unbelief. I still scratch my head at God’s absolutely amazing grace and love for me—but I also receive it with a truly grateful heart and with determination to treasure this gift forever.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … John 1:11-12

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