This is post #17 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Click here to listen to the podcast version of this blog!
Today’s Lectio Divina: “Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse. You can’t squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah’s son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I’m telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation. Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God’s news! How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let Me. And now you’re so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I’m out of here soon. The next time you see Me you’ll say, ‘Oh, God has blessed Him! He’s come, bringing God’s rule!’”Matthew 23: 33-39 (MsgB)
The words Jesus uses here in today’s passage should send shivers down our spines.
And when I say that, I mean it in two ways.
First, we should shudder when we read the verdict Jesus is pronouncing on the leadership team of God’s church as they are leading God’s people from the Holy City of Jerusalem. Keep in mind that this is not a curse of evil. You see, a curse from God’s perspective, is never an intentional act of violence or evil but simply a withdrawal of God’s protective hand.
Think of it this way.
Our planet is surrounded by an atmosphere made up of seven different layers. Each layer has a specific purpose in the makeup of our planet and when combined in the right order these layers give us the perfect environment where everything we call life can flourish on this little blue marble we call Earth. The Ozone Layer is just one of those seven layers, but if it becomes damaged in some way (i.e. global warming, etc.) this Ozone Layer will become much less effective in deflecting dangerous ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun. If we removed it completely, life on this planet would almost certainly die.
So, when Jesus pronounces these harsh words toward Jerusalem and the church leaders of His day, He is not saying that this good God we’ve been hearing about is suddenly going become a bully and is about to beat them up. But what Jesus is saying is that this good God that they have been rejecting is going to still love them but will, in response to their rejection, remove a layer of His protective love from their city and from their lives.
In earthly terms, it’s much like saying, since we humans are not stewarding our planet as we should or could, one of the natural consequences is that the Ozone Layer is being reduced, leaving us in a very dangerous, unprotected state.
Wow, and was Jesus right.
In its unprotected state, Jerusalem and all of first-century Israel would basically disappear from the world map for nearly 1900 years! Only in the late 18th century did Jewish pilgrims, who had been scattered to the four corners of the world since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., start returning to their homeland.
You see, this brings us to the second shiver down our spines.
Our loving God, Creator of all, looks at our broken lives, looks at our violence-prone cities, looks upon the warring nations, and has only one emotion.
Those who say that God is ready to judge and destroy just don’t understand the deep nature of the agape love within our heavenly Father.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, the city that has chosen to reject God’s prophets and now is about to reject His Son.
Jesus doesn’t call down fire and brimstone upon these scoffers and unbelievers. He cries.
As I see it, God never stops loving people, He only removes a layer of His protective covering in response to our rejection, which then naturally leads to an unprotected condition where the enemy and the flesh have much less resistance when it comes to its desire to steal, kill and destroy.
So, friends, let’s stop blaming God for all of our troubles.
Maybe we need to do just the opposite. Let’s start inviting God and His protective love back into our lives, our cities, and our nations. Let’s start abiding in His presence, allowing His protective love to permeate our existence, flowing outwardly toward others. Let’s stop the active hatred, invite our loving God back into the mix, allowing His pro-active peace and love to cover us all.
For the greater glory of God.
My Prayer: God, I see in You a loving, caring nature, a motherly caring that desires to hold and nurture us just as a mother cares for a nursing child. Holy Spirit, remind me to never blame God for evil activity nor accuse Him of not caring for His creation. It’s only our on-going rejection of His love that removes us from His protective care, setting us up for evil that comes from the enemy and the flesh. Lord, come restore Your protective covering over us. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions to Ponder: Where have I rejected the invitations of Christ, setting me up for going it alone? Is evil winning or the flesh prevailing, not because God is ordaining it, but because I have chosen to live outside the protective covering found only in His presence? What might my return back to the loving, caring embrace of God look like in my life today?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!
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