Who was Jesus and why did He die such a terrible death?
He himself said: "I lay down my life that I might take it up again".
No mere man could seriously make this seemingly preposterous claim and many other similar declarations, if they were not true.
To His followers, the Jewish leaders, the Roman authorities and various common folk, Jesus identified with the great "I am" (the eternal God) first mentioned in the Old testament account of Moses' encounter with God on Mt. Sinai. He also claimed to be the "Messiah" the savior of Israel and the world, "the Light of the world" "the Way, the Truth and the Life" "the son of God" and other claims which could only be attributed to the Divine.
But lest any say " he talked a good talk" He said " If you dont believe what I say, believe the works that I do" pointing people to the supernatural miracles that He performed: Raising the dead, healing all manner of sickness and disease, walking on water, feeding thousands from a loaf of bread and two fish, demonstrating His power over wind and weather, just to name a few.
Why then, would a man of such power and might allow himself to suffer the cruelest, most ignominious of deaths at the hands of evil men?
The answers can be found in detail in the writings of Paul and the intimate disciples of Jesus in the New Testament or the proclamation of John the Baptist: "This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world"
The most amazing explanation, however can be found in the writings of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, who 750 years earlier foresaw and explained the suffering and death of Jesus the Messiah, in these words: "He was despised and rejected of men"- "He took our infirmities"- "He was pierced for our transgressions" - "by His wounds, we are healed" -"the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all"- "He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors" all quotes from Isaiah chapt.53.
Thank God though, that was not the finale as three days later in the greatest miracle of all, He arose body and soul from the dead and promised eternal life to all who believe in him.
The type of love that is generally celebrated on St. Valentines day is what the Greeks called Eros or Romantic love. Valentine, who lived in the 4th century ,over time has become identified with that type of love, though it was his devotion to Agape-Love of God-for which he became well known, suffered martyrdom and became a Saint..
Perhaps, though the best description of love ever written and a wonderful example of the same would be that of Saul of Tarsus, who before his conversion was consumed by murderous hatred. After his conversion, this Apostle of love, Saint Paul- the prime example of Love's transforming power would give the the world these beautiful, enduring words "Love suffers long and is kind, Love does not envy, Is not easily provoked and is not jealous, Does not exalt itself, Seeks not its own- Thinks no evil. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails"
All loves- Agape(Gods love), Eros(romantic) Philo(friendship) are important and all have their place in a well lived , meaningful life, but as C.S. Lewis says; "Agape by definition is the highest and most unselfish of these loves"
Prophecy: 750 B.C. Isaiah, the greatest of the Hebrew prophets writing about this time,
prophesied a supernatural event that would occur, far into the future: "Therefore ,the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
Fullfilled; The Gospel writer and disciple of Jesus, Matthew, records the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary @ the year AD.1 Luke the Evangelist, and Author of the Gospel of Luke records the event and many other details of the birth and childhood of Jesus, which many historians agree, he must have gotten directly from Mary, herself. Luke lived and travelled in the same places, geographically as Mary and would have most likely conversed with her.
Prophecy; In Isaiah 9; 6,7 An astounding prophecy is recorded: "For unto us , a CHILD is born , unto us a SON is given, and he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Fulfilled; Jesus himself in response to the Jewish leaders questioning His authority said "Before Abraham was ( @2000 B.C.) I AM." thus identifying himself with the God who responded to Moses's question on Mount Sinai ."Who shall I say sent me?" " I AM that I AM" was the response. Again Jesus stated ;"I and my Father are one"
The doubting disciple Thomas on seeing the resurrected Jesus proclaimed " My Lord and my God"
All the new testament Writers, including those who lived intimately with him, believed that Jesus was God incarnate.
Prophecy; Micah 5:2 "But you Bethlehem, though you are small, out of you will come forth the ruler whose origins are from old, from ancient times."
Fulfilled; The Gospels record that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
God's Garden, our delight.
We do our part, we plant, we sow
but one thing's certain, this we know
only God can make it grow.
Rain, rain beating against the pane
From the blackened sky, I wonder why?
Flowers, flowers up-springing after showers
Ah! God has explained why it has rained!
No matter what's going on around us, we can be certain that to God, all life matters!
Jesus himself affirmed this when he said "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies and not one of them is forgotten before God, indeed the very hairs of your head are numbered" Luke 12:16. If we have any doubt about that, we need only to reflect on the life of the Bumblebee and it's vital importance to the existence and well-being of humankind.
"Turn,Turn,Turn" Cover. Composed by Pete Seeger, great Singer,Songwriter and Social reformer, during the 1960's. Words from the Bible .Eccleasstes Chapter 3. A #1 hit for The Byrds,popular Folk Rock group from the same era.
Although, he is not mentioned by name, in the Gospel account, Christian tradition identifies the penitent thief as Dismas. It is not clear why Dismas is condemned to such a cruel, painful death as Crucifixion, which the Romans normally reserved for more serious crimes- such as Rebellion and Murder,etc. not Thievery.
Perhaps, Dismas was just unlucky and robbed the wrong person at the wrong time.
The other thief in the same ordeal, joined the crowd in insults and mockery of the dying "Saviour" their companion, in the terrible scene.
Dismas, however, responded differently.
He had probably lived a wasted, insignificant life and had little if anything to commend him to God for any kind of eternal reward or redemption.
Broken, bleeding and naked and with no visible hope, he took responsibility for his wasted life and refused to blame God or anyone for his condition "We have received our just reward, but, this man(Jesus) has done nothing wrong." His dying plea- "Lord ,remember me" was answered with the most comforting words, any dying person could possibly hear in their final moments;
"Today, you will be with me in Paradise"
A famous poet penned these unforgettable lines " I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree" A more recent poet, deploring the unsightly signs and billboards littering our modern landscape, countered with his own version" I think that I shall never see, a billboard lovely as a tree" They are both right. Trees are very beautiful and of enormous importance, in so many ways, to the well being of our planet and its inhabitants.
In the Bible, the oldest and most widely read book in the world, there are many allusions to trees, almost always spoken of, respectfully and reverentially and are symbolic of goodness and strength. From the "tree of life" and the "tree of good and evil" in Genesis, Gen.2:9, the first book of the Bible to the "tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations" in the last book, Revelation. Rev.22:2.
Jesus compared himself to a tree; " I am the vine( the trunk) you are the branches" John.15:1 and after a life of giving, under whose branches so many found safety, protection and peace - He was cut down and hanged on a wooden cross( a tree) but in his death, like the tree, he continued his noble service of giving and providing shelter and a home to the wandering and the weary.
Wisdom is compared to a tree: "She (Wisdom) is a tree of life, to those who embrace her "Proverbs 3:18
A Just man is compared to a tree; "He is like a tree, planted by the rivers of waters"
Those who love God and serve others are referred to as trees; "They will be called trees of righteousness" Isaiah 61:3
The poet referred to earlier finishes his poem with this beautiful thought; "Poems were made by fools like me, but only God could make a tree"
May God bless you and keep you like trees, fruitful and ever-growing
To encourage love for God and each other as the best answer to to all of life's problems and perplexities- personal and communal, including the ultimate goal of eternal peace and fulfillment.
We look forward to hearing from you!