"Before religion made it all about what we believe, Jesus was all about how we love."
The Apostle Paul encourages us to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" as we come closer to Jesus in his Word in the New Testament, in prayer, and in loving one another as Jesus loved us. It's easy to be conformed to the values of power and prestige and possessions - after all, we are bombarded with those values everywhere, every day. Let's follow the Savior and live transformed lives that bring joy for eternity!
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the morning we now call Palm Sunday, the people shouted "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" This phrase would have been on their minds since it is from Psalm 118, one of the Psalms called the Hallel, which was recited every Passover. Those lining the road were witnesses of God's prophetic Word coming to pass, coming true at last!
Jesus tells Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." This is the truth upon which our faith - and all of Christianity - stands or falls. Jesus said he would be killed and that he would rise again & defeat death. Then he went to Jerusalem and did just that - and there are four written accounts from eyewitnesses. Proof positive!
When Jesus gave the disciples (and all of us) a new commandment, it wasn't meant to be ADDED on top of all the laws and commandments of the Old Covenant. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another" is the one new commandment of the New Covenant. And the one new commandment is meant to REPLACE all the laws and commandments of the Old Covenant. Why? Because if we truly love others as Jesus loved us, we fulfiull all the law and all the old commandments - with no loopholes, no exceptions, no fine print. It's LOVE that motivates us as Jesus Followers, not laws.
The Apostle John, in his first letter, confirms, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is made complete in us.” Wow! If we want to make the most of the Lord's love, the key is loving other people!
It’s raining this morning as I share this. When Jesus is teaching the New Covenant – that God loves everyone – he states, “God causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.” We, as 21st century Christians, may think that means bad stuff happens to good as well as not-so-good people. Like “rain on my parade…” But to Jesus’s listeners it meant the opposite. Rain was a blessing! In a very dry, almost desert country, if the spring and fall rains didn’t come, people would go hungry. God loves the lovable and the unlovable – and asks us to do the same.
The Pharisees always accused Jesus of breaking the law by mixing with the “unclean.” They didn’t understand that Jesus came to replace the Old Covenant, not add to it or tweak it. Cleanliness to Jesus means the heart, not the exterior. Jesus believed and modeled that many of the folks with the dirtiest hands have the purest hearts!
Complaining about what we don’t have – and wading through ads that try to convince us we can’t live without it – seems to be an American pastime. When Jesus is teaching on the hillside and more than 5,000 need to eat, the disciples urge him to send them away to get food. Jesus looks at them and responds, “You give them something to eat.” Simple, direct, true. This Lent, let’s use what gifts and resources we DO have to bless others – and see how the Lord does His awesome multiplication miracle in our lives too!
Luke tells us, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Jesus chose to move toward Jerusalem, knowing what would happen there. Can you imagine?