“He Shall Rise Again To Life” ( Matthew 20: 17-19, WYC ) by Carley Evans


Jerusalem
Jerusalem (Photo credit: swallroth)

Jesus teaches some truths privately. He takes aside His twelve disciples — including Judas the betrayer — to tell them about their trip to Jerusalem. We’re going up there to the city of God so that I can be condemned to death. I’m going to be ‘scorned, and scourged, and crucified.’ But I’m also going to ‘rise again to life’ on the third day. He may even speak an aside in Judas’ direction, This will thwart the plans of Satan, those plans in which you are to be deeply involved very soon.

Imagine the twelve looking at each other. What did Jesus say? What are we doing? Why are we going to Jerusalem? Did Jesus really mean He is going to die? And what else did He say? He’s going to rise again to life?

“And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and took his twelve disciples in private, and said to them, [And Jesus, ascending up to Jerusalem, took his twelve disciples in private, and said to them,] Lo! we go up to Jerusalem, and man’s Son shall be betaken to princes of priests, and to scribes; and they shall condemn him to death. And they shall betake him to heathen men, for to be scorned, and scourged, and crucified; and the third day he shall rise again to life. [And they shall betake him to heathen men, to be scorned, and scourged, and crucified; and the third day he shall rise again.]”

Then, upon entering the city, the crowds greet them with waving palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna! to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21: 9, KJV)  You can almost hear the disciples, What are we to make of this? These people don’t seem to want Jesus to die? What’s going on? Is our Master mistaken?

These men walk about in a daze, not fully knowing. The next thing Jesus does is clear the temple of money-changers, saying to them, “My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13, KJV) Next He heals the blind and the lame. Then, He tells the chief priests and scribes that God has “perfected praise” in the mouths of infants. (Matthew 21:16, KJV) He laments over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37, KJV)

From the moment Jesus enters Jerusalem, He challenges the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadduces as well as the Herodians. Eventually, the plot to kill Him is fully developed and His statement to His disciples comes to pass. Soon they know.

“All My Sins Behind Your Back” ( Isaiah 39: 17, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


In a poem addressed to the Lord God Almighty, Hezekiah praises Him, writing: “Your Love has delivered me from the Pit of destruction, for You have thrown all my sins behind Your back.”

This same king, perhaps only a few days later, has a visit from the son of Baladan, the king of Babylon. Merodach-baladan brings letters and a gift because Baladan has heard that Hezekiah was sick but is recovered from his illness. Hezekiah is so happy with the gift he shows off his entire treasure house. “There is nothing in his palace and in all his realm that Hezekiah does not show them.”

When Isaiah tells Hezekiah, “Hear the Word of the Lord of Hosts: The time will come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left” and warns that even some “descendants who come from you will be taken away”; Hezekiah is pleased because this isn’t to happen during his lifetime.

Here’s a man who is deathly ill, recovers by God’s grace, praises God for “throwing all [his] sins” where they are not seen or thought of any longer — who, only awhile later, is foolish and cowardly, quickly forgetting the nature of his God.

Isaiah writes, “Comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” “See, the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers His lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those who are nursing.” (Isaiah 40:1-2, 10-11)

For whatever flaws and faults Hezekiah carries with him, he is nevertheless carried gently by His Savior in the folds of His garment. His iniquity is pardoned, and he receives double from the Lord’s hand. His labor is ended. Most importantly, the reward of the Lord is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. Without Jesus Christ the Shepherd, the lambs only wander.

Let us be grateful our God has “thrown all [our] sins behind [His] back!”

“Because They Suffer” ( Luke 13: 2, ESV ) by Carley Evans


Jesus warns that those who suffer are not worse sinners than others. He uses the example of eighteen who are killed when the tower in Siloam falls on them. He says these are not “worse offenders than all the others who live in Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:4) Then Jesus twice tells us that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3,5)

Sin is sin, says Jesus. We all alike are sheep gone astray, and unless we repent and rely upon the sacrifice of Jesus, we die in our sin.

A woman is caught in adultery, and the Pharisees bring her to Jesus for judgment. The Pharisees challenge the Lord to follow the Law of Moses, which calls for the woman to be stoned to death. They rhetorically ask,”So what do You say?” (John 8:5) Jesus writes in the dirt. When He stands, He says to the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) He writes in the dirt again. One by one, the Pharisees walk away, “beginning with the older ones” until Jesus and the woman are alone. (John 8:9) Jesus stands up, looks at the woman and asks her where her accusers have gone. He wants to know if anyone is left to accuse her. And she says, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11)

Jesus tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Repent, or perish; sin is sin; all alike are gone astray. And, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” I can hear Him say, “Why would I condemn you? I came here to earth to save you, not to judge you. My blood covers your sin. You suffer, but not any more than anyone else. Come; turn and follow Me.”

“Failure To Look In The Obvious Place” ( Luke 2: 43, ESV ) by Carley Evans


The longing in His human heart perhaps is enormous; for the boy Jesus leaves His earthly parents and finds His Father’s house at the conclusion of the Feast of the Passover. “The boy Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem. His parents do not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group they go a day’s journey, but then begin to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.” (Luke 2:43-44)

Joseph and Mary spend three days searching “in great distress” for their son, Jesus. (Luke 2:48) Oddly enough, they fail to look in the most obvious place — the temple. They look “in the group,” “among their relatives,” and even among their “acquaintances;” but they fail to look “in My Father’s house” as Jesus says when they find Him. (Luke 2:49) Of course, Jesus is there “in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46) Logically, if not “in the group” or “among relatives and acquaintances” where else would He be? Joseph and Mary ought to know better.

Yet, Jesus — despite being twelve and about His Father’s business  — “goes down with [His parents] and comes to Nazareth and is submissive to them.” (Luke 2:51) And His mother Mary, with her firsthand knowledge of God, the Holy Spirit, “treasures all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)

“Take Away The Stone” ( John 12: 12 – 15, NEB ) by Carley Evans


After raising Lazarus from the dead — the very next day, in fact — Jesus heads towards Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover. Pilgrims who heard of the resurrection “come out to meet [Jesus], shouting, ‘Hosanna [Save!] Blessings on Him who comes in the Name of the Lord!'”

“The people present when [Jesus] called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead tell what they saw and heard. That is why the crowd goes to meet Him; they heard of this sign He performed.” (John 12:17-18)

In raising Lazarus, Jesus demonstrates His power is equivalent to the power of God, the Father. And, Jesus shows us emerging from the grave is possible, even before His own resurrection. Jesus says to Martha, Lazarus’ sister, “‘Did I not tell you that if you have faith you will see the glory of God?'” (John 11:40-41) while commanding, “‘Take away the stone.'” (John 11:39)

“The man who loves himself is lost.” (John 12:25) “A grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest.” (John 12:24)

Jesus rides the colt of a donkey into Jerusalem. He says, “‘Now My soul is in turmoil, and what am I to say? Father, save Me from this hour? No, it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name.’ A voice sounds from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'” (John 12:27-29)

“To All Nations” ( Mark 13: 10, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Jesus privately tells Peter, James, John and Andrew about the future destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. At the same time, He speaks of His return and “the beginning of the birth pains” when “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.” Jesus also states, “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

Some of us seem to be hung-up on the when of Jesus’ return, even getting excited when Japan was hit by the largest magnitude earthquake ever recorded in that country. In actuality, there have always been earthquakes, famines, and wars — they are not particularly more prevalent now than in our past.

The key element upon which few seem to focus is Jesus’ emphatic statement that “the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” Missionaries are indeed located around the world, but somewhere there is a tribe — yes? — not yet reached. There are peoples who have never heard of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Paul says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!'” (Romans 10:13-15)

Jesus commands, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)

“God Alone Knows His Purposes” ( Jeremiah 29 : 11-13, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“I alone know My purpose for you, says the Lord: prosperity and not misfortune, and a long line of children after you. If you invoke Me and pray to Me, I will listen to you: when you seek Me, you shall find Me; if you search with all your heart, I will let you find Me, says the Lord. I will restore your fortunes.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

God allows us to find Him when we search diligently; when we call on Him and pray to Him. He listens like no human being is capable of listening — with full understanding. God alone knows His plans for us. Where there is misfortune, He will restore prosperity.

God sometimes places us — or allows us to place ourselves — in situations that are particularly tough for us — in places of “exile.” He says, “To all the exiles whom I have carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon,” “when a full seventy years has passed over Babylon, I will take up your cause and fulfill the promise of good things I made you, by bringing you back to this place.” (Jeremiah 29:4, 10) Here God has an actual time frame in His plan; and He rebukes prophets who claim differently. “Do not be deceived,” He warns, “by the prophets or diviners among you.” (Jeremiah 29:8)

God has plans and purposes known only to Him — He determines discipline and the manner in which He brings people back into a close relationship with Him. Despite allowing our troubles and misfortunes, He also decides when and how and where to restore “prosperity”. As Paul reminds us, “in everything, as we know, He co-operates for good with those who love [Him] and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)