The worst criminal ever

Mar. 18, 2012

Luke 23:18-19

With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.”

Jesus has been taken back to Pilate. Pilate sees no reason to kill Jesus. He’s gone through the due diligence to see if Jesus is guilty of the crimes the Jewish authorities have proclaimed. Not only does he see no basis, neither did Herod. According to Deuteronomy 19:15, “two witnesses,” by two authorities, one Roman and one Palestinian would also have given testimony. Still, there is not sufficient evidence for execution in a capital criminal case. Pilate has told the crowd that he will punish him and let him go.

Release is not what the crowd wants. The crowd goes into an uproar. We’re told the crowd spoke as if with one voice. Release a different man, the one named Barabbas, they plead.

We know very little of this man. Luke tells us he was a murderer. Matthew’s gospel calls him notorious prisoner and John’s gospel calls him a robber. It appears that he is well-known to the crowd. What we do know is that he’s an awful enough criminal that his reputation is well-known.

Who would we choose to be killed? Jesus or Jeffery Dahmer? Jesus or Adolf Hitler? Jesus or Saddam Hussein? Jesus or anyone else?

Imagine the crowd being less afraid of Dahmer than Jesus; willing to release Hitler than Jesus; take their chances with Hussein rather than Jesus. They’d rather take their chances with a harden criminal than allow Jesus to heal people on the Sabbath. Jesus is the worse of the worst? That’s what it seems the crowd thought.

But then again, when you are the Messiah, things don’t always make sense.

Let us pray: Was it for crimes that I have done, he groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree! At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away; it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day. Amen.

Blessings –


Who crucified Jesus?

Mar. 17, 2012

Luke 23:13-17

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

Who crucified Jesus?

Technically, of course, the Roman government did. They had to. The religious leaders could not. Doing so would have broken one of the Ten Commandments, the one that says, “Thou shall not kill.”

But we’ve just read how Pilate felt he could not kill Jesus. He had found no reason for such harsh punishment. He would have him beaten but that is it.

Several years ago when the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” was released, the Jewish establishment was appalled. They felt the movie casted the Jewish religious leaders in a negative way and over stated their involvement in Jesus’ crucifixion. They wanted people to ban the movie and asked for an apology from the producer, Mel Gibson.

Diane Sawyer addressed this issue with Gibson in an interview. She asked who caused Jesus’ death. Whether you are a Mel Gibson fan or not, listen to his answer, “Read the book, Diane. Read the book and see what it says.”

Sawyer looked at him a little puzzled and asked, “What book?” Gibson replied, “The Bible.”

I think there is another answer to the question, “Who crucified Jesus?” It is probably even less popular than Gibson’s answer. Here’s my answer: you and I. Every human being who has graced this earth and who will. We sin and somehow, our sin needs to be accounted for. God looked at our sin and decided to take care of it, once and for all, through God’s own flesh, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

Now it’s your turn to answer the question. “Who crucified Jesus?”

Let us pray: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Amen.

Blessings –


Unlikely Friends

Mar. 16, 2012

Luke 23:12

That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies.

People can be so funny sometimes. I don’t mean “Ha, ha, ha!” funny. I mean, “What’s up with that?” funny. One day, arch enemies. Next day, best buds. Isn’t it funny?

Ever had a “friend” that didn’t give you a good first impression? I have. Having graduated from a small, rural Wisconsin high school, attending UW-Madison was huge. At my first college lecture, there were more people enrolled in this class than my entire high school.

The class was Dairy Science 101. (Before I was a pastor, I worked with dairy cattle.) We also had a weekly lab with about 20 students. For our first lab, we met where animals were rendered. It was about 90 degrees outside. There was no air conditioning in the building. Our project for the day: examine a cow’s four different stomachs, identifying and noticing differences between each stomach. It was hot. The stomachs had an odor. Add the humidity and the warm air temp, even my solid stomach was doing a roller coaster ride.

We were to work in groups of three or four. I knew no incoming freshman.  Thus, I knew no one in the lab. I scanned the people. My attention was caught by this blonde gal. Physically, she looked like a female version of a middle linebacker: a larger muscular frame. She was chumming with some of the guys. It appeared they kind of knew each other. But the kicker: this brut of a gal was dressed in a cutesy coordinating shorts outfit. I took one look at her and thought to myself, “She will never be a friend of mine.” I knew for sure when the smell became too much for her and she had to be excused. Right.

Within three weeks, she was one of my closest friends on campus. Today, I can call any time day or night. We’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, consider each other’s parents personal friends and shared a ton of memories. I really don’t want folks from church getting too buddy-buddy with her because she could share stories that don’t need repeating. She assures me this won’t happen because she would incriminate herself.

What brought us into a close friendship is not the same as Herod and Pilate. We didn’t have to deal with a person we felt threatened us. Yet, there is a similar thread. Like Herod and Pilate, my friend and I became close friends because we have significant shared experiences. When we repeat various stories, our husbands do not understand why they are so funny because they were not there.

As I think about my closest friends, sometimes it isn’t logical for us to be good friends. These surface things have very little to do with why we are rock-solid friends. We’re friends because we trust and respect each other. We’re friends because we have similar values. We’re friends because often we see something beyond ourselves and humanity.

Were Herod and Pilate thick-skinned friends or mere acquaintances? Those details aren’t included. They moved beyond the barriers that limited their friendship. Did they eventually look back and laugh about how one time they were unlikely good friends, as my friend and I do? We’re not sure. People can be funny sometimes. Shared experiences are very powerful when it comes to building friendships. Talk to any person who has served in the military overseas if you aren’t sure this happens. This is anything but funny. This is very real.

Let us pray: Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In his arms he’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there. Amen.

Blessings –


The Common Person

Mar. 15, 2012

Luke 23:8-11

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.

Have you ever met someone of significance? I’ve never met anyone very important or popular. Like Lake Wobegon, my life is made up of basically folks who fit this description: “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

The Herod in this passage is Herod Antipas, son of the famous Herod the Great. Herod the Great was the Judean Roman king at the time Jesus was born. He instructed soldiers to kill all boys under two-years to eliminate baby Jesus. He couldn’t stand the thought of another possible king.

Herod Antipas was the Roman ruler around the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was an adult. He murdered John the Baptist after John called him out for divorcing his first wife and marrying his sister-in-law. He is the notable one; the one people might want to meet but also the person people might be intimidated by. Instead of the common Jesus desiring to meet Herod, it’s the other way around. Herod has long desired to meet Jesus. Now, he has an opportunity.

Herod has heard Jesus can perform miracles or in his opinion, magic tricks. He anticipates Jesus doing a special trick before him. Wouldn’t he want to do one so Herod would release him? Jesus knows Herod doesn’t understand where his power comes from. Also present are the Sanhedrin, watching his every move, waiting for him to take a wrong step.

In the end, Herod is underwhelmed. He’s disappointed. He doesn’t know what the hype is about. Jesus does nothing to impress him. Herod mocks him, considers it a waste of him time and sends him back to Pilate. He has more important things to do.

We’re often fascinated with the lives and lifestyles of the rich and famous. Magazines tell us gritty details, some true, some not so true, about movie stars, musicians and notable people. In our era of reality television, most anyone with a good public relations agent can become a household name. When we reference someone by his or her first name and everyone seemingly knows who they are, we think they have “made it.”

If you could choose anyone to meet, who would you choose? If you could have a face-to-face with this person, what would you ask them? How would you expect them to handle themselves? If they are a singer, would you expect them to sing? If a movie star, would you want them to act? What would you think if they ended up being just an ordinary, common person? Would you be disappointed?

The world and our lives are filled with ordinary, common folks. Folks I know by first names that are very important to me. These people cause me to smile when I see their name flash up on caller id. Or whose e-mail I open first. These are the folks I to have lunch with, play ball with and pray with. Maybe their names will not grace the cover of a popular magazine. That’s OK. Maybe none of them will go down in history. I’m OK with this.

These are also the people I’d love to know Jesus.

Let us pray: He had no stately form, he had no majesty, that we should be drawn to Him. He was despised and we took no account of Him, yet now he reigns with the Most High. Our God reigns! Our God reigns! Our God reigns! Our God reigns. Amen.

Blessings –


In the Judge’s Seat

Mar. 14, 2012

Luke 23:3-7

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a change against this man.” But they insisted. “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Have you ever stood before a judge and had to defend yourself? If so, how did that feel? My experience with this is being present with other people. I’ve been moral support and provided transportation for those who have had to go before a judge. I believe it is intimidating to go before a person who will make decisions affecting your life. Every day a judge sits behind the bench, he or she makes any number of decisions which have potentially significant impact. Judges can either get a head trip from this or they can see this as a calling. Hopefully, they view their role as one that will make a difference in people’s lives.

I think of my pastor/friend whose son is a judge in the Minnesota Court System. At various times, my friend has shared bits and pieces of correspondence from her son, articles from the local newspaper or TV stories. From my perspective, this judge takes his calling very seriously. He ponders how the decisions he makes definitely affect people. I think of the young child who asked him to put him with a “forever family”; how he works diligently to help rehabilitate folks. This is not easy or light work.

Pilate’s position gave him the power to make disciplinary decisions. The Roman government did not have a three branch system, separating the governing role from the disciplinary role. Pilate’s power included both. It seems that Pilate had sympathy for Jesus; he does not find him guilty. But the crowd has grown. It has become much larger than just the 71 Sanhedrin members. Jerusalem was busy this week. Many, many Jewish people are in town because of the Passover. Some of these people are curious. Some have gotten caught up in the hype. Some are wondering what is going to happen to this man named Jesus they’ve heard about.

It’s time for Pilate to make his decision. The tension is palatable. Pilate ponders his decision. He can’t appear weak. Who will take him seriously if he bails on this decision? But he really has no specific reason to keep Jesus. What is he to do? Then a new piece of information: this man as been active in the Galilee region. Herod is the governor from that area and just happens to be in Jerusalem. Pilate uses a technicality and momentarily avoids ruling about Jesus. He sends him to Herod.

Pilate is a man people today often love to hate. He seems almost wishy-washy, unwilling to take a stand either way. He doesn’t want to irritate too many people. Doing so would threaten his governorship. So he defers.

I have never been a judge and will never be one. When I think of the challenging decisions my friend’s son makes every week, I’m thankful this judge is a person of God. I know he prayerfully discerns appropriate decisions. Are his decisions always popular? I don’t really know. Being in the judge’s seat takes guts, wisdom and hopefully divine guidance.

Had I been in Pilate’s judge’s seat, would have I been able to make a clear decision? Thank God I didn’t have to make that decision. It would not have been an easy seat to be in.

Let us pray: See, from his head, his hands, his feet. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet. Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Amen.

Blessings –



Plotting and Prodding

Mar. 13, 2012

Luke 23:1-2

Then the whole assembly rose and let him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

The Jerusalem Sanhedrin unilaterally determined that Jesus is “guilty.” Now, the entire group hauls him off to Pilate. Not one or two, or even a small group. All 71 Pharisees and Sadducees are part of a great procession to Pilate’s Palace.

Let’s try to follow what is happening. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish religious ruling council. These are men who had studied the Torah (the first five books of our Old Testament) and knew all the rules. They are looked upon as decision makers within the Jewish faith. Their equivalent today might be a religious denominational governing body.

Pilate is a Roman governor, appointed by Caesar, who presides over the Roman government. We could think of Caesar in terms of the US President and Pilate as a state governor. It was unlawful for the Jewish Sanhedrin to kill Jesus. This would be breaking one of the 10 Commandments: “Thou shall not kill.” Crucifixion was carried out by the Roman government. The Sanhedrin needed Pilate to rule for Jesus’ death. In order to put pressure on Pilate, all 71 religious leaders trek over to his palace. Others tagged along to witness what would happen and show support for Jesus’ death.

In essence, Jesus went through two trials: one before the Sanhedrin and one before Pilate. While we think this is unusual, let’s be honest. We use the same tactic.

A child doesn’t like the response from one parent and tries for the desired answer from the other parent. Your significant other doesn’t quite respond the way you want. You wait a day and go back with more and improved ammunition. Your boss just doesn’t see the full picture. Just this once, you’ll go to his or her supervisor to make impact. Isn’t this basic fodder for TV Soap Operas?

Sometimes second pleas are necessary and elicit the desired response. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. We may think the Jewish religious leaders were conniving and tricky. But don’t we do this?

A couple years ago, I really wanted to redo one of our bathrooms. Rick didn’t think it was necessary. I planned a little trip for us to Kohler to visit their design center, gathering ideas for bathrooms. I called a plumber and discovered they had a jet bathtub that would fit perfectly into the space we had. And he offered it at a significant discount! I brought home tile samples and asked Rick which he preferred. I agreed to delay new carpeting if we would redo the bathroom. Eventually, Rick caved in. I have a beautiful, relaxing bathroom; but only because I was a little more than persistent, maybe even tricky.

Unintentionally or intentionally, we sometimes plot and prod until we get what we want. The difference for us: usually, it’s not our life that is at stake. Yes, people have been wrongly convicted, as Jesus was. Most of our personal situations are not quite as dramatic. Admittedly, a bathroom redo is not nearly as imperative as a man’s life. But much as we dislike admitting it, are not there at least a little Pharisaic tendencies in all of us?

Let us pray: Was it for crimes that I have done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree! Amen 

Blessings –


The Courtroom Battle

Mar. 12, 2012

Luke 22:66-71

At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Imagine this interrogation scene. Before assembled elders, chief priest and Scribes, i.e. – the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, no witnesses speak. No references are made about Jesus’ miracles or teachings or sayings. The entire questioning only addresses Jesus himself. The Sanhedrin only deal with two issues: whether Jesus is the Messiah and if he is God’s son.

Notice that Jesus’ answers are not a direct response to the questions.

To the first question, his knows the Sanhedrin will only hear what they want to hear, not what he has to say. From his answer, the Council then questions if he is God’s Son. In this answer, he does not deny this. He throws the question back to his accusers. They are saying this, he says, even if they don’t believe it.

The council’s conclusion: witnesses aren’t needed. He has convicted himself and they quickly turn him over to the Roman governor. On this alone, he is scooted off to Pilate.  It’s the Council’s way to not assume responsibility for what will happen to Jesus.

Most people like to win an argument. Some will go so far as to keep at it until they feel that they have won. Watch any courtroom situation. Carefully crafted sentences and questions lead witnesses in the direction council desires for the line of questioning to go.

But somehow, Jesus raises above all the bantering and postulating. Some may think he resigns from the courtroom battle. He knows what is going to happen anyway. Why feed into the Council’s line of thinking and questioning?

Personally, I do not see resignation in Jesus. I see a posed man, willing to accept what is required of him. It’s not about him, in the end. It’s about the rest of humanity. He quietly shifts the focus from himself and onto what he is willing to do for everyone else.

So who wins the courtroom discussion? The Council or Jesus? While the Sanhedrin arrogantly feels they can place the checkmark under their “win” column, Jesus quietly knows who will win the ultimate victory.

Let us pray: O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever! He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew him and all my love is due him. He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood. Amen.

Blessings –



The mistreatment of Jesus

Mar. 11, 2012

Luke 22:63-65

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” and they said many other insulting things to him.

From here on out in the passion narratives, many specifics within the four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) vary greatly. Matthew and Mark indicate the trial before the Sanhedrin happened during the night. Luke’s account times it closing towards morning, because of the cock crowing at Peter’s denial. Some accounts have Jesus attending two “trials” before the Jewish leaders. Luke only has one. John’s gospel says Jesus first went to Annas before going on trial with Caiaphas and the rest of the Jewish council.

How do we reconcile the four different accounts? Which is the “right” version? Maybe none of it happened because the authors can’t agree?

When this question comes up with folks at church, I often use this example. Let’s say that we were standing by the side of the road and witnessed a car accident. How many versions of the accident would we have? Exactly the same number as people who were present and witnessed the accident. Each person would remember slightly different details, maybe in a different order. Not everyone’s story may completely jive.

Let’s think this in terms of the Gospel accounts. Not every author is going to have exactly the same details. Rather than getting frustrated by this, I encourage us to examine each story for it’s own worth. It’s OK to compare and contrast and use all four accounts to help us see a richer story.

We are at the part of the story when the beating of Jesus begins. Be prepared: the mistreatment of Jesus gets worse and worse as the story proceeds. In Luke’s gospel, the soldiers play blind man’s bluff with Jesus, which only heightens his humiliation and loneliness. But as we continue to read this story, notice that Jesus gives the impression as the one in control of the story and the scenes. He tolerates what is happening to him because he is aware these things must happen. They are consequences of his Father’s will. This is part of the way a prophet meets his fate in Jerusalem.

Jesus mistreatment is not only physical. It was also verbal. Words hurt. The soldiers had to have said some awful things to Jesus. Despite the physical and verbal abuse, Jesus remains stoic, controlled and dignified. Somehow, he let those words bounce off of him. Somehow, he numbs himself from the beating. Somehow, he endures. The only way this could have happened was if Jesus was truly the Son of God.

Let us pray: See him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned. O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs his soul sustained! Shun not suffering, shame or loss. Learn of Christ to bear the cross. Amen.

Blessings –



“Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Mar. 10, 2012

Luke 22:54-62

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. The Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

“Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

We say these words also. Sometimes, we may really not know what the other person is talking about. In other instances, we’re joking and trying to be sly. Other times, like Peter, we’re actually denying something when we know what the person is talking about. Denying something once is bad enough. But three times? Peter had decided to stick with his story. No matter what.

After Jesus’ arrest, he is taken to the High Priest Caiaphas’ house for trial. Only the Sanhedrin would have been present at the trial. The Sanhedrin or the Jewish ruling council was comprised of 71 elders, considered to be amongst the wisest and most pious Jewish men of the time.

In the middle of the night, the Sanhedrin were hastily called to Caiaphas’ palatial home and met in the grand hall. Normally, the council met during the day in the Temple courts. They did not meet during religious feasts. But on that night, the Sanhedrin is gathered in the high priests palace after hours and during Passover. This indicates their desire to have an urgent trial and with great secrecy.

Peter’s denial didn’t happen inside the house. It happened outside in the courtyard, where folks were gathered. While the rest of the disciples had scattered in fear, Peter clung to the night’s dark shadows. He wants to know what is going to happen to Jesus. But he doesn’t want anyone to recognize him.

There’s an interesting detail in Luke’s version of this story not present in the other gospels. Jesus sees Peter when he makes the third denial. For an instant, Jesus looked from inside the hall, through a window, and sees Peter. Their eyes meet. Peter realizes the gravity of what he has done. All he can do is break down and weep.

Peter’s denial is included in all four gospel accounts. This story is so important they all included it. Not to embarrass Peter but because he probably regularly shared this story himself. Maybe Peter used this context when he shared this story: “You’ve probably denied Jesus. I denied him myself in a way of which I’m deeply ashamed. But let me tell you. I betrayed Jesus yet he loved me anyways. He took me back and gave me grace. If you’ve denied him, it’s OK. He’ll take you back also.”

Who amongst us can reply, “Man, I do know what you’re talking about.”

Let us pray: O how he loves you and me! O how he loves you and me! He gave his life. What more could he give? O how he loves you. O how he loves me. O how he loves you and me! Amen.

Blessings –



Thinking of Others

Mar. 9, 2012

Luke 22:49-53

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs?” Every day, I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.”

The last hours of Jesus’ life was winding down. Every act he does maybe the last time Jesus will perform this. One fact that stands out to me this Lenten season: so much of the last hours of Jesus life are not about him. It’s about what he can do for others.

We see it here. The guards and their escorts have arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. It could have become what we’d call a barroom bawl. It starts out this way. One of the disciples, John’s Gospel tells us Peter, draws his sword. Why he had a sword with him, I’m not quite sure. Obviously, he was concerned that something crazy could happen. And now it does. Peter lashes out at the person before him, a servant of the Jewish High Priest Caiaphus. Caiaphus didn’t want to be a part of arrest. But he wanted an observer who could tell him every detail. So, he sent one of his servants, Malchus. In the garden, Malchus must be physically close to Peter. Emotions welled up in Peter and he had to do something. Adrenaline takes over as he cuts of Malchus’ ear.

Jesus does not want this scene to get out of hand. He stops the fighting immediately. Just to re-enforce his wishes, he reaches out and heals the removed ear.

This is not the first time Jesus has healed someone. We’d need a calculator to count the people Jesus healed. And there are many, many others not accounted for in scripture. Jesus is being arrested. But his focus isn’t on this. It’s on taking care of others first. Talk about selflessness.

Healing comes in many different ways. Today, I will be part of a celebration of the ultimate healing for Oscar Sieg. Oscar, and his wife Dolly, were some of the first people my folks met with they moved toWisconsinover 50 years ago. Their youngest daughter, Pam, is just a few months older than I am. Pam is my oldest friend. Not oldest in age; oldest in time we’ve been friends. I can’t remember a time when Pam and I weren’t friends.

The last few years, Oscar’s health has failed. Two weeks ago, I spent some time with Pam and her family. We were in Oscar’s room at the nursing home. Rick was waiting in our vehicle outside. Oscar could see our car. He kept asking where my husband was. He wasn’t concerned about himself. He was concerned about where my husband was. When Rick came into Oscar’s room, he was so excited to see Rick. Before Rick and I left, we gathered with the family, laid hands on Oscar and prayed for his ultimate healing. Today, we will celebrate this.

As we continue through the passion story these next few weeks, keep your eyes peeled for how many times Jesus is more concerned about other people than himself. In the world’s darkest hours, Jesus never stops doing what he came to do: to seek and to save the lost. As he does this, he reaches out not just to the people who were physically present with him. Ultimately, he is reaching out to all of humanity and providing for our needs. Thus, these hours are also our hours. And through this, I pray you will see Jesus’ great concern for you.

Let us pray: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  Amen.

Blessings –