Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death

Mark 14:53-64

Last Sunday was Easter. I’m sure we all got dressed up in our nicest clothes, put on our biggest smiles, even though we fought with each other all the way there, and scurried on to the church building for our Easter service. For many, this was the only time they will gather with the Church all year, maybe one of two times. I’m sure we all heard pretty much the same message, the message of the cross of Christ.

I believe that Easter is the most important holiday we celebrate every year. It is imperative that we remember what Christ did for us on the cross, although we need to remember it more often than once a year.

Think about it; Christ’s suffering began long before the cross. It began on that morning when He left the perfection of Heaven to come here to this broken earth. Picture in your mind a king leaving his palace to live in the gutters as a homeless man; this was infinitely worse. Christ left a place more perfect than anything we could imagine, to come here, be born in the feeding trough of a stable, live a life of poverty, spend three homeless years ministering and being rejected, only then to be betrayed by one of His own, beaten and crucified. And, He did all this for me, wow!

Today I don’t only want to talk about the Easter story; I want to look a little deeper into why He was crucified. Look at Mark chapter 14, starting at verse 53 and going through verse 64. These verses are the section where Christ has been brought before the Jewish council in a mock trial.

First of all, there was no due process here. Jesus was taken from the garden and brought before the council in the middle of the night. Verse 55 tells us, “Inside, the leading priests, and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any.” So, after they brought Him before the council, they began their investigation, but couldn’t find anything, so what did they do next? The passage tells us in verses 56 through 59 that they brought in many false witnesses to testify against Him, but they couldn’t get their stories straight, so even in that kangaroo court, they had to throw out those witnesses.

Finally, in the act of desperation, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” Mark 14:60. But Jesus didn’t answer him. Next, the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Verse 61. This time Jesus did answer him. Mark 14:62 says, “Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Side note; if anyone tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God, take them to this verse. At this point, the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy.

The point of all this is to ask the question, why were the Jewish leaders so focused on condemning Jesus to death? Did they believe He was blaspheming? To answer this, we need to go back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Look at the first two verses of John chapter 3. The beginning of John 3 is the story of Nicodemus coming to ask Jesus some questions. In verses 1 and 2, it says, 1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that you have come from God to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’” Take a look at what Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, said to Jesus. Nicodemus said, WE ALL know that you have come from God.” Who? All the Jewish leaders. You see, the Jewish leaders all knew that Jesus was from God, and they all probably at least suspected that He was the Messiah, which is why they had to get rid of Him.

These religious leaders had a good thing going. The people did whatever they told them to do, they had positions of authority and power, all respected them, and the people gave them whatever they asked. Religion had made these guys rich and powerful, sound familiar? They had a good thing going and weren’t about to give it up for anyone, not even the Messiah!

Because of their misinterpretation of scripture, they thought Christ was here to set up His Kingdom, and that would put them on the street. So, what did they do about it? In their ignorance, they fulfilled the scripture, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5. They kept their position, but at what cost? These men sold their souls for religion.

Sadly, many of us today are right back where these men were two thousand years ago. We are so caught up in our religion and traditions that we have forsaken Jesus. Read the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion. Paul kept saying how he left the religion of his fathers to follow Christ.

There is only one verse in the New Testament that portrays religion of any kind in a positive light, that verse is James 1:27, which says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” You see, the only religion that God recognizes as pure and genuine is not religion at all in the sense that we know it. What God sees as true pure and genuine religion is simply, taking care of widows and orphans and keeping yourself pure from the world.

Lets all purpose in our hearts to practice God’s religion, not man’s. Let’s practice caring for widows and orphans while keeping ourselves pure. Don’t let the world or its religion corrupt you, don’t conform to its mold as it says in Romans 12:1-2. And, show God’s love, that’s true religion.

Back to The Beginning

Day 289: Sunset from Low Key Hideaway Dock
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Back to The Beginning

We were having Easter dinner with some friends, and one of them asked me to share where my vision came from. So, here goes, the first thing I should explain is where the title of my blog, and subsequent book, come from, and what it means. This blog and book were born out of an experience that my wife and I had, that brought us to the realization that the Church isn’t operating the way it was meant to. The idea of a cathedral made of people is the fact that the building we meet in isn’t the church, the denomination we belong to isn’t the church. We are the Church, we are the Body of Christ, a Royal Priesthood, a chosen generation, and we need to start acting as such. Now, I can’t take credit for the title, it is the title of a song by the group Downhere, listen to it, you’ll see what I mean. This song says exactly what I’m trying to put across on this blog and my book. We are a cathedral made of people…all of us! Not just one denomination, but everyone. If you believe the Bible for what it says if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God…God in the flesh, if you believe that He lived on this earth, died on the cross, and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins, then you are part of that cathedral.

This journey started for me on the 4th of July weekend 2009. Michelle and I were sitting at LAX, watching the fireworks go off all around us as we waited to board a plane bound for a little island community in North West Florida. This was no third world country, this was a quaint little fishing village that my parents had retired to. Dad had passed away in 2002 and mom was there taking care of her father who had a stroke a few years prior.

Two weeks after arriving, Michelle and I were talking and realized that God was telling both of us, individually but at the same time, to plant a church on the island. God had given both of us the same vision, but as always, there were some hurdles to get over. There were four big hurdles:

  1. I had never been a Lead Pastor and, quite frankly, had never wanted to be one.
  2. We had never been part of a church plant from the start, so we didn’t know where to start.
  3. This little town was, by all means, a mission field with a large number of its resident’s being alcoholics and addicts.
  4. With a population of 900 people and 4 existing churches, everyone was telling us we were wasting our time.

Since problem number one was that I had never been a Lead Pastor, and didn’t really want to be, we set out trying to find a pastor. Most of the candidates were just looking for a job, but there were a few great men of God who saw our vision but said that God gave us this vision and the passion, so we needed to follow through with it. After about a years and a half of preparation, we met a Christian couple, Ken and Vanessa, who wanted to start a praise night in homes, and that birthed our church group, The Gathering.

But, this isn’t a blog about The Gathering. This isn’t a blog about starting a church. This is a blog about the Church, with a capital “C”. During that first year of preparation, we prayed about the church gathering that God had called us to start. Since we had never started a church group before, and because there were so many church formats and denominations out there, we started asking God to show us what kind of church He wanted us to start. His answer came almost immediately. God told us, very clearly, to look at the first Church, so that’s just what we did. Spending that first year studying what the first church was like, God began revealing things that were extremely disturbing. Of course, the first Church was not disturbing, but what it has become was. Looking at the Church today and comparing it to the first Church, we saw how short we have fallen. We were no longer one body, we were divided, separated and segregated. We were not fulfilling the Great Commission. You see, the Great Commission tells us to make disciples, we make congregations, we are just filling seats. The Church has become a corporation at best. The Church today has become little more than a Religious Organization split into different denominations with different goals.

In studying the first Church, God revealed several things. One thing was that the first Church didn’t meet in fancy cathedrals, they met in the courtyard of the Hebrew Temple and in homes, and even in the street, Acts 2:44-47 says, 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” I am not trying to say that a church building is bad, what I am saying is that we need to ask ourselves if this building is wise stewardship of God’s money, and is it being used for ministry more than once or twice a week.

The second thing was that they didn’t meet on Sunday, they met daily, as we saw in verse 46 of this passage. This doesn’t mean we should meet for an hour every morning, sing worship songs and listen to the pastor preach. They did life together, they studied the Word together, they prayed together, they ate together…they were a community. Remember, in Matthew 18:20 it says, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Here’s a little food for thought, how many of your local church family do you see outside of the church building? Just sayin’.

The next thing I noticed was that when Luke wrote the book of Acts, he stuck his church bulletin in it. In Acts 2:42 we see their order of service, 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” So, they studied the Gospel, they fellowshipped and shared meals together, and they prayed. Is that what our church services look like today? Not most of the ones I’ve seen.

The fourth thing, and probably the biggest, was their unity, as we see in the verses above. In fact, the unity of the Church is one of the key themes of the New Testament. If we can’t get this right and be united as the Body of Christ, we will never be effective in this world, Matthew 12:25 says, “Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Yes, we may grow our congregation, we may even become a “Mega Church”, and we may bring people to Christ along the way. But if we want to change our world, we must change from within. We have all heard sermons on 2 Chronicles 7:14Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”, but it’s time we take this passage to heart. This verse says, “if my people”, that’s the Church. We are His people, His Body. This verse doesn’t say if a few of my people, or if some of my people, or even if most of my people, what it is saying is The Body of Christ…all of us, must humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked and divisive ways, and yes, the Hebrew word translated as wicked is the word “Ra`” which means; wicked, disagreeable, malignant, and divisive. We must unite as the Body of Christ! Now, before I’m lynched, I’m not talking about throwing out doctrine and uniting, but I am talking about taking a hard look at the doctrines that separate us, and like I said in the beginning, there is only one doctrine that should define us, that is salvation by grace through faith.

Prophecies That Prove Christ

Day 112: Singing After the Marching of the Cross in Cedar Key
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Prophecies That Prove Christ

The Old Testament is full of prophecies of the Messiah. The religious leaders of Christ’s day were looking for a Messiah who would come in as a concurring King and save them. They were mixing up the prophecies of the first coming with the prophecies of the second coming, and this was partially due to what they felt they needed at the time, so that’s what the saw. So, let’s take a few minutes to look at the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament.

The first one we will look at is the instructions that God gave the people of Israel for the first Passover. I’m sure we all remember the story, they had been captive in Egypt for hundreds of years, and God sent Moses to bring them out. We find the instructions for the Passover in Exodus 12:1-13. Verse 7 tells us, “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” Think about what they are doing. The blood was put there so that when the angel saw it, he would pass over that household, and no harm would come to them. God told them to put blood on the two doorposts and the top. So, God is telling them to make the sign of the cross on their doorpost. The cross wouldn’t become a form of capital punishment until approximately fifteen-hundred years later.

Numbers 9:12 has this to say about the Passover, “They must not leave any of the lamb until the next morning, and they must not break any of its bones.” It specifically says that not a bone of the lamb can be broken. We also see this in Exodus 19:46 and Psalm 34:20, and these are all prophecies of Christ’s crucifixion, 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs.” John 19:32-33. This is significant because death on the cross was caused by suffocation. They would have to push themselves up with their legs to take a breath, so breaking there legs to finish them off was part of the process.

The 22nd Psalm was written over a thousand years before the crucifixion of Christ, yet it starts out in verse 1 by saying, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” I know that some may say that Christ was just quoting the psalmist, but the rest of the chapter goes on to describe what Christ went through on the cross. In fact, verses 14-18 say, 14 My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. 15 My strength has dried up like sun-baked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. 16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. 17 I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. 18 They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing.” It describes the water and blood coming out of His side, and His extreme thirst, even down to the parting of His garments and gambling for His cloak.

So, now let’s look at the prophet Isaiah. If we look at the book of Isaiah, starting at chapter 52 verse 13, then read all the way through chapter 53 verse 12, we see a very clear description of Jesus, proving that He is the Christ…the Messiah. In fact, people have used this passage for thousands of years to preach Jesus to the Jewish people who are still looking for there Messiah. Most of us probably know the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip saw him riding in his chariot, reading from the prophet Isaiah. We see this story in Acts chapter 8, and if you read verses 30-34 it says, 30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  31 The man replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. 32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: ‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.’ 34 The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?’ 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.”

This passage is so clearly speaking of Jesus that, unless you are blinded by religion, you must admit that it could only be talking about Him. I have a friend who is very intelligent and is Catholic by religion but is one of those people who wants to pick and choose which parts of the Bible he wants to believe. Of course, I always tell him that if you can’t believe that it is all the infallible, inerrant, verbally inspired word of God, you might as well not believe any of it. But, he believes that the Old Testament is nothing more than the Jewish people making an account of their law and trying to explain their religion. The other day I read him this passage from Isaiah chapters 52 and 52. He had to admit that it is talking about Jesus, then when I showed him it was from the Old Testament, he didn’t know what to say. He wouldn’t admit that I was right about the Bible, but he is thinking. Please pray for this man, I won’t give his name, but God knows who he is. He is ninety years old and is trusting his intellect and the fact that he is a good person to get him to heaven.

This was probably just a refresher for many of you, but I just think it is important to look back at the proof of Christ. If you would like a more in-depth look, the book “A Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel is a great tool. We all know people like the gentleman I just mentioned, although they probably aren’t all ninety years old, and we can all use these prophecies to share the good news of Jesus just like Philip did.

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