In today’s reading, Paul appears before Agrippa and in essence gives his testimony to the king and his entourage. Paul ends his testimony with Romans 26:29 when he says Paul replied, “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” Paul’s ultimate desire was to bring everyone to the saving grace and acceptance of Jesus. I often think about how Paul felt when he endured all he had in the service of our Lord. He had no idea the millions of people who would be saved over the course of 2,000 years because of his service. How many of us realize the impact of our lives on eternity. I think if we did, we would act very differently than we do.
Before Christ, there was a veil which separated the people from the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle of the Temple because only God was perfect enough to be there. Paul explains what changed when Christ came to provide redemption for sin in 2 Corinthians 3:16, But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Christ’s perfect sacrifice for all our sins removed the veil that separates us from God. Because of Christ we are no longer separated from God and we have direct access to Him.
In today’s reading we see a clear example of what we are called to do in Acts 4:32, All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. It is easy to think the apostles were describing something similar to socialism, but it’s not that simplistic. We should recognize that nothing in our possession is our own. We should be willing to use our blessings from God to help. When others are in need we are called to provide; it’s that simple. It’s not a government, social, or economic solution; it’s a spiritual one that comes from a heart of giving.
Jesus died an excruciatingly painful death. It was physically painful, but it was just as painful spiritually and emotionally. Jesus’ last moments are captured in John 19:30, When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished,” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. At that moment Jesus’ suffering ended. But it did not just end for Him, but for us as well. He took on all the pain and suffering for us so we would not have to experience it ourselves. When we stop and contemplate what it all really means we see how big of a sacrifice He made on our behalf.
Jesus, the only perfect man to walk the face of the earth, died on the cross to atone for our sins. We are no different than the men who hung on the cross with Jesus. One of the men even acknowledged Jesus’ sacrifice for all Luke 23:41 “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Let us never forget our sinfulness and our unworthiness to be forgiven of our sin through Jesus’ sacrifice. He took our place on the cross and for that reason alone we will live for eternity.
Today is Good Friday, and one of the most painful days in the history of our faith. It all came down to this in Matthew 27:50 And when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. But just remember… Sunday is coming!
Loving others is not something new. But loving others the way Christ loved us sacrificially is something completely different. Jesus commanded us to have this type of love in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” When we love each other the way Christ loves us, we do something the world is incapable of doing. This world is filled with hate: hate for people who are different than us, who talk different , or dress different, or come from a different place. But Christ command us to put all of that aside and to look at each other through His eyes. THAT kind of love is revolutionary.
In today’s reading, the story of the poor widow was incredibly humbling. When we give to others out of our wealth it can be meaningful to us. But when we give all we have (and I am not just talking about money), it means everything to us and the Kingdom of God. In Mark 12:43-44 it says, 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” When gifts are given out of gratitude and a spirit of generosity, it is pleasing to God. There is little to no value in a gift given grudgingly or purely for recognition. The value of any gift is not measured by the amount, but by the spirit in which it was given.
It is not our place to question who God allows to be blessed differently than us. If God chooses to allow others to be rich and us poor, we should be content because He still provides for all our needs. In the end, it is up to God to decide. In Matthew 20:16 Jesus says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This is not a guarantee, but a promise. Our reward on earth pales in comparison to what is in store for us in heaven. For this reason it is more important for us to work on eternal versus earthly reward.
Nothing, including our own lives, compares to what we gain with Christ. In Mark 8:35 Jesus says, For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Holding onto this life does nothing for us. What we gain from it is temporary and, in the end, it all burns. The only things that matter is what we do that impacts eternity and the Kingdom of God.