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When Jesus Shared His Breadstick

Piping hot, buttery, golden brown, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, a hint of garlic.  Breadsticks.  Doughy shafts of carbohydrated joy.  How do you make a breadstick better?  Dip it in something, like cheese.  Everyone likes breadsticks.  Even Jesus!

The text is John 13:18-30.  Jesus is kickin' back with his buddies.  Back in this time, folks would recline back on the floor (sometimes on a cushion) near the table, which did not rise up very high like tables today.  It seems informal.  Jesus usually is informal.
One time my sisters and I visited a church that did Communion (Read this for a good understanding of Communion) different than we were used to.  We were used to the tiny individual cups and little unsalted oyster crackers.  This church practiced dipping a chunk of bread in a goblet of juice.  My sister, clearly in culture shock, grabbed the goblet from the pastor's hands and took a healthy swig from the beautifully embellished cup.  I giggled hard.  No one judged her, they were a kind church.  But we did all have a good laugh after service!
Toward the end of this Last Supper with Jesus before he was to die, there wasn't much giggling.  They may have had great conversation up until this point...  Jesus turned serious,

"Remember the scripture in Psalm 41, where it says the 'one who shares my bread has turned against me?' "

Uh oh.  Here are the closest friends of Jesus... all sharing bread with him!  Hearts dropped and pulses picked up as they began to speculate.  Jesus spoke on.

"I'm not talking about all y'all; I know who I chose.  I'm telling you this before it happens so when it does, you will believe that I am who I am."

The Bible then makes a clear point in verse 21 that Jesus was troubled in his spirit before he spoke next.  Can you imagine knowing the future?  Actually seeing ahead in time to find one you dearly loved would bitterly betray you to be murdered?  That is what Jesus saw.  He continued plainly,

"One of you is going to betray me."

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss of words.  Who would betray their best friend and Lord?

There was some chatter, eye glances, and whispers.  Finally John, who was leaning up against Jesus as they let their last supper settle, asked discretely, "Jesus, who will betray you?"

"The one who I share this bread and dip with."

Jesus then grabbed a piece of bread, dipped it, and handed it to Judas.  OK, wait.  I gotta pause here.  This is strangely intimate.
Look, I do not share my cheese dip.  I don't know if you will double-dip, have dirty hands, or what.  Yet Jesus shares with Judas.  Jesus, the thrower of the feast, the main man at the party, serves Judas, the guy who is gonna have Jesus killed.  Some say the master of a feast would share his dip with the honored guest.  Judas... honored guest??

This is Judas' chance!  His shot at redemption.  Jesus knows Judas is about to hand him over to the murderers, but still offers him redemption... honor.

It is as if this one gesture said,  "Judas, you have messed up big time and you're planning to mess up again, but I still love you.  Won't you skip your selfish ways and just love me back?"

Jesus says to Judas, "What you're gonna do, do it quickly."

Maybe I'm reading into this verse too much.  I believe Judas didn't want to see Jesus viciously murdered.  I think Judas wanted to have him arrested so he would be forced to do some mega-miracle and save himself and establish an earthly kingdom.  After all, if Jesus would be arrested, Jesus could save himself, set up a kingdom and Judas would have a prominent spot since he was a disciple.

Judas missed the whole point.  Jesus needed to save humans not from external emperors but from their own sin.  The only way to do this was to be a perfect, sinless sacrifice.  Not by setting up an earthly kingdom.  That will come in the future.  For now, Jesus had to save people from Hell.

So when Jesus said, "Do what you are gonna do quick" I think there was an option there for Judas.  Jesus may have been saying,

"If you are going to betray me, do it now so we can get it over with...
but if you are going to turn from your evil ways and follow me again, do it now."


Wanna Peace of Me, ISIS?!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Jesus spoke those words a couple millennia ago, but don’t they seem more true every day?  John recorded them in his gospel, chapter sixteen, verse thirty-three.  In this world you (yes, you) will have trouble.

ISIS.  Islam.  Jihadists.  Terrorists.  Al Qaeda.  The Taliban.  Mohammad.  Allah Akbar.  Jesus.

To be honest, I did not enjoy typing those words.  But typing Jesus after them felt like spraying a fire with an extinguisher.  Isn’t there a stark contrast between Mohammad and Jesus?  Let us consider Mary Magdalene.

Many Muslims practice female genital mutilation to keep women from experiencing sexual pleasure.  Many Muslims require strict dress guidelines and head coverings for women.  Many Muslim women are raped and/or forced into marriage at ages as young as nine years.  When women are raped, if they report it, they are often beat for being “promiscuous.”  In Muslim courts, a woman’s testimony is worth only half that as a man’s testimony, anyway.

Mary Magdalene had seven demons.  Some assume she is the same woman who “was a sinner” (Luke chapter seven, thirty-six through fifty), which many assume meant she was a hooker.  Jesus met Mary Magdalene, and with his authority sent the demons she had packing and she began to follow him.  Jesus did not force her to follow.  She willingly followed a man who loved her in spite of her demons and past.  Jesus made no conditions besides, “Just follow me and see what I do for you.”

Why wouldn’t she love the guy who saved her life?  It was not a humanly romantic love.  It was the undying gratitude of grace-saved girl who was on her way to hell until Jesus stepped in.

Sometimes, all hope seems totally lost.  At a time when it seems like radical Islam rules the world, a savior is whispering your name.  He saying, “Shh, calm down.  Take my peace.”

In John chapter twenty, verses eleven through eighteen, Mary is approaching the burial site of Jesus.  How could he die?  He raised others from death… he spoke hope and joy… he calmed storms and multiplied food for hungry folks and opened blind eyes and mended broken hearts and saved people from hell… yet there was the tomb up ahead.

As she got closer, her heart dropped, eyes opened wide, and pulse beat hard in her ears and chest.  The grave is opened!  She began crying, hard.  Oh, Mary.  God loved you so much!  We read how God sent two of his angelic messengers to calm her heart.  They sat on the grave-table where Jesus had lay.  “Why are you crying?”  They asked her.

“They took Jesus away!”  Can’t you hear the hopelessness in her voice?  She turned away from the tomb and then saw another man.  He asked the same.  “Why are you crying?”

She supposed this guy was the grave-site gardener.  She begged him, “Sir, if you took his body just tell me and I will take care of it!”  Anxious frustration probably leaked through her words.  The body of the only one who ever could care for her with a perfect and undying love was dead, but now even his corpse was gone!

Then the man spoke her name.  “Mary.”

Have you ever burnt yourself and then put ice on the burn?  Isn’t it amazing how the coolness  quickly brings relief and the pain melts away?  I bet that is how Mary’s heart felt as she heard that familiar voice whisper her name.  The man was Jesus.  He is alive.

I am crazy enough to believe Jesus is saying your name right now.  Can you hear him?  He wants to calm your heart.  He is not dead, he is alive, kickin’, and ready to give you his peace.   “Peace be with you.”

Pair of Dice for Paradise?

Never roll the dice when it comes to Paradise. Once I replied to a video advocating a popular book on Atheism. In my response video, I encouraged debate, reasoning, and searching, but in the end to make sure whatever you place all your trust in won’t let you down in the end.

I trust in Jesus because to me, he seems most logical, most loving and safe. Worst case scenario, I rot in a grave. Best case scenario, my last breath in my dying body means my first breath of celestial air in Paradise.

Luke chapter twenty-three verses thirty-two through forty-three gives us Luke’s account of the death of Jesus on the cross. In it we find an event unique to Luke’s gospel–Jesus’ conversation with the dying convict.
Jesus did not die on the pretty jewel studded cross we see on rappers’ chains nor on the lofty spotlighted cross of cathedrals. Rather his cross was one of dirt, blood, and splinters. His cross was flanked by fellow convicts’ crosses, on a hill nicknamed “The Skull.”

The story goes like this: “You’re the Savior, right? Get to saving then! Here we are hanging, what’s the hold up?” One of the criminals hanging on another cross shouted out.

But the other convict was wise. This second criminal knew his romping days were done for. If you rarely think about Heaven now, you will the day you reckon you’re going to die. Now was not the day for this criminal to roll the dice on Paradise. He knew if there was ever a shot at settling his account with God, Jesus was his best bet. His check book was way in the negative and he was hoping Jesus’ death was the deposit he needed to break even.

The second criminal yelled at the first mocking one, “Don’t you have any fear of a just God? You and I are hanging here because we deserve it, but this man ain’t never done nothing wrong!”
Then he turned to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”
What a confession!

Essentially he said, “Jesus, you’re perfect.
Jesus, I revere you and your holiness.
Jesus, I deserve this death for my deeds but you don’t. When you rule and reign, please remember me.”

We do not have a recite a “repeat after me” prayer like the TV preacher talks about (though there ain’t much wrong with that). Jesus just wants us to know who he is, what he did for us, and why. Then we follow his lead.

He is holy.
He died as a propitiation (http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/propitiation) for us.
Because he loves us. Then we follow his lead.
That confession was all it took for Jesus to pour out free-flowing love on this dying man as Jesus’ free-flowing blood spilled down the cross. This same blood figuratively washed away this confessing criminal’s crimes, and it can wash away all our wrong deeds, too.

So why roll the dice? Why risk it? If you never gave Jesus a good hearty try, try him now. Talk to him! So what if you feel loony at first? Jesus promises Paradise in the after-life forever. Curious about all that? Read Revelation chapters twenty-one and twenty-two: A recreated perfect Earth forever with a recreated perfect body and perfect food and drink and a whole perfect universe to explore while kickin’ it with Jesus? Yes, please.

No more gambling my eternal life in this life. I wanna get to the next one.

Jesus replied to the man, “I tell you the truth, this very day you will be with me in Paradise.”

Questions about God?