Rest

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Mark 6:30-31

Rest. To some this is a four-letter word–something to be avoided at all costs. To others it is a dream they hope to one day achieve.  To me, I once equated rest with lethargy, laziness, and lack of motivation.  I couldn’t comprehend how someone could stop and rest with so much to do.  How could someone leave work at 5 and be done with it?  How could someone put a project down incomplete to take a break? How could someone go to bed and not think about what still needed to get done?

Rest.  Wait.  Stop.

These words were not part of my vocabulary.  And I couldn’t understand how others seemed to embrace them.

That is, until God made me rest.  And yes, I fully  believe God made me rest.  He had been trying to get me to rest for a while.  He was telling me, like He told the disciples, to go away and rest for a bit. But I kept going my own way, kept ignoring the warning signs.

So God took action.  He took action by making me rest.

Now before you think to yourself, “How could God make someone rest?” or  “Why would God make someone rest?” read with me Psalm 23:1-2:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names’ sake. 

Did you see it? We often associate Psalm 23 with this tender, loving Shepherd who lovingly and gently leads us while we His sheep placidly follow him, trusting His loving hand.  Yet verse 2 uses the word “make.”   If we pause to think about that word—make—it doesn’t sound like the sheep in this psalm is acquiescing to his shepherd’s every desire.

If I make someone do something, I either compel that person, giving him no choice, or I do something to cause that person to do what I want. Whether I command it or cause it, making someone do something removes the ability to choose.   When we are made to do something, we are forced to do it.

And so we read in Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

And we read in Mark 6, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

God wants us to rest.  God calls us to rest.

Yet a little over a year ago, as God called me to rest, I kept moving forward in my own plan. I went about my busy way, filling my plate with activity after activity, and when I came upon a green pasture, I didn’t stop.  I kept going, oblivious to the lush green grass beckoning me—oblivious to the rest God wanted me to take to refresh my weary soul.  I knew something needed to happen, but I couldn’t fathom letting go of anything.

So my loving Shepherd made me rest.  How did He do this?  He used life to clear my plate.  The school I was heavily involved in?  The church ministry I held dear to my heart?  I let go of all of it when my husband accepted a job in Ohio. Actually, if I am honest with you, it was not a simple letting go–it was more like a child holding tightly to a toy her parent is trying to get from her.  You know the scene: the petulant child with a tight-fisted death grip, kicking, screaming, and crying out that the toy is HERS. Of course, I did end up clearing my plate–I had no choice.  After all, we were moving.

But then we didn’t move.

Yes, you read that right.  We did not move.  I gave up everything, and then we did not move.

I wish I could say I handled this sudden turn of events like a champ, but that would be a lie.  In all honesty, I hated it.  I was devastated.  I was angry.  I was hurt. I was lost.  I wanted my job back.  I wanted my kids back at their old school.  I wanted to get busy again. I just couldn’t comprehend how being still–having nothing to do–could be part of God’s plan.

Nevertheless, I soon learned that in the stillness, God was there. I repeat: in the stillness, God was there.

He used the months of no major commitments to rebuild me.  To restore my soul. To heal hurts from the past I had never dealt with. To make me whole.   He led me beside those still waters, and in doing so, He refreshed my soul.

He lead me away to that desolate place. And I found rest.  In the stillness I saw God.

So I ask you today. Are you resting? Have you taken some time to sit at the feet of Jesus and rest awhile? Or are you too busy to stop?  Is your plate overflowing?  Are you juggling so many balls in the air you are about to drop all of them?

Let me encourage you in this: if you feel you have too much on your plate to take a break to refresh, then you have too much on your plate. Take time to rest.  Take time in the presence of your Savior to reevaluate what you are doing.

Is there room for pasture in your life? Is there room for rest? If not, ask God to show you what needs to go in order to make room for those green pastures. It may not be easy to let go, but take it from me, the temporary pain of letting go is well worth the joy of God’s green pastures.

God longs for you to rest, my friend.  For He knows you need it.  He knows everything you need.  This is why we, as the Psalmist declares, “shall not want.”  We shall not want because the Shepherd is leading us.  Look again at the above passage in Psalm 23.

Who makes us lie down?

Who leads us beside still waters?

Who restores our soul?

Who leads us in paths of righteousness?

Our Shepherd.  It is because He makes us rest, because He gives us water, because He refreshes us, because He leads us along the right path–it is because He does all this–because He is our Shepherd–that we do not have to fear evil.

So rest today, my friend.  Rest in the arms of the Father. Create that space in your life necessary for God to show you those green pastures.  And when you do–when you allow God to make you lie down in green pastures or take you away to that desolate place–you’ll soon find yourself proclaiming as David did, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (vs. 6).

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15

 

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God Is Our Refuge

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5:11-12

We often sing the song “God Is Our Refuge” (a song taken direction from Psalm 46) with great joy and confidence, boldly proclaiming God as our shelter, our protector, and our refuge in times of trouble.  Yet sometimes I wonder if we truly understand what it means for God to be our refuge.

A refuge by definition is “shelter or protection from danger or distress,” “a place that provides shelter or protection,” and “something to which one has recourse in difficulty” (Merriam-Webster Definition). We don’t seek refuge from clear skies. We don’t seek refuge from green pastures. We don’t seek refuge from peace. We seek refuge from storms, from difficulties, and from the enemy.  We seek refuge when things go wrong.

So when we proclaim God as our refuge, we must also understand that trouble accompanies the need for shelter.  A life void of trouble requires no need of God to be a refuge. God wouldn’t promise to be a very present help in trouble if we wouldn’t ever face trouble.

Nevertheless, day after day we (me included!) act shocked that “God would allow this to happen.”  We are in disbelief that “bad things could happen to good people.”  It’s as if our mouths voice that God is our refuge, yet our hearts don’t want to face anything that would require God to be that refuge.

News Flash:  We live in a fallen world!

Bad things will happen.   People get sick, jobs are lost, family moves away, friends die.  One day all appears well–our dreams have become reality; and the next morning we wake up to shattered pieces of what once was. One moment we are surrounded by supporters encouraging us in our walk; the next we are surrounded by the enemy daring us to try to keep moving forward.

Yet God is our refuge.

It in is these very moments of grief, of despair, and of uncertainty when we must not only  take refuge under the wings of our Almighty God (Psalm 91), but we must also sing with joy, with boldness, and with confidence that God is indeed our refuge.  God is indeed our very present help in trouble.  I love that idea:  very present.  He is not just present; He is very present.  He is not standing far off, watching us struggle, and then throwing us a life-preserver.  No. He is right there, arms open wide, beckoning us to take shelter, to hide under the shadow of His Almighty wings.  He doesn’t throw us a life preserver; He is our life preserver!

Therefore rejoice with me in this:  God is our refuge!

Even more, God doesn’t call us to take shelter by huddling in a corner scared, shaking, and fearful.  No.  He says to rejoice!  Rejoice as you take shelter from the storms of life.  Rejoice as God shelters you from the attacks of the enemy.  Rejoice.  Exult.  Believe.

God is your refuge.

I repeat:  God is your refuge.

So I ask you now: Is life throwing you curve balls?  Do you feel as if dreams are shattering, friends are leaving, the enemy is surrounding you?  Rejoice!  No, I am not asking you to rejoice that you feel neglected, that things are going wrong, that the world seems against you.  I am exhorting you to rejoice that God is your refuge.  You don’t need to huddle in the corner, fearful of what may happen next.  You don’t need to put your head in your hands lamenting what was or what you thought would be. Rather, you need to run to your refuge. Run to God. And as you take shelter, rejoice. Rejoice knowing

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam,

    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Psalm 46:1-3

 

A Heart Like His

And when he had removed him [Saul], he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
(Acts 13:22)

To have a heart like His.  This has been the cry of my heart for years and the reason I chose it for my blog title.   I truly desire to have a heart like God’s and pray I may one day hear,  “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).

Yet the question was raised during a recent Bible study, “What does it mean to have a heart like God’s?” It is as I have pondered this question that I have been brought back to Psalm 51.  This Psalm is the well-known song of David’s repentance, when he came to God seeking forgiveness for his sin.   Yes, the man after God’s own heart screwed up–screwed up big time.

Yet upon being confronted with his sin, David didn’t make excuses. David didn’t blame someone else.  David didn’t run away.  David ran to God. He cried out to God for mercy, for forgiveness, and for another chance.  Even more, He recognized something extremely important–something many of us often struggle with:

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Psalm 51:4

Against you, you only, have I sinned.  Yes, David sinned when he went into Bathsheba and then had her husband killed in battle to cover his sin.  He sinned when he tried to go on with life as normal after such an egregious act.  David’s actions were in no way right nor in line with God’s character. And yes, his sin had a ripple effect.  An innocent man lost his life, a wife lost her husband, and the product of that sinful union–a baby–paid the ultimate price.  And those were just the physical ramifications; I’m sure there were many emotions to work through as well.

Yet as I stated before, once confronted with his sin–once forced to face what he had done–David did not make excuses, did not continue to deny wrongdoing, nor did he go groveling to others for approval and justification. No. David knew that even though his sin affected many, ultimately, when he had sinned, he had sinned against God–God alone.  He knew God was the One he needed to approach on bended knee with a contrite heart.  He knew God was the only One capable of giving him that new, clean heart and right spirit. Man couldn’t wipe away the shame, the pain, or dark stain of sin from David’s heart.

But God could.

And David knew it.  It is what enabled David to declare,

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise
Psalm 51:16-17

A broken spirit and a contrite heart.  This is what God desires.   He doesn’t want lip service.  He doesn’t want worthless sacrifices.  He wants our hearts–hearts like His–hearts that yearn for and seek righteousness.

To have a heart like His doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect; we’ll never be perfect.  Rather, a heart like God’s will ultimately reflect His character–in righteousness as well as in repentance. A heart like God’s doesn’t walk in perfection; it walks with God. And when sin rears its ugly head, the man after God’s own heart goes to God.  He doesn’t justify his behavior.  He doesn’t ignore his behaviors.  He doesn’t just shake it off and move on haphazardly citing Jesus’ sacrifice.

No.  The heart of a man after God’s heart breaks over sin.  He cries out like David,

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
(Psalm 51:1-4)

So I ask you now.  Do you have a heart like His?  Do you seek God’s will and His righteousness in all circumstances–even in repentance?

When you mess up (and believe me, you will mess up), what do you do? Do you make excuses?  blame others?  try to hide it?  Or do you come before Him on bended knee with a broken spirit and a contrite heart? Do you run away from the sin and into the arms of your Heavenly Father?

Regardless of how you may have answered those questions, I want to encourage you today in this: “a broken and contrite heart” God “will not despise.”  He will not turn away a heart yearning for Him and for His righteousness.

So turn to Him today.  Cry out like David for God’s mercy, for His forgiveness, and for His restoration.  And as you do–as you present yourself at His feet–you can be confident that He not only hears your heart, but also He sees your heart. And a heart like His He will never turn away.

Our Loss…Our Gain

“But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
John 16:5-7

As I met with a friend the other day, we discussed our friendship–how the distance would change the relationship but would certainly not end it.  The friendship may look different now than what we originally expected, but the difference does not mean the friendship is going to be worse; in fact, it might actually be better–deeper.

And as I reflected on that conversation, God reminded me of the above words of Jesus to His disciples.  Upon hearing that He was going to be leaving them, the disciples, even though they knew where He’d be going, were filled with sorrow over the fact that Jesus was indeed leaving them.   They didn’t want to say good-bye; they didn’t want to see Him go.  Honestly, I’m sure it must have been difficult to comprehend saying good-bye to Jesus. After all, how awesome it must have been to physically walk with and talk with Jesus–witnessing His miracles, gleaning from His words of wisdom, physically feeling His tender strength.

Yet the One they loved was telling them He would be leaving.

And they were devastated.

Truly, who wouldn’t be?  As one who recently moved from a place I called home for nearly 20 years to a brand new place, I can empathize in part with the sorrow that the disciples must have been feeling–the sorrow that comes with saying goodbye.  Whether saying good-bye comes with a move to another place, to another job, or even to another ministry, there is grief in letting go. Even a move by choice will be accompanied by levels of grief.

Yet I believe there is an important principle we can glean from Jesus’ encouragement to His disciples regarding His looming departure.  It is a principle meant to comfort and to encourage us as we face the good-byes of life…

Sometimes it takes saying goodbye to what we know in order to gain what we never could have imagined.

Think about it for a moment. In Jesus’ case, He had two reasons to leave: He not only had to die to free us from our bondage,  but He also had to go back to His Father in order for the Comforter to come.  He specifically told the disciples that if He did not go, then the Helper (the Holy Spirit) could not come.

What was special about the Holy Spirit?  According to John 14:26, “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send…will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I [Jesus] have said….”   The Holy Spirit is God in us–His power, His life, His wisdom, His promise.  With the Holy Spirit, God’s presence is within us wherever we go.  Talk about awesome!  Yes, Jesus in the flesh was amazing, not to be diminished in any capacity, yet as a human, Jesus was limited in His Presence.  As the Holy Spirit, God is truly omnipresent; He has no limitations.  By saying good-bye to Jesus in the flesh, the disciples opened the door for the Holy Spirit.  What they thought was a loss was truly a gain.  And Jesus knew this.  He knew this as He foretold His departure.  He knew this when He reminded disciples to remain in the city until the Comforter would come (Luke 24:49).

Jesus knew saying goodbye to God in the flesh was necessary in order to gain God in the Spirit.  By letting go of what they knew, the disciples (and all of us!) gained what they never could have imagined.

So I am not sure where you are as you read this.   You may be enjoying where you are without any indication of change on the horizon.  Great!  Enjoy this season of rest.  God has you where you are for His good pleasure.

Maybe, however, you are facing change.  Your husband just found out he was getting transferred…to another state.   Your boss just told you they are cutting your position.  God Himself has called you to a new ministry…. Whatever the change you may be facing, let me encourage you to watch for God.  Watch for Him to move in ways you never thought possible. Imagine what opportunities await you in that new state.  Imagine what new adventure God has in store for you now that you are without a job.  Imagine the lives that will be forever changed by your presence in this new ministry.

Yes, good-byes are not easy.  There is grief involved.  And I in no way diminish this grief; in fact, I encourage you to allow yourself to grieve what once was. It’s healthy to grieve losses.  Yet don’t remain in a state of grief; heal through it and keep moving forward.   And as you move forward, keep your eyes fixed on the author and finisher of your faith.   You may be struggling with letting go of what once was, but let me encourage you, my friend, one day you will look back with gratitude and awe at the amazing opportunities that arose from the ashes of that good-bye.

Don’t lose hope, my friend.  Don’t lose hope.   What may be the most difficult ride of your life could be the very journey to your greatest destination.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

 

God Knows Me

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1

God knows me. This is what God spoke to my heart at church on Sunday morning.  My husband had to work unexpectedly, so it was just the kids and I who went to church. Seeing that we just moved to the area, this was only our second time at this particular church. And I was struggling a bit–struggling with the familiar feeling that comes when one moves to a new place: the feeling of missing what once was. I wouldn’t want to call it home sick, because I fully believe I am home right where I am; so I will call it “old home” sick. I missed my friends. I missed going to church and smiling at people I know–people who know me and whom I know and with whom I have connected on a personal level.  I missed the genuine hugs of friendship and support.  I missed the familiarity of it all.

 I missed being known.

I actually e-mailed this request to my mentor before getting ready for church.  I asked her to pray for this yearning.  My exact words:  “I want someone to know me.”

Of course, as I have learned throughout my recent journey, oftentimes what appears to be a pitfall–a disappointment–a downer–is often merely an opportunity for God to draw me into His presence, to draw me closer to Him.   And draw me is what He did.

For as I sat in church by myself, surrounded by people who did not know me and who would not miss me if I never returned–God reminded me of the above verse. He spoke clearly to my heart:  “I know you.”

Yes!  God knows me! He calls me by name.  I am His.  I didn’t go to church to see people; I went to worship God, to see God.  And God knows me!  God knew I was there.  God noticed me there.  God was glad I was there.  And He would have missed me if I had not shown up.   As Isaiah 49:15 reminds us, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

God doesn’t forget.  He doesn’t forget my face.  He doesn’t forget my name.  He doesn’t forget me.  God knows me.

God knows you, too.   I want to encourage you in this today   God knows you.  He truly knows you.  Read the words of Psalm 139 with me:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139:16

Did you catch that?  God has searched you–all of you.  And God knows you.   He knows your every move, your every thought, your every word.  He knows you more than you know yourself!

You are known, my friend!

Even more, you are known by the God of the universe!

God knows you!

He knows you, He loves you,  and He wants to be with you–in this moment, during this day, and throughout eternity.  So rest in His love right now as you re-read Isaiah 43:1 with me.  Personalize it as you read:

Thus I the Lord say to you, _____
I who created you,
    I who formed you:
“Fear not, _____, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.”

You are God’s.

 I repeat.  You are God’s! Whether you are by yourself or surrounded by people–whether you are well known or unknown in the world’s eyes–God knows youRejoice with me today in this truth.  God knows you.

Hear me, but follow Him

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
(John 1:40)

As we delve into the depths of the presidential election, streets are lined with lawn signs, and our media overflows with campaign ads, announcements, speeches, and opinions–lots of opinions. Politicians are diligent to monitor every word and every action–or provide the necessary cover-up to protect any unscrupulous choices.  They know the choices they make now could affect the choice the people make in November. One mistake could be detrimental to the goal–could cost the election.  They do not speak or act unless they feel it will draw people to their side.  They do not speak to point people to someone else; they speak to draw people to themselves.   They want people to hear them and in turn follow them.

Yet as I read the above verse the other day, I found a completely opposite principle–one contrary to today’s political mentality.  It is a principle John the Baptist modeled and a principle I believe God calls each of us to walk out as well.

The principle? Hear me, but follow Him.

John the Baptist knew his purpose was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah–not himself–the Messiah. John was not the Messiah, and he was very clear about this as people began following him.  Before he crossed paths, and especially after he crossed paths with Jesus, John the Baptist consistently pointed people away from himself and toward Jesus.  He didn’t speak and baptize to draw people to himself; he spoke and baptized to draw people to Jesus.

At one point, however, some men who were following John approached John and asked if he were upset that not only was Jesus baptizing but also that “all” were going to Him (John 3:26). They formed the question as if to say, “Aren’t you upset and jealous that Jesus is stealing all your followers?!”

Oh how many times have we thought or actually said something similar!  “How come she is getting all the attention when I did just as much work?”  “Why did he get the promotion when I’ve been here longer?”  “Why is he in charge when I am just as qualified?”  “Why do people listen to her instead of me?”  “What makes her so special?” “Why won’t anyone notice me?”

Such thoughts and questions arise from our natural tendency to want the glory and the credit and the attention for ourselves.  When we speak, we want others to listen.  When we act, we want others to acknowledge it.  And although wanting to be heard is not wrong, we must be diligent to make sure our motives are in the right place.   Do we want to be heard to get the credit?  Do we want to be heard so others know we are right? Or do we want to, like John, be heard so that people see Jesus?  Do we speak and act in a way that says, “Hear me, but follow Jesus”?

There is quite a difference.  One motive is like a beacon, which cries out, “Look at me!  Here I am!”  The other is like a spotlight, which cries out, “Look at Him!  There He is!” Both may give out bright lights, but only one sheds that light in the right direction.

As we read on in the passage, John’s response was perfect.  He wasn’t upset Jesus was gaining popularity; He was pleased.  In fact, he responded to the question with joy: “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 1:28-30).

Talk about putting out a fire before it could get started.  No jealousy present in John.

And that last sentence.  Oh, that last sentence:  He must increase, but I must  decrease.  John knew it was not about him; he knew it was all about Jesus.

It should always be all about Jesus.

Which brings me to the verse I quoted at the beginning of this post.  At first it may seem an unusual verse to highlight, but it actually reveals this heart attitude of pointing others away from ourselves and toward Jesus–from shining the light on Jesus rather than on ourselves.

Let’s look at the key words:  who heard John speak and followed Jesus.

Did you catch it?  The disciples HEARD John but FOLLOWED Jesus. They didn’t hear John and then follow John.   The heard John and then followed Jesus.   This is exactly what John was created for; it was his divine appointment.  And I daresay it is what we should be living and praying as well.  Instead of speaking in a way that points others to us and what we believe; we should be speaking in a way that points others directly to Jesus.   People should see us yet follow Jesus.

So I encourage you now, my friend, join me in turning John 1:40 into a prayer–a prayer asking God to take the spotlight off ourselves and place it on Himself–the One true God who alone deserves all the glory, all the honor, and all the praise.

Dear Jesus, may what people hear me speak and see me do today make them want to follow You.  Give me the wisdom and strength to seek You first in everything. And as I seek You, may I not be a beacon drawing people’s eyes toward me but rather a spotlight pointing people to You, for You alone are the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through You.  May I decrease so You may increase.  May people see me, and then follow You.   “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). 

Found Innocent, Not Guilty

“You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.”
Luke 23:14-15

The presumption of innocence principle–“innocent until proven guilty”—is one every defendant adamantly proclaims.  Even the obviously guilty defendant will often plead “not guilty” at first in hopes of possibly getting away with wrongdoing.

Yet Jesus was brought before Pilate and then Herod under different circumstances.  He was innocent, doing nothing deserving arrest, let alone death, yet He was brought in under the assumption of guilt.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus actually questioned those arresting him, asking, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:52). Jesus knew He was innocent; Jesus knew those accusing Him knew He was innocent.  Nevertheless, the leaders treated Jesus as a guilty man from the get-go and declared Jesus’ guilt vehemently before the authorities.  They even used false witnesses to twist the words Jesus had spoken throughout His ministry.

As we read above, however, even after all this–after all the accusations and false testimonies–even after Jesus’ stunning silence in response to the accusations–neither Pilot nor Herod could find fault with Jesus.

Why?

Because Jesus was innocent.

We must remember this key detail.  Jesus was innocent.  Jesus did not go to the cross because He was found guilty; Jesus went to the cross because He was found innocent.

He was found innocent–yet He paid the penalty of a guilty man.

Actually, if you look closely at the passage in this chapter of Luke, you’ll see an interesting connection between the spiritual and physical.  I do not think it a coincidence that the earthly circumstances of the time mirrored the spiritual actions taking place in the heavens.  For as you read on in the chapter, you’ll see Jesus literally took the place of Barabbas.   Luke 23:25 reads, “He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.”   Barabbas was in prison for insurrection and murder; Jesus was in prison for supposedly misleading the people.  Barabbas killed people; Jesus healed people.  Barabbas bucked authority; Jesus respected it. Barabbas was definitely guilty; Jesus was definitely innocent.     Yet Barabbas went free, and Jesus was crucified.

Jesus took on what Barabbas deserved as He also took on what WE deserved.

Jesus not only paid the price of one guilty man during His time period, but He also paid the penalty for our guilt as well. He did not deserve the death He bore.  We did.  Barabbas did. Yet Jesus endured it anyway.

Why?

John provides the reason in John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus loved Barabbas–even though Barabbas deserved to die for what he’d done and Jesus deserved to live for what He didn’t do.

Jesus loves me, even though I daily mess up and deserve to pay the price of my sin.

Jesus loves you–all of you–and willingly paid the price for you as well.

So I encourage you today, my friend.  Accept this love.  Accept this great exchange.   Accept the freedom purchased for you by the One who loves you more than you could ever love yourself.  You don’t deserve it.  You can’t earn it.   But you can accept it and be grateful.

Jesus loves you and paid the penalty for you. He was innocent; you and I were born guilty.  Yet, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus didn’t deserve to die; He chose to die.  He died for Barabbas.  He died for me.  He died for you.  So rejoice in this, my friend, and be thankful.  Be thankful knowing that the One who created you loves You, and “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).