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Betrayal – Tuesday of Holy Week

Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread,
has lifted the heel against me. Psalm 41:9

The physical torture that Jesus endured just before His death was so great that only a robust young man could have withstood it at all. Even so, once nailed to the cross, He died within about three hours instead of the usual twenty. And He died before they needed to break his legs to stop yet another painful struggle for one more breath by pushing himself up to gasp for air despite the nails in His feet.

Still, most of us identify with the emotional pain he endured that last day  because of our own suffering. Practically everyone who was graced to be in His presence while He lived on earth ended up stabbing Him in the back although He had loved each of them like they had never been loved before.

The Sadducees and Pharisees, the religious scholars who had researched prophecies about the coming Messiah their entire lives, were actually the ones who finally brought legal charges against Him. The crowds who breathlessly listened to His parables and followed from town to field to experience His miracles  yelled “Barabbas!” when Pilate offered freedom to Jesus. Peter, the one Jesus had chosen to lead after His departure, was in hiding along with other followers after becoming panic stricken that powerless young slave girls recognized him as a disciple.

But, of course, the worst was Judas, who was especially close to Jesus, according to John 13. Like today, the places on either side of the host at dinner were the places of honor. John, the beloved, reclined to the right of Jesus while apparently Judas was the one to His left, the place of highest honor.

If Jesus reclined on His left arm, as was the custom, it would have been natural to pass a morsel of bread to honor the person on His left. Passing to the one of the right would be back-handed and awkward at best.

As Judas ate the food given to honor him, Satan possessed him and he awkwardly left the celebration to earn his thirty pieces of silver.

None of us have experienced such treachery, yet each betrayal we undergo, insignificant or life changing, leaves a scar that heals slowly and painfully. Our own healing depends on our willingness to forgive and let God handle the consequences for us and for the traitor.

God manages to effect change far better than we can even imagine. Just compare the limited vision the disciples had of Jesus’ ruling an earthly kingdom and the kingdom of God as portrayed in Revelation.  They wanted the Jews to be triumphant over the hated Romans. God wanted “the earth to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters that cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

John 13:21-27a

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him.

“If [this virtue] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” Dr. P Murali Doraiswamy

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 Imagine the impact on your life if you just injected a drug every morning to enhance your health, both physically and mentally.  And then, imagine what life would be like if you injected the same drug into all of your family, friends, and even co-workers. No doubt life would be immeasurably better for all.

Doriaswamy, a professor at Duke University, is an internationally recognized expert in brain/mind health and successful aging. And the virtue to which he refers is thankfulness or gratitude. 1

The more frequently you practice it, the better off you are.2 For example, you will experience less anxiety, cope with stress more easily, and sleep better.3 The improvements in your body are measurable in several areas. For example:

  1. Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)

  2. Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

  3. Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

  4. Stress hormones (cortisol)

  5. Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

  6. Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms5

  7. Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)

  8. Blood sugar

Another scientific expert on gratitude is Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis.6 He teaches that gratitude is good for at least four reasons:

  1. Gratitude allows people to actively celebrate the present moment

  2. Gratitude blocks negative emotions like envy or resentment and helps people function better

  3. Gratitude makes people more resistant to stress

  4. Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth

I applaud the researchers who are proving the wisdom of God in the Bible. And proving that the instructions found there are for our good and not to restrict us.

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For some reason, Satan has tricked most of us into believing that obedience to God is painful and futile even though Jesus promised in John 10:10 (Amp): The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

In other words, to have the abundant life one must have an attitude of gratitude.

Sources: 1.ABC News November 23, 2011 – 2.Huffington Post November 22, 2014 – 3. Psychology Today November 9, 2011 – 4.American Journal of Cardiology 1995 Nov. 15:76(14):1089-93 – 5.Greatergood.Berkley.edu

PEACE

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And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body;                 and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15 KJV

Peace is just another five letter word unless you’ve struggled with anxiety, unless you’ve suddenly awakened in a panic wondering how you will be able to survive one more day in the mess you find yourself in, or unless you put on your glasses to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, but find only blackness no matter how hard you squint your eyes. It is a positive good, not just the absence of conflict. Indeed, real peace is possible in the midst of uncertainty and conflict.

Peace is a pearl of great price the we can only acquire from God Himself. We might acquire it when we have made the difficult, but good decision or done the truly loving deed. Once experienced, we long to live in that peace again and we joyfully let go of bad habits and preconceptions into order to feel it again.

The peace of God is the perfect high that all people pursue. Unfortunately, most of us seek it in the wrong places and in the wrong way, totally unaware that God hardwired us to seek it through Him. Although sexual fulfillment is a wonderful gift from God to all husbands and wives who wholly give themselves to each other, it is not the ultimate high. The peace of God is a greater, more lasting high that is readily available to all: married, single, old, young, educated, illiterate, rich, or poor.

Seeking the peace of God propelled Mother Teresa into the streets of Calcutta to joyfully care for the  abandoned ones, the untouchables. She herself said that she wouldn’t do it even for a million dollars, but she gladly did it for the love of God even when the rest of the world watched with disgust, curled lips, and disbelief. She and the many people who followed her into her ministry from all over the world were the happiest people one could ever find.

Perhaps we anxious ones could learn a lesson from her. . . .

 

ROMANS 15:13   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

 I THESSALONIANS 5:23-24   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged—consecrated to Him—set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 HEBREWS 13:20-21   Now may the God of peace [the source of serenity and spiritual well-being] who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood that sealed and ratified the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing to carry out His will and strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be], accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

II PETER 1:2    Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

COLOSSIANS 3:15   Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

The last group of  quotations are from The Amplified Bible.

 

Mary Was NOT An Unwed Mother

I cringe when someone speaks of the Virgin Mary was an unwed mother, usually in a silly attempt to make the Christmas story “relevant” for today’s licentious audience. Such people not only blaspheme, they reveal their own ignorance of Jewish wedding customs.

The Jewish wedding employed two ceremonies before completion and consummation for thousands of years, although very recently they have begun merging them into one. At the first one, the betrothal or kiddushin, the couple promise to remain faithful to each other until “death do us part.” A written contract, ketubah, is completed where the groom promises to provide for the bride and the bride promises to keep herself for him. A religious divorce is required to nullify the marriage after this point. Only the groom can ask for one if he finds something untoward in his bride.

In the time of Joseph and Mary, each then went back home to live with family while the groom prepared a home for his bride, often by adding rooms to his father’s house. When his father decided that the new quarters were ready for the bride, then the groom and his friends went through the town to get the bride and bring her to the new home.

There, another ceremony takes place with vows and blessings under the wedding canopy.[1]

This nissuin is the ceremony that permits the bride to her husband and permits the consummation of the marriage. The party usually lasts seven days and friends and family join in the celebration.[2]

Therefore, Mary was legally bound to Joseph when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. When it became known that she was with child, Joseph began considering a quiet divorce to spare her as much as possible. But the Lord God told him to stay in the marriage to protect and provide for Mary and the child in her womb. She was wed the whole time, but conceived by the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.

Interesting Side Note: When one studies the common wedding practices of at the time of Jesus, he gets a new appreciation of John 14:12-13

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.