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This Is loveThe Extraordinary Story of Jesus
By MAX LUCADO
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHIS DEATH
The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier.
It encircled the angels and starstruck the shepherds in the Bethlehem pasture.
Jesus radiates it.
John beheld it.
Peter witnessed it on Transfiguration Hill.
Christ will return enthroned in it.
Heaven will be illuminated by it.
One glimpse, one taste, one sampling, and your faith will never be the same ...
Glory. God's glory.
Every act of heaven reveals God's glory. Every act of Jesus did the same.
IT'S NOT ABOUT ME
Mercy IS THE DEEPEST GESTURE of kindness.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, ... and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. JOHN 13:2–5 NIV
Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet
IT HAS BEEN A LONG DAY. Jerusalem is packed with Passover guests, most of whom clamor for a glimpse of the Teacher. The spring sun is warm. The streets are dry. And the disciples are a long way from home. A splash of cool water would be refreshing.
The disciples enter [the room], one by one, and take their places around the table. on the wall hangs a towel, and on the floor sits a pitcher and a basin. Any one of the disciples could volunteer for the job, but not one does.
After a few moments, Jesus stands and removes his outer garment. He wraps a servant's girdle around his waist, takes up the basin, and kneels before one of the disciples. He unlaces a sandal and gently lifts the foot and places it in the basin, covers it with water, and begins to bathe it. one by one, one grimy foot after another, Jesus works his way down the row.
In Jesus' day the washing of feet was a task reserved not just for servants, but for the lowest of servants.... The servant at the bottom of the totem pole was expected to be the one on his knees with the towel and basin.
In this case the one with the towel and basin is the King of the universe. Hands that shaped the stars now wash away filth. Fingers that formed mountains now massage toes. And the one before whom all nations will one day kneel now kneels before his disciples. Hours before his own death, Jesus' concern is singular. He wants his disciples to know how much he loves them....
You can be sure Jesus knows the future of these feet he is washing. These twenty-four feet will not spend the next day following their Master, defending his cause. These feet will dash for cover at the flash of a Roman sword. only one pair of feet won't abandon him in the garden.... Judas won't even make it that far! He will abandon Jesus that very night at the table....
What a passionate moment when Jesus silently lifts the feet of his betrayer and washes them in the basin.
Jesus knows what these men are about to do. He knows they are about to perform the vilest act of their lives. By morning they will bury their heads in shame and look down at their feet in disgust. And when they do, he wants them to remember how his knees knelt before them and he washed their feet....
He forgave their sin before they even committed it. He offered mercy before they even sought it.
Just Like Jesus
The Sufferings of His Broken Heart
GO WITH ME FOR A MOMENT to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you'll recognize it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.
Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that person? See that solitary figure? What's he doing? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on his forehead?
That's Jesus. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Maybe you've seen the classic portrait of Christ in the garden. Kneeling beside a big rock. Snow-white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on his face. Halo over his head. A spotlight from heaven illuminating his golden-brown hair.
Now, I'm no artist, but I can tell you one thing. The man who painted that picture didn't use the Gospel of Mark as a pattern. When Mark wrote about that painful night, he used phrases like these: "Horror and dismay came over him," "My heart is ready to break with grief," and "He went a little forward and threw himself on the ground."
Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a "man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3 NASB). We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.
We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.
The writer of Hebrews would later pen, "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death" (Hebrews 5:7 NIV).
My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.
The next time the fog finds you, you might do well to remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think that no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees.
The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you'll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.
Jesus Betrayed by Judas
WHEN BETRAYAL COMES, what do you do? Get out? Get angry? Get even? You have to deal with it some way. Let's see how Jesus dealt with it.
Begin by noticing how Jesus saw Judas. "Jesus answered, 'Friend, do what you came to do'" (Matthew 26:50 NCV).
Of all the names I would have chosen for Judas, it would not have been "friend." What Judas did to Jesus was grossly unfair. There is no indication that Jesus ever mistreated Judas. There is no clue that Judas was ever left out or neglected. When, during the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that his betrayer sat at the table, they didn't turn to one another and whisper, "It's Judas. Jesus told us he would do this."
They didn't whisper it because Jesus never said it. He had known it. He had known what Judas would do, but he treated the betrayer as if he were faithful.
It's even more unfair when you consider the betrayal was Judas' idea. The religious leaders didn't seek him; Judas sought them. "What will you pay me for giving Jesus to you?" he asked (Matthew 26:15 NCV). The betrayal would have been more palatable had Judas been propositioned by the leaders, but he wasn't. He propositioned them.
And Judas' method ... again, why did it have to be a kiss? (Matthew 26:48–49).
And why did he have to call him "Teacher"? (Matthew 26:49). That's a title of respect. The incongruity of his words, deeds, and actions—I wouldn't have called Judas "friend."
But that is exactly what Jesus called him.
Why? Jesus could see something we can't....
Jesus knew Judas had been seduced by a powerful foe. He was aware of the wiles of Satan's whispers (he had just heard them himself). He knew how hard it was for Judas to do what was right.
He didn't justify what Judas did. He didn't minimize the deed. Nor did he release Judas from his choice. But he did look eye to eye with his betrayer and try to understand.
As long as you hate your enemy, a jail door is closed and a prisoner is taken. But when you try to understand and release your foe from your hatred, then the prisoner is released and that prisoner is you.
AND THE ANGELS WERE SILENT
John tells us that "Judas came there with a group of soldiers and some guards from the leading priests and Pharisees" (JOHN 18:3 NCV).... * I always had the impression that a handful of soldiers arrested Jesus. I was wrong. At minimum two hundred soldiers were dispatched to deal with a single carpenter and his eleven friends!) * Also present were "some guards." This was the temple police. They were assigned to guard the holiest place during the busiest time of the year. They must have been among Israel's finest. * And then there was Judas. one of the inner circle. Not only had Satan recruited the Romans and the Jews, he had infiltrated the cabinet. Hell must have been rejoicing. There was no way Jesus could escape. Satan sealed every exit. His lieutenants anticipated every move, except one. * Jesus had no desire to run. He had no intent of escape. He hadn't come to the garden to retreat. What they found among the trees was no coward; what they found was a conqueror.
A Gentle Thunder
Peter Denies Knowing Jesus
Peter had bragged, "Everyone else may stumble ... but I will not" (Matthew 26:33 NCV). Yet he did....
He stood and stepped out of hiding and followed the noise till he saw the torch-lit jury in the courtyard of Caiaphas.
He stopped near a fire and warmed his hands.... Other people near the fire recognized him. "You were with him," they challenged. "You were with the Nazarene." Three times people said it, and each time Peter denied it. And each time Jesus heard it.
Please understand that the main character in this drama of denial is not Peter, but Jesus. Jesus, who knows the hearts of all people, knew the denial of his friend. Three times the salt of Peter's betrayal stung the wounds of the Messiah.
How do I know Jesus knew? Because of what he did. Then "the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61 NIV). When the rooster crowed, Jesus turned. His eyes searched for Peter and they found him. At that moment there were no soldiers, no accusers, no priests. At that predawn moment in Jerusalem there were only two people—Jesus and Peter. Peter would never forget that look.
The judge is short and patrician with darting eyes and expensive clothes. His graying hair trimmed and face beardless. He is apprehensive, nervous about being thrust into a decision he can't avoid. Two soldiers lead him down the stone stairs of the fortress into the broad courtyard. Shafts of morning sunlight stretch across the stone floor.
As he enters, Syrian soldiers dressed in short togas yank themselves and their spears erect and stare straight ahead. The floor on which they stand is a mosaic of broad, brown, smooth rocks. on the floor are carved the games the soldiers play while awaiting the sentencing of the prisoner.
But in the presence of the procurator, they don't play.
A regal chair is placed on a landing five steps up from the floor. The magistrate ascends and takes his seat. The accused is brought into the room and placed below him. A covey of robed religious leaders follow, walk over to one side of the room, and stand.
Pilate looks at the lone figure....
"Are you the king of the Jews?"
For the first time, Jesus lifts his eyes. He doesn't raise his head, but he lifts his eyes. He peers at the procurator from beneath his brow. Pilate is surprised at the tone in Jesus' voice.
"Those are your words."
Before Pilate can respond, the knot of Jewish leaders mock the accused from the side of the courtroom.
"See, he has no respect."
"He stirs the people!"
"He claims to be king!"
Pilate doesn't hear them. "Those are your words." No defense. No explanation. No panic. The Galilean is looking at the floor again.
Something about this country rabbi appeals to Pilate. He's different from the bleeding hearts who cluster outside. He's not like the leaders with the chest-length beards who one minute boast of a sovereign God and the next beg for lower taxes. His eyes are not the fiery ones of the zealots who are such a pain to the Pax Romana he tries to keep. He's different, this upcountry Messiah....
Pilate wants to let Jesus go. Just give me a reason, he thinks, almost aloud. I'll set you free.
His thoughts are interrupted by a tap on the shoulder. A messenger leans and whispers. Strange. Pilate's wife has sent word not to get involved in the case. Something about a dream she had.
Pilate walks back to his chair, sits, and stares at Jesus. "Even the gods are on your side?" he states with no explanation.
He has sat in this chair before. It's a curule seat: cobalt blue with thick, ornate legs. The traditional seat of decision. By sitting on it Pilate transforms any room or street into a courtroom. It is from here he renders decisions.
How many times has he sat here? How many stories has he heard?
How many pleas has he received? How many wide eyes have stared at him, pleading for mercy, begging for acquittal?
But the eyes of this Nazarene are calm, silent. They don't scream. They don't dart. Pilate searches them for anxiety ... for anger. He doesn't find it. What he finds makes him shift again.
He's not angry with me. He's not afraid ... he seems to understand.
Pilate is correct in his observation. Jesus is not afraid. He is not angry. He is not on the verge of panic. For he is not surprised. Jesus knows his hour and the hour has come.
Pilate is correct in his curiosity. Where, if Jesus is a leader, are his followers? What, if he is the Messiah, does he intend to do? Why, if he is a teacher, are the religious leaders so angry at him?
Pilate is also correct in his question. "What should I do with Jesus, the one called the Christ?" (Matthew 27:22 ncv).
Perhaps you, like Pilate, are curious about this one called Jesus. You, like Pilate, are puzzled by his claims and stirred by his passions....
What do you do with a man who calls himself the Savior, yet condemns systems? What do you do with a man who knows the place and time of his death, yet goes there anyway?
Pilate's question is yours. "What will I do with this man, Jesus?"
You have two choices.
You can reject him. That is an option. You can, as have many, decide that the idea of God's becoming a carpenter is too bizarre—and walk away.
or you can accept him. You can journey with him. You can listen for his voice amid the hundreds of voices and follow him.
And the Angels Were Silent
Jesus was angry enough to purge the temple, hungry enough to eat raw grain, distraught enough to weep in public, fun loving enough to be called a drunkard, winsome enough to attract kids, weary enough to sleep in a storm-bounced boat, poor enough to sleep on dirt and borrow a coin for a sermon illustration, radical enough to get kicked out of town, responsible enough to care for his mother, tempted enough to know the smell of Satan, and fearful enough to sweat blood.
WHY? Why would heaven's finest Son endure earth's toughest pain? So you would know that "he is able ... to run to the cry of ... those who are being tempted and tested and tried" (Hebrews 2:18 AMP). Whatever you are facing, he knows how you feel.
NEXT DOOR SAVIOR
Excerpted from This Is love by MAX LUCADO Copyright © 2009 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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