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  • # 214 Mercy and Evidence

    Jesus repeats his question, "Whom do you want?"

    "Jesus of Nazareth" they say again.

    "I've told you I am he. If it's me you want, let these go," he points to his followers, knowing their faith is weak, wanting to shield them.

    Judas has told the soldiers to take the one he kisses--the customary greeting for friends. So now he pretends to have nothing to do with the mob, and taking Jesus hand as a friend he kisses him saying, "Greetings, Master."

    "Friend, have you come to betray me with a kiss?" asks Jesus, but he doesn't refuse it.

    Seeing Judas touch Jesus, the soldiers grow bold enough to bind him.

    The disciples can't believe he lets them take him. They are disappointed; outraged. Peter takes his sword to fight and defend him, but only cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant.

    Jesus can't help himself, releasing his rope-bound hands, he says to his guards, "Allow this much," and he touches the servant's ear, restoring it perfectly. And then turning to Peter, "Put away your sword, those who take the sword will perish by it. Just know that if I asked, my Father would send twelve legions of angels, but then how would I fulfill my destiny? Shall I not accept this cup I've chosen to drink?"

    Terrified and angry, Peter suggests they save themselves, and they all flee the scene.

    The guards rebind Jesus, having again seen evidence of Jesus' divinity.

    Matthew 26:48-54, Mark 14:44-52, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:7-11

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  • # 213 When God Won't Escape

    The angel hasn't come to take the trembling cup of God's wrath from Jesus, but to strengthen him to finish it--the universe must see what happens to created beings when God lets go--when Satan is in control. Gabriel assures Jesus that many will respond and be saved, that Satan's kingdom will be defeated, and this world will be returned to Adam's children.

    Jesus comes to his disciples strengthened and calm, even though the storm's fury is building. He has come through what no broken human could have--experiencing the second death for every man.

    His disciples are asleep. Sadly he looks at them, "Sleep on and rest, he says, the time has come, Messiah is betrayed into evil hands."

    Even as he finishes speaking, he hears the mob approaching. "Rise," he says, my betrayer is here," and leads them. He steps in front of his friends, no trace of his struggle on his face now, "Whom do you want?" he asks.

    "Jesus of Nazareth," the mob shouts.

    "I AM he," he answers. The mob falls to the ground, helpless as death from either the energy effect of his declaration, or because Gabriel moves between him and the mob. Jesus' face and form are illumined. He has opportunity to escape, but he stands, calm and self-possessed.

    The disciples are awed. What will he do to save himself and them?

    But quickly things change. Roman soldiers and priests, ashamed of weakness, scramble to recover. Judas remembers his part, pushing Jesus to act.

    Matthew 26:45-47, Mark 14:41-43, Luke 22:45-47, John 18:2-6

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  • # 212 The Decision Wavers

    Peter, James and John hear his cries to God, and their impulse is to go to him, but they hesitate. He told us to stay and pray.

    Jesus longs for comfort, some word of encouragement or understanding to break evil's spell. His agony manifests in sweat like blood from the stress.

    Exhausted, he struggles to his friends for comfort; again they are sleeping.

    The third time he goes to prayer in a horror of darkness. He could wipe off the bloody sweat, and let humanity suffer their own consequences, and return to his Father. Satan pushes the thought home.

    Earth's fate trembles. Spirit and Father suffer terribly with him, not able to intervene. Angels watch, longing to console him. The unfallen universe watches intently, hardly breathing, as legions of satanic angels enclose around their beloved Lord.

    Jesus feels our future without God, our pain and suffering, feels our helplessness, sees our hopeless end, and his decision is made. I will be the remedy to save man at any cost! With finality he cries, "If this has to be done, I will do it!" And he falls, dying, to the ground, experiencing the separation of "the second death."*

    His decision made, now the Father sends the angel who took Lucifer's place in heaven to strengthen Jesus with assurance of the Father's love.

    The disciples, wakened by the light, see the bright being holding him, are relieved, and give in to the stupor of sleep overpowering them.

    His agony of abandonment continues, but his discouragement and depression are gone.

    Matthew 26:42-44, Mark 14:39-40, Luke 22:42-45, Revelation 20

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  • # 211 The Last Contest Begins

    Jesus feels his Father's presence fading.

    Satan is there to suggest that the separation will last forever. From now on you will be identified with my kingdom, never again one with your Father, he whispers. And for what? These people don't appreciate you anyway. They don't even understand you. They will fight wars and kill each other in your name. Your own people are seeking to destroy you! One of yours has betrayed you. Another of your closest friends will deny that he knows you. They aren't worth it. You can skip all this. Go back to heaven where you are appreciated.

    "My Father, all is possible for You, please take this away!" Jesus cries, clinging to the ground as if to prevent the separation. "Nevertheless," he concedes, "I choose your will."

    Longing for understanding and support to break the evil influence, he staggers to the three and finds them asleep. Peter had been ready to die for him, and Jesus asks, "Peter, couldn't you watch with me one hour?" He is afraid for them. They are so vulnerable.

    They didn't intend to let him down. And they could have shaken off the spell if they had asked God for help. They awaken at his voice, hardly recognizing him in his anguish.

    "Your spirit is willing, but your body is weak," he excuses them.

    Exhausted, Jesus struggles back to his place.

    Falling again, he sobs in agony, "My Father, if I have to drink this cup, your will be done."

    Matthew 26:39-42, Mark 14:35-39, Luke 22:42-44

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  • # 210 Guarantee of Our Freedom

    Jesus finishes his prayer for us as they approach the garden where they've been spending nights--Gethsemane.

    He becomes strangely silent, and the disciples notice the change. They've never seen him like this. What is wrong? He staggers as if carrying a huge weight. His disciples catch him so he doesn't fall.

    He has always lived in the light of his Father's presence, but now he feels it breaking up, and Satan whispers that he will be shut out forever as he becomes the guarantee for human freedom.

    Near the entrance of the garden he leaves all but Peter, James, and John, telling them to pray for themselves and him. He leads the three deeper into the garden. Often they have spent the night with him here. After praying, they would sleep until he woke them in the morning.

    This time he says, "Stay awake and pray with me, I feel like I'm dying." and he goes a little farther, collapsing.

    He is going through the "wrath of God"-- God letting go of him, allowing evil to take control. As he feels their unity break up, he fears his human nature won't be able to handle the conflict.

    Satan has come for the last struggle. For three years he has been planning for this--if he fails here, the world will become Christ's, men become free to shake off evil's bondage, free to choose. If he wins, the human race will be forever in the misery of evil. The cup of human fate trembles in God's human hands.

    Matthew 26:36-39, Mark 14:32-35, Luke 22:39-41, John 18:1-2

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  • # 209 Connection is Joy, Safety, Happiness

    Jesus and his disciples sing the joyful Passover hallel* of praise, and leave the upper room.

    As they walk to Mt. Olivet, Jesus tells them, "All of you will be ashamed of me tonight..."

    Peter is adamant now, "Even if they all leave," he motions at the others, "I won't. I'm ready to die with you!"

    Again Jesus tries to raise his consciousness, "Before the rooster crows you'll deny me three times." If only he'd believe his danger and ask for help!

    But Peter thinks it's cruel to mistrust him, becoming more assertive in his self-confidence. "If I should die with you, I won't deny you!" And the others echo him.

    Jesus looks at all of them with compassion, "I will meet you in Galilee after I am risen," he says. Then his eye catches a grape vine reflecting the bright Passover moonlight.

    "I am the true vine, and you are the branches..." he says, illustrating connection with him--"If you have a constant flow of love from me, maintained daily, there is no danger you will wither. Only if you separate and leave me will you have no fruit and shrivel up. My Father prunes the branches for growth; it's painful, but He is careful, just enough so Spirit's power can flow and work."

    Then he shifts to present circumstances and says, "Satan comes, but finds nothing in me." He anticipates victory.

    He prays for them and for us, "Father, keep all of mine from evil; make them know You. Make their hearts one with Ours (at one ment), so we can live in Your eternal happiness together."

    Matthew 26:30-35, Mark 14:26-31, John 14:27-17:26 *(Psalm 117)

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  • #208 My Love will Keep You

    Now finally they can hear, and instead of revealing the awful events ahead, Jesus gets them ready for his absence; he reveals who he is unmistakably, and their need for connection with him. Then he tells them his desires for them, and the resources available to them--that he hasn't had anything they can't have through the Holy Spirit!

    As he speaks, his face shines, heaviness gone. They feel heaven is near, convinced they're hearing from God himself.

    He longs for them to know his value of them, to experience how much he wants us to value ourselves. He says that God is happy when we make the highest demands on Him to show God's character of love!

    He says, "Ask anything I would ask, and I'll do it!

    "Your joy and power is living in submission to God as I have. The weakest of you can do this! Because I'm going to the Father, Spirit is my successor. If you invite Me in, Spirit and Father will live in you too. And if you spend time with Us, We will so blend our thoughts and desires with your wishes that Ours and yours will be the same. When doing what you want it will be what We want!"

    They're transfixed, and he assures, "You won't feel orphaned. If you love me, my commandments will keep you,* and the Father will send you another comforter, the Spirit, to be your closest friend. He will provide peace, teach you truth, and remind you of my words to you."

    It's win, win, win.

    John 14:11-26

    *the literal wording of verse 15 in the Greek text (notice that it fits the context of comforting them)

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  • # 207 True Identity

    Jesus sees their confusion over hearing that he is leaving--they are baffled--don't even know what to ask. He knows discouragement and depression make an easy target for Satan, so he draws them out. "You know where I'm going and you know the way."

    Thomas speaks the doubt he struggles with, saying, "Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?"

    "I AM the Way... If you knew me, you'd know my Father also. Now you know Him because you've seen Him; He is just like me. If you're drawn to me, you come to Him. If you don't like me, you won't like Him either."

    They can't comprehend his words. How can the ruling, mighty warrior God of their scriptures and history be the same as their friend--this man who has taught them what love is?

    "Lord, show us the Father, and we'll understand," Philip is sure his request will clear it up.

    "You still don't know Me, Phillip? If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. I've been showing you Him for three years."

    Philip looks confused, so Jesus speaks plainly, "The Father and I are one. We think exactly alike."

    He needs them to see who he really is--God in human form--come to show us what God is truly like with no interpreters. If he can raise their low level of faith to experiencing this reality, their belief will soar, and they will have an anchor to get through the ordeal of grief ahead.

    John 14:4-11

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  • # 206 Anxious Hearts

    After Judas leaves, Jesus focuses on the joy of his mission's outcome. "It's time for Messiah to be known, and God in him." He's joyful that his suffering will vindicate God's name, showing His true character to the universe, redeeming man. Spirit shows him the joy and celebration that will spread from world to world throughout creation.

    Knowing his disciples aren't prepared for the next 24 hours and will suffer without this understanding, he comforts them.

    "My children, soon I will be leaving you. I want you to love each other, not as you love yourselves--that has been distorted, but as I have loved you. This will show you belong to me."

    The disciples are suddenly filled with fear, He's leaving us?

    Peter asks, "Where are you going?"

    "Where you can't follow now, but you will later," Jesus answers.

    "Why not now? I am ready to die with you!" Peter believes it, but he doesn't know himself.

    "Really?" says Jesus. I tell you truly, before the rooster crows, you will deny that you know me three times."

    Peter is offended that Jesus doesn't believe him and asserts more self-confidence. All eleven feel fear of the future. What will happen to them?

    "Don't let your hearts be anxious," comforts Jesus, "you believe in God; believe in me. My Father has a huge place with many houses, I'm going to get yours ready for you, and when everything is complete, I'll come back and get you. This is not a final separation. I want you with me."

    Jesus wants us with him!

    John 13:31-14:3

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  • # 205 Amazing Graciousness

    Judas gets up and leaves supper. Until then, he could have changed his decision; but after he left, he had crossed a boundary, and Satan took control of him.

    Jesus left nothing undone to reach him, even offering him the symbols of divine life working in us. But Judas hardened himself more, and Jesus reaches out to him one more time before he leaves, partly for him and partly for the others. He wants them to know that he knows what's coming, so they can believe he is the "I AM." He doesn't want them to think he is surprised by the betrayal and events following it.

    Long afterwards, the disciples were amazed at the patience and mercy of God towards Judas. The King of the universe, to whom everyone on earth will bow, knelt and washed the feet of his betrayer!

    Jesus' example shows us not to carelessly leave those choosing poorly to be a prey to temptation, driven onto Satan's battlefield. It also forbids us to be exclusive with our communion symbols. Who of us can read the heart?

    A Judas may be at your communion, accompanied by messengers of darkness, but unseen angels of light are also present, and those who want to come shouldn't be discouraged. He who washed Judas' feet longs to wash every heart, take our guilt and shame, and energize us with his presence.

    In a very real special sense, this service connects dependent humans with God, meeting our needs and creating joy in us.

    John 13:25-30

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