We speak all kinds of prayers to Jesus. Sincere prayers for a sick child, dying parent, or errant spouse. Prayers so sincere that we are convinced God will grant our request. After all we have done the right things: rubbed the magic lamp, click our heels three times, and closed our eyes. How could God deny our request?
James and John approached Jesus and asked Him to do them a favor, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory,” (Mark 10:37). To them it was a reasonable request, for they had been with Jesus from the beginning. How could He deny them? But deny them He did.
The Gospels record that it was two crucified thieves who were at Jesus’ right and left when He came into His kingdom. Ironically if Jesus had granted the two brothers their requests it would have been them hanging next to Him.
As Christians we are much like the sons of Zebedee making all kinds of requests to Jesus that seem quite reasonable. When we don’t receive an answer to our prayer we think, “God is holding out on me,” and we become disillusioned or angry with God. In truth Jesus knows what an answer to our prayer will bring to us, and thus, for our own protection, he does not grant everything we request. Therefore, we are to bring our requests before Jesus with the words, “Your will be done,” and then trust that His answers will always be for God’s glory and our benefit.
A question that is often asked is, “Is it fair of God to punish people for the sins that they do?” Fair question, and the answer is yes if you consider this: If Jesus is God, and he is, and he died on a cross as punishment for our sins, which he did, then the God we proclaim is the kind of God who is willing to take his own punishment, so others will not have to suffer His punishment.
This consideration of God’s willingness to take His own punishment helps us to understand the meanings of the words Grace and mercy. Grace is defined as a favor rendered by one who does not need to do so. Mercy is defined as withholding of a judgment that is deserved. God did not have to suffer His own punishment, but He did so as a favor towards us. Also, God does not have to withhold His judgment against us, but He withholds His judgment toward us out of mercy in the hopes we will accept His grace.
There is only one place in all of history where God’s grace and God’s mercy met, and that was when Jesus was crucified on Calvary’s Mt. It has been said, “On Calvary’s Mt. God’s grace and God’s mercy kissed, and God’s salvation was offered.” Salvation means: The cell doors have been opened, the chains have been loosed, and the prisoners and the slaves have been set free because the payment has been paid.
Jesus, What a Savior,
The essence of any trial is that a fair and honest verdict is arrived at. There is no debate that any of Jesus’ trials were fair, for his accusers spit on Him, mocked Him, and slapped Him. Today, Jesus simply wants each and every individual to give him an honest hearing. A hearing where the evidence is displayed and the witnesses heard. He wants the public things he has done made known, so that everyone can see them and make a judgment. Today, most do not give Jesus a fair hearing, and though they do not spit on Him, mock Him, or slap Him, they do simply turn their backs on him and walk away.
The question the trials were attempting to settle was, “Are you the Christ the Son of God.” (Matt. 26:63)? Because of the way the trials were conducted the question was never resolved, so today we each must answer the question: Who do you say Jesus is? If your answer is, “He is a mad man.” Then I say ignore him. If your verdict is, “He is guilty as charged.” Then I say forget him. However, if you have studied the evidence, looked at the signs, read His discourses, and determined that he is the Christ; then fall at his feet and proclaim him the Christ, the Son of the living God! And then live your life as though you believe that statement.
What is your verdict?
As you read the passion narratives in the Gospels we see Peter, and Judas flanking Jesus as he enters his final days on earth. Their actions are the actions of men who abandoned their divine calling as disciples. They abandoned their calling because they did not draw upon the realities Jesus had displayed to them in his three years of ministry.
Peter the denier, and Judas the betrayer are examples for us today. Judas was never truly a follower of Jesus. You realize this when you read the highest title he ever gave Jesus was “Rabbi,” (Matt 26:25), and never addressed Jesus as “Lord.” The Gospels do not whitewash Peter’s failures. Peter argued with Jesus, disobeyed Jesus, went to sleep when asked to pray with Jesus, ran ahead of Jesus when, in his zeal to help Him, cut off Malchus’ ear, and lastly he denied Jesus.
In Judas and Peter we see ourselves. Each of us must decide: will it be betrayal, the sword or the cup? Will we resist God, or submit to God’s will? At any time we can betray Jesus in any number of ways. At any time we can take up a sword and fight our battles using the wrong weapons. Or at any time a person can lift the cup of salvation to their lips and drink it in faith. The question becomes, which is it for you: Betrayal, the sword or the cup?