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He is Alive!
Mary wrapped barley bread, dried olives, dates, and figs in a cloth and placed them in her husband’s pouch. Cleopas extended his arms, allowing his wife to tighten his girdle with a clasp then tuck coins in one side of it and on the other side a small serving of figs and nuts. When Cleopas lowered his arms, Mary beckoned him to raise his left again so she could slip a water-filled goatskin up his arm and over his shoulder. Mary tugged at the sword fastened to his girdle. Satisfied that it was tightly in place, she took a step back and looked him over. Her sad penetrating eyes grew with concern.
“I wish you would stay with us,” Mary whispered. “There is danger.”
Cleopas kissed his wife on the forehead then held her tight. “I will return before nightfall tomorrow. Do not worry.”
Mary gazed over her shoulder at the disciples. “Everyone is so worried what the Romans will do next. I am afraid for you.”
“Meydad is with me and we will protect one another if anything goes wrong. There is no need for concern. If Ha’Adon is willing, I will return.”
“Be safe,” Mary said.
“Meydad, come. We must go.”
Cleopas took one last look at the disciples, each one standing or sitting in various areas of the room, their faces perplexed from the stories they had been told by the women, and Peter. Earlier this morning they discovered Yeshua’s tomb was empty. Peter fled the house with John (whom Yeshua loved), Cleopas and several other disciples at Peter’s heels, all rushing to the tomb. It was as the women had said. The tomb was empty. Yeshua was gone. Distraught and weakened by what he had seen, Cleopas returned to the house, wondering what all of this meant.
The disciple hugged his wife again then he and Meydad set out for Emmaus on foot. They took time to labor through memories of the last three days, how they had gone from joy to that of sadness. Cleopas couldn’t believe that one day he had witnessed Yeshua riding into the city on a donkey, everyone rejoicing and praising the Messiah. Then the next day, Yeshua was carrying his cross on that long walk to Golgotha.
Cleopas couldn’t reconcile the live Messiah with the dead Messiah who had succumbed to a torturous beating and crucifixion. To complicate matters, the women and Peter claimed to have seen him. Cleopas didn’t know what to make of this.
I am the resurrection and the life . . .
Those words burned in his soul even now, but he no more understood them today than he did yesterday.
“What are you thinking, Cleopas? You have not said a word since we left Jerusalem,” Meydad said.
“I am searching for understanding.”
“I am too. Do you still believe Yeshua was the Messiah?”
“I do, but there is so much that does not make sense to me.”
“Now that he is dead, the answers may have been buried with him,” Meydad said.
“I do not get it, Meydad. One day he is preaching ‘I am the way,’ and the next day he is gone. And we do not even have a body to prove he died. I know he died. I saw him. Bloody linen in the tomb attests to the fact that he was there.”
“You think the Romans took him?”
“Perhaps. No! I do not know. But if the women and Peter saw him, then where is he?” A long silence wedged between Cleopas and Meydad as the two men pondered the question. “You should have seen him in the temple, Meydad. There has never been anything like it. He sat among our people teaching with authority. He spoke of love and unity . . . of G-d the Father. He spoke of a new heaven . . . a new earth. His words brought peace and hope.”
“That may be, but we are still under Roman rule,” Meydad said, stating the obvious. “There is no new heaven or earth here. He failed to rescue us from the hands of these butchers. All he may have done was make things worse for us. Our people are nervous . . . scared. They have no idea what will happen next. It seems to me that we are far worse than we were at the beginning.”
“I do not believe it,” Cleopas said, trying his best to hold on to hope.
“You mean you will not believe it.”
“Here is what I know, Meydad. Yeshua was crucified for a debt he did not owe. He died in place of Barabbas. It is Barabbas who should have died on that cross. Not Yeshua.”
“Why do you think Yeshua let it happen?”
“Meydad, what makes you think he allowed it?”
“For one thing, he never defended himself. Is that not odd?”
“That is so troubling to me.”
“For another thing, the miracles he performed are widely known. Are you forgetting about Lazarus, how he raised him from the dead?”
“How could anyone forget Lazarus’s resurrection?”
“Then why Yeshua did not prevent his own death? Did he not have the power?”
“Of course he did. He fed five thousand people with three fish and two loaves of bread, Meydad! He made the blind see and he healed the sick. Of course he had power.” Cleopas stopped for a moment and dragged his hand on his face. “That is the very part of all this that I cannot comprehend. He did not need to suffer.” Cleopas walked ahead, his feet pounding the dusty road in anger. “There he was standing in the midst of all Roman and Jewish authority at a perfect time to destroy them and declare his kingdom. He had the power to end all Roman rule with a mere word from his mouth, but he did not do it. He never said a mumbling word. Why? Why?” Cleopas was clearly frustrated.
“Maybe it was just his time to go,” Meydad concluded.
“But there is so much more work to be done,” Cleopas said. He wasn’t quite sure who he was trying to convince, Meydad or himself.
“Do you believe the women? Do you believe Peter? You think he is alive?”
“If so, where is he?”
“What is it that you are discussing?” a traveler asked as he joined in their walk.
Cleopas and Meydad stood still and looked at the traveler with dismay. The traveler had sandals on his feet, a scarf loosely covering his head and draped around his neck. But he had no provisions—no food and no water.
“Are you the only one in all of Jerusalem who has not heard what has happened there?” Cleopas asked, his emotions on the brink of collapse.
“What things?” the traveler asked.
“The things about Yeshua of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of G-d and all his people . . . how our chief priests and rulers ridiculed him, falsely accused him, then delivered him to Pilate to be crucified. We were hoping he was the one who would redeem Israel. But now he is dead. He has been gone away from us for three days. Our hearts ache for him.” Cleopas choked up, tears welled in his eyes.
“Then something strange happened this morning,” Cleopas continued. “Our women went to his tomb with spices to prepare for his burial, but they came back to the house claiming he is alive . . . that his tomb is empty . . . that they had seen him. I followed Peter to the tomb and we found it indeed empty. How can all this be? How is it that he is now alive? What does it mean? And where is he?”
“Oh, foolish men who are slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for Yeshua to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moshe (מׄשֶׁה) and all the prophets, the traveler explained to them all things found in the scriptures.
By the time they reached Emmaus, it was nightfall and they pleaded with the traveler to stay with them.
Women and children helped prepare the evening meal, lit candles, and set wine on the table before their guests. There was something different in the air—an unusual warmth, a welcomed peace that neither Cleopas or Meydad understood. They enjoyed
the traveler and admired his knowledge of the scriptures. In fact, Cleopas hadn’t heard such teachings since . . .
Cleopas furrowed his brow as memories of the Messiah flowed through him like warm honey. “. . . have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Cleopas also remembered, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.”
He almost fell to his knees when he recalled how Yeshua sat on the mountain, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth . . . .”
The disciple wiped away tears and forced himself to leave the memories behind him and join the others at the table. When everyone was poised and ready to eat, the traveler gave thanks and broke bread, passing a portion to each of them.
At once, fear and elation rushed through Cleopas, then Meydad, for they recognized the traveler as Yeshua!
“Yeshua . . . Ha’Adon!” Cleopas and Meydad shouted.
Then Yeshua disappeared.
Cleopas and Meydad stared at one another, in awe of what they had seen. Their hearts pumped with joy. They were so excited that they tried to talk at the same time, but it was Cleopas who was the most outspoken.
“Did our hearts not burn within us while he talked on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” Cleopas asked. “Hurry! Hurry!! We must go to Jerusalem and tell the others.”
When Cleopas and Meydad returned to Jerusalem, they pounded the locked doors of the house where the apostles were gathered. John (the one whom Yeshua loved) opened the door and Cleopas rushed pass him and declared, “It is true! The Lord has risen and he appeared to Simon just as he said. And now he has appeared to us!” Cleopas grabbed Nathaniel by the arms and shook him. “It is true, Nathaniel. Thomas, James, Philip, do you hear us. It is true! We have seen him! We have seen the Lord! We have seen Ha’Adon! He is alive. I tell you, he is alive!”
At the beginning of each year, we have the good intention to achieve new and important goals. But I can’t recall a time when I’ve intentionally given up anything to the point of death. I’m not referring to the giving of my time, or putting extra money in a collection plate, or filling someone’s gas tank. All of those things are within my power. The type of sacrifice I’m speaking of is one that hurts through the marrow of your bones; a sacrifice you’ve chosen to perform that causes great spiritual and emotional anguish.
The one real life example that comes to mind is a situation one of our brothers is in today. He’s been accused of stealing money from the church, but unbeknown to his accusers he and another brother are the ones who donated money to make needed repairs to the church building when the church didn’t have enough funds to pay for the repairs. The accuser is threatening to take one of the brothers to court, claiming he’s been threatened with bodily harm. Of course, there’s no basis for this accusation, but the accusation embellishes the accuser’s point so he can acquire sympathy and support from others.
The question is this: Who will back down? Who will deny themselves? And how did things escalate to this point?
Testosterone is high and each man’s pride is at stake. One saying: “You better pray because I’m not backing down for anybody.” The other saying: “I’ve been at this church forever and there’s no way an outsider is gonna come in here and take over my church.”
Is it possible to clamp down on your pride and fall to your knees before the Lord and give him your burden? What happens to us when we face encounters like this? Are we so bent on getting our way that we lose focus on the Word of God? Does it no longer matter what we’ve been taught by the scriptures? As I await your comments to these questions, and perhaps the sharing of your own stories in similar situations in the church, read about another sacrifice that was made, one that, despite all the noise, was given out of a unimpeded freewill to save others.
John Griffith, the Bridge Operator
(Originally posted on CRI at http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/ )
This is a story that takes place in the roaring 20’s in Oklahoma:
John Griffith was in his early twenties. He was newly married and full of optimism. Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful baby. He was living the American dream. But then came 1929—the Great Stock Market Crash—the shattering of the American economy that devastated John’s dreams. The winds that howled through Oklahoma were strangely symbolic of the gale force that was sweeping away his hopes and his dreams. And so, brokenhearted, John packed up his few possessions, and with his wife and his little son, headed East in an old Ford Model A. They made their way to the edge of the mighty Mississippi River and found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges there.
Day after day, John would sit in the control room and direct the enormous gears of the immense bridge over the mighty river. He would look out wistfully as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge. Each day, he looked on sadly as those ships carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.
It wasn’t until 1937 that a new dream began to be birthed in John’s heart. His young son was now eight years old and John had begun to catch a vision for a new life, a life in which Greg, his little son, would work shoulder to shoulder with him. The first day of this new life dawned and brought with it new hope and fresh purpose. Excitedly, they packed their lunches and headed off towards the immense bridge.
Greg looked on in wide-eyed amazement as his Dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge. As he watched, he thought that his father must surely be the greatest man alive. He marveled that his Dad could singlehandedly control the movements of such a stupendous structure.
Before they knew it, Noon time had arrived. John had just elevated the bridge and allowed some scheduled ships to pass through. And then taking his son by the hand, they headed off towards lunch.
As they ate, John told his son in vivid detail stories about the marvelous destinations of the ships that glided below them. Enveloped in a world of thought, he related story after story, his son hanging on his every word.
Then, suddenly, in the midst of telling a tale about the time that the river had overflowed its banks, he and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train. Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that it was already 1:07. Immediately he remembered that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express would be by in just minutes.
In the calmest tone he could muster he instructed his son “Stay put.” Quickly, he leaped to his feet, he jumped onto the catwalk. As the precious seconds flew by, he ran at full-tilt to the steer ladder leading into the control house.
Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight. And then, as he had been trained to do, he looked straight down beneath the bridge to make certain nothing was below. As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest. For there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.
Apparently Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Even now he was wedged between the teeth of two main cogs in the gear box. Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed. Then an even more horrifying thought flashed through his mind. Lowering the bridge would mean killing the apple of his eye.
Panicked, his mind probed in every direction, frantically searching for solutions. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down towards his son, pulling him back to safety. Then in an instant, he would move back down towards the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.
As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized the futility of his plan. Instantly he knew there just wouldn’t be enough time. Frustration began to beat on John’s brow, terror written over every inch of his face. His mind darted here and there, vainly searching for yet another solution.
His agonized mind considered the four hundred people that were moving inextricably closer and closer to the bridge. Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed, but this was his son…his only son…his pride…his joy.
He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do. He knew he would have to do it. And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground slowly into position. With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express—with its 400 passengers—roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.
John Griffith lifted his tear-stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. A businessman was reading the morning newspaper. A uniformed conductor was glancing nonchalantly as his large vest pocket watch. Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining cars. A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a large dish of ice cream. Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter.
No one even looked his way. No one even cast a glance at the giant gear box that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and his dreams.
In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room. He cried out “What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you know? Don’t you care? Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you? What’s wrong with you?”
No one answered. No one heard. No one even looked. Not one of them seemed to care. And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. The train disappeared moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.
Even now as I retell this story, I’m moved by emotion. For this is but a faint glimpse of what the Father did in sacrificing his Son to atone for the sins of the world. Unlike the Memphis Express, however, an express that caught John Griffith by surprise, God in His great love and according to His sovereign will and purpose, determined to sacrifice his Son so that we might live. Not only so, but the consummate love of Christ is demonstrated in that He was not accidentally caught as was John’s son. Rather, He willingly sacrificed his life for the sins of mankind.
Well, the story of course doesn’t end there. Three days later, Jesus arose from the grave. For this reason, we celebrate throughout the year and particularly during Easter, the broken body, the shed blood, the mangled remains of our Savior with joy, because Jesus overcame death and the grave through His resurrection. Moreover, like Jesus, we too shall rise. You, I, John Griffith, his son, and those who believe, we will live forever with our resurrected Lord in Paradise Restored.
This story was taken from The Christian Research Institute and can be found at: http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/
Keeping in mind God’s sacrifice for us, is it really so hard to give of yourself in order to serve or save others? Is it not godly for us to suffer for what is right rather than escalating a situation and making it worse? (I Peter 3:8-22) And isn’t it moments like these that reveal who we really are in Christ Jesus?
What’s your agenda? Are you willing to deny yourself for the cause of Christ Jesus?
by Donna B. Comeaux
Need another nudge toward forgiveness?
(a fictional short story based on Bible truths and ancient customs)
“Beulah, I do not understand why Avi does it—sit there day after day weaving away, hardly sleeping.”
“Shh, Ephah, she will hear you. Let her be. Whatever Avi is doing she has her mind fixed on it and there is nothing we can say to change her purpose. Now, come,” Beulah said as she tugged on Ephah’s arm.
Ephah pulled away and reached for the long cloth covering Avi’s open door. “I think we should go in and sit with her and find out what she is doing, Beulah.”
“No! Ephah, do not.”
“Are you not curious?”
“Yes, of course I am, but it is none of our business. We should go. We have work to do. The men will be home from the field soon and I must cook lentils and lamb stew for dinner, at the request of my husband.”
“Humph. Tomorrow then,” Ephah said, sorely disappointed that they did not have time to go inside and probe Avi about her sudden withdrawal from her people. “Tomorrow we will make her tell us.”
“No, Ephah. No. Tomorrow we must busy ourselves with preparations for the Pesach. We have one week left to get ready. Tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, we must leave Avi alone. We have too much to do. Come, go quickly. There is so little time.”
A slight breeze blew the thin covering nailed to Avi’s door and cooled the stillness in her one-room bavith. Plumes of dust entered the room as the two women outside scurried away. Avi stopped weaving and listened. “Adonai, thank you. It is peaceful again.”
Avi stood then stretched her back and wiggled her toes, shook the mat and repositioned the blanket that she had folded underneath it. The earthen floor of her bavith was smooth, hard packed; the walls made of clay. The bavith was old, built by her late husband and two sons—all dead now. Her roof, well-established, had a beam that ran from wall to wall and atop was a healthy crop of grass, barley, and the dying beginnings of a fig tree that wouldn’t survive the summer’s heat.
Simmering in a corner of the bavith was a pot of lentil soup. From the market, she had purchased a leg of lamb and placed half of it in the soup; the other half she shared with a neighbor. A small basket protected a portion of raw grain, enough to last three days. In a tiny bowl covered with a cloth were a handful of dates, olives, and a small serving of buttermilk cheese to nourish Avi if she needed to eat before dinner.
On the opposite side of the bavith where she was hard at work, was a bed mat rolled up neat, pressed against the wall. Next to the mat, all the clothes she owned lay wrapped and tied with a string.
For nearly a year, without fail, she rose early to fetch water from the well, filling two goatskins to capacity, doing so before the other women came to gather and participate in idle talk. Then she’d rush back to her bavith to cook today’s meal before returning to her sewing.
Avi shared Ephah’s need to understand, but even Avi didn’t know why weaving the garment until the wee hours of the morning had become an obsession. Sewing this garment, a man’s ef’-od, was a mystery to her, and she had no idea who would wear it. Without knowledge of his breadth, height, and age, everything about this undertaking seemed pointless. But the moment she made up her mind to stop fighting the message that kept running through her mind as she slept, her energy increased and she soon discovered that four hours of rest each night was sufficient.
With a week left before the Pesach, her people’s commemoration of G-d passing over them when he slew the first born of Egypt, Avi became more determined than ever to finish her work. Everyone in Jerusalem anticipated the holiday—buying and selling goods to ensure they had enough to host kinsmen and friends coming from afar.
Avi worked tirelessly and as she did so she pondered rumors of a man claiming to be the Messiah close to her heart. Ancient stories of the coming King had circulated throughout Israel long before her birth. As a child, she remembered the elders talking around campfires, saying, “He will rule the earth and bring us peace.” They celebrated this promise in full expectation—dancing to lively music, roasting the best lamb, feasting on honey, and drinking the finest wine. Recent rumors of this miracle worker who had come to save Avi’s people spread through Jerusalem like warm honey. She had yet to investigate these stories to determine if they were myths or truths. Perhaps he was another imposter who might leave her people downtrodden once again, casting doubts upon the ancient tales of the patriarchs.
She’d been too preoccupied with the task at hand to walk a mile or two or three to witness the teacher everyone raved about. The vast majority of her people reported he had healed the blind, made the lame walk, turned water into wine. The entire countryside went into an uproar when he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead. The most absurd story of all, at least for Avi, was his ability to walk on water. Avi couldn’t put that story to rest. It agitated her, woke her in the middle of the night, caused her to call upon Adonai and cry herself to sleep.
Not long after the dreams ceased, for reasons she still couldn’t comprehend, Avi saved every denarius earned from repairing neighbors’ old garments to bought fine expensive yarn. Since Avi’s family died many years ago, it didn’t make sense to buy it. What would she do with this elaborate twisted fiber? Avi wondered if she had acted foolishly. So taunted with worry, she wrapped the yarn of fine linen inside her cloak then sat near a lamp and stared at it as if expecting it to move about her bavith and perhaps convey a message that she had somehow missed from the Holy One.
Then one day about ten months ago, she set her loom in the middle of her bavith. Upon a thin strip of leather, she placed seven needles. She commenced to inserting these sharp splinters of bone and bronze in and out of the yarn to begin the painstaking task of weaving a seamless garment from top to bottom.
Everyday since Avi sewed, stopping long enough to fetch water, cook, eat and drink, bathe and lie down. Her source of income came to a halt for she had given up mending her neighbors’ cloaks and scarves and belts, but was never in want.
Three days before Pesach, something strange occurred. She fastened the hem then clipped the thread and held the finished ef’-od up to examine it. “Perfect,” Avi said. Delight filled her eyes. She started to mount it to the wall to stretch and shape it in case the man who would wear it proved to be much larger, but an eruption outside interrupted her. Avi held the undergarment tight to her breast, refusing to allow it to touch the ground as she stepped outside.
Not far away, people shouted praises, fanning palm branches high and low. Something moved her forward, arms gently caressing the ef’-od in her hands, her feet unable to stop until . . .
Their eyes met.
No one ever described him, or told of the kindness in his eyes, the joy emitting from his face. If they had, their report was inaccurate. There was much more to him than the miracles they proclaimed. Avi searched for a word to describe him, but all her mind could come up with was love—something she felt the moment they locked eyes. The crowd all about him shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” As if someone had bellowed a thunderous command, the people stepped aside, making a clear path for Avi which led directly to him. Before she drew a breath to speak, he said, “Thank you.”
“My Lord, are you the one they speak of . . . Yeshua . . . the chosen one . . . the one who has come to save us?”
“I am he,” Yeshua said.
Avi loosened her grip on the garment, knowing without a doubt that the ef’-od belonged to him. After she gave him the robe, she fell to her knees and hid her face. In a low muffled voice she praised him. Overcome with unspeakable joy, Avi couldn’t articulate her thanksgiving above a whisper, but Yeshua heard every word. Yeshua touched her arm. Avi stood.
“Thank you, my Lord,” Avi said, “for I have received endless joy on this day and forever. All is now well with my soul.” Avi’s spirit confirmed what her heart had wrestled with for quite some time. As she had worked on the garment, a burning grew inside her, driving her, encouraging her, guiding her hands until she finished. Now, in this moment, gazing upon the Messiah, everything in her was complete and fully satisfied.
Point of Interest: Just as Ahijah tore his clothes into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, depicting the division of the kingdom (I Kings 11:29-39); Christ’s seamless undergarment represents one robe in which we are all clothed and cannot be torn apart.
Definitions: ef’-od = Hebrew reference to an undergarment or tunic; bavith = a house, usually one room, can have an upper room/level; Yeshua = Hebrew name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ; Pesach = Passover.
Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) since 2013. Donna has also written devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life. She also contributes to The Christian Post blog section at http://blogs.christianpost.com/search.html?term=comeaux. Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna’s political views as well.
Donna and her husband have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma.
This story is also in the March 2017 issue of the Ruby for Women Magazine. Click here to purchase a hardcopy: https://www.createspace.com/6972935.
This story can also be found on The Christian Post: http://blogs.christianpost.com/an-unlikely-choice/waiting-for-the-messiah-28715/
The nocturnal evening was clear, cold, and quiet. Except for tiny specks of twinkling light, nothing else disturbed the patent leathered sky. Bleats filled the air as shepherds made their way to hillsides to begin their watch. Just before darkness consumed the earth, shepherds inspected the herds one last time then resumed their position. With a staff firmly placed in one hand, each shepherd wore a turban and a long robe, along with a scarf tucked close to their neck to shield from the cold.
Their only job: guard and protect the sheep.
The life of a shepherd isn’t easy. He must be alert, ready at all times to ward off the enemy. And with certainty, he must place the sheep above himself.
Long before his birth, the Good Shepherd made careful preparation to protect his flock. Through Abraham he promised a nation, not of Israelites, but of aliens, the children of promise(1). As he carefully laid out his plan, he gave us a set of rules to live by so we would neither die before our appointed time, or give into temptation. He warned us to worship him in spirit and in truth, not with the aid of objects we can see and touch.
If you’re not in the habit of studying biblical history, it may seem as though some events happened by chance, or that others had complete control. But upon further examination and meditation on the scriptures, we find that the seemingly meaningless rule to impose a census by Caesar Augustus was all orchestrated by God to move Joseph and Mary from Nazareth in Galiee to Bethlehem where our savior was born.
For centuries, God had his people kill a sacrificial lamb, knowing full well that it was a foreshadow of what was to come. When the true lamb arrived through the womb of a virgin, who were the first to hear of it? The shepherds. God didn’t choose the religious (Sadducees or Pharisees), or kings and statesmen. He chose men who worked for a minimum wage.
From the beginning, God planned for Jesus to live so he might die. Instead of sending him as an angel or as a full grown human being, he reduced Jesus Christ to that of a baby. This lamb had to drink milk first before allowed to eat meat. He lived among us and had his patience tested. He endured ridicule, bullying, and slander. He was called an imposter. They talked behind his back and said he performed miracles because he was of Satan(2). For forty days and nights, he wandered the wilderness hungry, listening to the evil one tempt him in every way.
Like the shepherds, Jesus Christ had options. To stand ready to fight the enemy in order to protect his sheep, or cry out and be rescued by God, leaving his flock to fend for themselves.
Jesus Christ chose to live among a chaotic people. Then he drank the bitter cup of death.
The closest I can come to that kind of love is the love I have for my children. I’d do anything for them. But can I? I can’t rescue them from sin, though I want to. I can’t forgive their sins and wash them clean, though I want to. I can hold them. Rock them. Sing them a song. Read scriptures with them. Pray endlessly for them. But I can’t save them.
I’m not the Good Shepherd.
Sometimes when I reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ, I find that I get so caught up in the manger that I don’t see the tortuous ordeal our Lord and Savior lived through. I’d be angry if someone tried to bait me into an argument like the Pharisees and Saducees did Jesus. I’d definitely not spare my wrath when the disciples wanted to know who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. And to have fed the five thousand and the disciples turn around and not be able to heal the sick boy(3) after witnessing such a miracle, I’d be furious.
He specifically chose the twelve. Lived with them day and night until he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He revealed himself to them in ways he never shared with the world. Such faithlessness had to weigh on him. To come down to earth and show himself in the form of a man and witness such humanity had to cause him concern.
Then again, hadn’t Jesus witnessed such weakness since man’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden?
We greive our Holy Father today with the same worldly way of thinking. I, for one, constantly beat myself up for not reaching my goals, or consume myself with my inabilities rather than devoting myself to prayer for all that I need.
Many of us have the tendency to separate his birth from his death, compartmentalizing Jesus Christ in tiny Christmas wrappings and silly Easter bunnies then have the audacity to call it a Passover celebration.
God Almighty is Holy! We can in no way contain him in pretty wrappings than we can restrain him to particular times of year. God is forever. God is here and now. He’s not someone to be worshipped only on a festive holiday. He’s not someone to be worshipped only when we decide we need him. He’s not an insurance policy to be pulled out only in disastrous times. HE IS forever. Amen!
We don’t have the right to live frightened, doubtful lives. Jesus Christ freed us with his death. No matter how much I love my children, or my family, I could never give them that kind of freedom.
After examining the story of baby Jesus, I find that I can no longer look at Christmas as a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I’m drawn to the life in his death. Hidden beneath the downpour of blood and water is my life. I’ve been made clean by his death and given hope through his resurrection. The manger isn’t the beginning of Jesus Christ. He has and always will be the Alpha and Omega. Time can’t contain him. Death can’t hold him. Holidays can’t resurrect him.
I see how Jesus Christ puts up with my foolishness every single day. How he endures my doubts, my fears, my carelessness, my struggles to worship him in spirit and in truth. Every day I’m repenting. And every moment of the day he is forgiving.
When you serve a God who loves you as deeply as he does, is it really possible to wait for a festive time of year to fall on your knees and worship him? I can’t contain myself that long. His love is too overwhelming.
How about you? Can you wait?
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Novelist
1 Romans 8:9-18 – “(8)That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (9)For this is the word of promise: ‘AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.’ (10)And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; (11)for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, (12)it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’ (13)Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.’ (14)What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (15)For He says to Moses, ‘I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.’ (16)So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (17)For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.’ (18)So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”
2 Matthew 12:22-28 – Jesus and Beelzebub – The Pharisees Rebuked – “(22)Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. (23)All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’ (24)But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.’ (25)And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.’ (26)’If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?’ (27)’If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges.’ (28)’But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’ (29)’Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.'”
3 Matthew 17:18-21 – Healing of Boy with a demon – “(18)And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. (19)Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ (20)And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’ (21)[‘But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’]”
One Hit Wonder
Barabbas was a thief and everyone knew it. Bible scholars think he was also a revolutionist. I tend to think he was simply Satan’s little helper to seal the deal in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Satan wielded a methodical, crafty plan to maneuver people in the wrong place at the wrong time. He took full advantage of everything imaginable, including similarities between Jesus’ and the thief’s name. “Bar Abbas” is translated “son of the Father.” Did Jesus not refer to His Father as “Abba?” Think this is a coincidence? I doubt it.
Every person involved in the crucifixion of Jesus knew exactly what they were doing, to a point. Pilate knew all too well the Jewish council envied Jesus and wanted Him dead. Yet, the governor did not usurp his authority to free an innocent man. He’d rather please the people.
The people’s ambition to overthrow the government created an insatiable need to kill our Savior. They weren’t out of their minds. They weren’t mentally unstable. They didn’t have moments of rage. They didn’t have bad parenting. Selfish gain hindered them. Satan coaxed them into believing they needed their revolution at any cost. If Jesus didn’t come to earth to rescue them from the hands of the Roman Empire, they determined to find someone who would. Why not get rid of Him and move on to someone more capable to take on their cause?
None of them realized their plans had holes. They had no idea Jesus would wreak greater havoc after His death. Fear and panic reverberated through their community when word spread that Jesus had risen from the dead. A host of witnesses verifying He had been seen and heard in numerous places troubled them.
Whatever revolution the people had in mind, the spiritual one that began at Jesus’ resurrection took precedence.
How many times have we seen the masses storm the streets, take to the CNN Network and Fox News, in an effort to press the public to their way of thinking? If we listen to their arguments long enough, they tempt us to throw up our hands and cave in.
The scriptures are clear: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Don’t be fooled. Satan is sly, sneaky, and patient. He is maneuvering the masses today as he did in bible days. What troubles me most is when my Christian sisters and brothers allow Satan to seep into their lives and massage them into compromising situations that both grieve and cause them shame.
Did it ever occur to you that you are being used? Satan can dangle something good in front of us then lead us into a trap. It could be as simple as a wife spending too much time with her mother and not dropping everything to serve her husband (and vice versa). It might be your need to tell your sister in Christ that she hurt your feelings. Leaving things unsaid “kindly and out of love” can tempt you to harbor anger. Or maybe you want to work one more week of overtime, leaving your wife and children alone, thinking one more week won’t hurt them. After all, it’s only seven days. Right? Feelings of abandonment are powerful emotions to overcome. You must remember Satan is in the family destruction business.
Listen to what the scriptures say: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (I Cor. 10:23) Yes, it is good to work overtime to feed your family. But it is wrong to do so excessively. If we’re not careful, Satan will tempt us with our needs and the growing crowds surrounding us will chip away at our firm foundation until we are standing in the middle of a marsh and left wondering how we got there.
Do not be easily persuaded. Test the spirit. Stand your ground. Don’t become immoral. Keep yourselves pure. Don’t slander your brother and sister. And please don’t look the other way when you see them on the streets. “Greet each other with a holy kiss….” (Romans 16:16) And fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. That’s exactly what Jesus Christ did for us.
by Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
September 1, 2013
Written for Park Plaza Church of Christ
The sermon on Barabbas will be preached Sunday, September 1, 2013. You will be able to access this sermon by Thursday afternoon. Keep checking the website for the upload of the sermon if it is not up by Thursday. Follow these instructions to get to the church website: GO TO Parkplaza.org to hear the sermon on Barabbas. Once on the website, click “Media,” then click “One Hit Wonders.” There is NO signin or registration. ENJOY!