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Meditation for Monday

January 24th, 2022

Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away. John 19:16

The mailman didn’t usually come to our door at the house where we used to live; he delivered our mail to the group mailboxes down the street. But one day he drove into the yard and carried a large box to our door. The box was too large to fit into the parcel compartments at the group mailboxes. I opened the door, and the friendly mailman passed me the box with a cheery greeting. With a few comments about the pleasant weather, he was gone, leaving me holding a box that held I knew not what. I placed it on the table, and went about my work. When Judy arrived home, I pointed to the box. ‘Books,’ she declared. ‘Nobody ordered books.’ She opened the box, and discovered that the books were for our daughter, who had ordered them on our account. Most deliveries are like that; somebody has to place an order. Our text speaks of Pilate delivering Jesus. But at whose order?

Pilate thought he gave the order. After all, the Jews didn’t have the authority to deliver Jesus for crucifixion. Herod didn’t have the jurisdiction. Without Pilate’s authorization, there would be no crucifixion. With Rome’s approval, and with Pilate’s execution detail, the mob led Jesus away. None of them were aware that all of this was beyond them. A few weeks later, Peter could remind them, in his Pentecost sermon, that Jesus was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). Yes, the Jews and Pilate were responsible for crucifying Jesus Christ, but Pilate’s delivery could have no force if God had not so ordered it.

In so great a matter as the crucifixion, all was according to God’s plan and purpose, and not even the great Roman empire could change it. Today, in lesser matters, you and I cannot change the purposes of God nor go against what He has determined and ordered. We see things around us that we would like to change, but our best efforts must fail if the purposes of God are not followed. That is why Christians who become involved in politics are so sadly disappointed. They try their best to change things but their efforts are not according to God’s purposes.

You and I can never deliver what God has not ordered. Let us bow to His will. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 23rd, 2022

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man. John 19:5

In a Catholic church in the village of Borja, in northeastern Spain, there is a fresco painting called Ecce Homo (Latin for Behold the Man). The fresco is more than 100 years old, and shows Jesus, bound, wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe. Time and conditions had caused the fresco to become badly deteriorated, with much of it peeled away. A woman in her 80s, named Cecilia Gimenez, took it upon herself to touch up the fresco in hopes of restoring it to its original condition. Unfortunately, her good intentions were not matched by good art skills. The result was a figure that looked more like a monkey than a man, and bore almost no resemblance to the original. Crowds gathered to see the altered fresco and to laugh at its ridiculous appearance. Those crowds are like those to whom Pilate presented Jesus, failing to see Who stood before them.

As Christians, we hear the announcement Ecce Homo, and are captivated by the amazing sight of the Son of God, submitting to the shameful treatment of His own creatures, wearing a robe of mockery, a crown of cruelty, and the stripes of Roman punishment for crimes not committed by Himself. To us, this sight is most precious, although it grieves us to acknowledge how much He had to suffer on our account. He stood before the Jewish mob that day that Scripture might be fulfilled which says He was despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3). Pilate’s declaration brings before us the scene leading up to the departure for Skull Hill for the crucifixion. And we find it hard to understand the mocking crowd that cried for Barabas instead of Him.

Like the disfigured fresco in Borja, the world has a distorted and false picture of Jesus Christ. To many, He was only a teacher and the founder of a new religion. To others, He was a challenge to their way of life and beliefs. Still others found Him an interesting person who has no relevance to themselves. Most of the world has a false impression when called to heed Pilate’s declaration. They fail to see the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Behold the Man, Pilate said. May our beholding of Him today be according to His Word, and in appreciation of His purpose. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

January 22nd, 2022

Pilate then went out unto them and said, What accusation bring ye against this Man? John 18:29

It was too early in the day for Pontius Pilate to be up. His position as Roman governor, or prefect, required him to entertain in the evenings, and he seldom rose until the morning was well spent. But this was barely past daybreak when a group of Jewish religious leaders demanded his attention. They had condemned a prisoner and required his rubber stamp to have the man executed. Pilate was provoked at the early interruption, and his normal caustic mood was further soured as he hastened to deal with the situation as smartly as possible. The prisoner could expect no mercy from him, that was for sure. Pilate noted the Jewish leaders were in a highly agitated state, in a much more nasty mood than usual. Something had riled them up to a savage pitch. Their prisoner must be incredibly bad for them to be like this, he thought. Then he turned to face the Prisoner. His jaw dropped and his eyes popped in amazement! Why, This was no criminal! He could see nothing but goodness and peace on the Prisoner’s face. This surely had to be the Teacher/Healer from Galilee about whom he had heard so much. Shocked that this was the Prisoner that He must deal with, Pilate turned to the accusers and in amazement asks ‘What accusation bring ye against this man?’

This question rings down through history against all who have opposed the Lord Jesus. The religious leaders still try to get rid of Him. Oh, they invoke His name in their religious rites, but they have no time for His Gospel and His teachings. The irreligious have little use for Him but to use His name in cursing and blasphemy. To most of those around us, He is irrelevant to their lives, to their selfish, grasping plans and schemes, and to their seared consciences. Like the Jewish leaders before Pilate, they have no real answer now, and they will have no real answer when they must stand before the Judge and face the question again.

For the Christian, this question causes us to turn to the Lord Jesus and be amazed at His character. If the cruel and cowardly Pilate could be amazed that Jesus was accused, how much more are we to whom God has revealed His Son. We rejoice at the accounts of His life and His death, and praise God that the Man Pilate sent to be crucified was innocent, and the Son the Father sent to die for us was pure and holy.

As we consider our Lord and Saviour, we must ask ourselves how He could have been accused of anything. What a Saviour! -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

January 21st, 2022

And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so? John 18:22

We shudder to think of the indignity of this offer, to insult the Son of God with a slap. No doubt he felt he was preserving the dignity of the high priest, and his insult was obviously with the full consent and encouragement of Caiaphas. But there is coming a day when both the officer and the one-time high priest will stand before the Great White Throne. With the positions reversed, and in an atmosphere of utmost terror and awe, those two men will face the One they insulted. At that time, the officer will realize that it was Caiaphas who he should have slapped. His rash act – and its dire punishment – will hang on his soul forever. And he will have plenty of company.

Caiaphas was the pinnacle of the Jew’s religion at that time. As the high priest, he held the top office and was the most influential person in religious circles in a religious nation. Those around him sought his favours and honoured him with their words and deeds. Caiaphas was much like today’s religious leaders. For example, it is pathetically funny how those in the Romish religion kowtow to the whims of the pope and his entourage. Other religious leaders enjoy the attention and fanatic actions of their followers. Sadly they are following only religion and a religious leader, failing to acknowledge the God that the religion ignores. We look at those leaders and their followers and regret that they are unable to see the error of their blindness. Their religious zeal is little more than the actions of the officer who insulted the Lord Jesus with a slap. With the Lord Jesus so obvious before them, they insult Him to honour their own leaders.

Our hearts are touched as we see the meekness of our Saviour standing before Caiaphas. Legions of angels must have longed to strike vengeance on the officer and his high priest for their indignities. But our Lord stood meekly, and submitted to the indignities, because He must go to Calvary for us. The officer’s insult was just the first of many that day. And the Lord Jesus knew about them all before they ever occurred. And He accepted them, not for His sake but for ours.

The shame that men heaped on our Lord stands as proof of our condemnation, and as proof of His offer of Salvation. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 20th, 2022

The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine. John 18:19

We can understand in a measure why Caiaphas would ask Jesus about His doctrine, as our text relates. He and the Sanhedrin had an interest in the the teachings of this Man Whose views so sharply contrasted with theirs and whose words so sharply rebuked them. They had reports from spies, and many of them had heard Him themselves, but they would like to hear from His lips exactly what He taught and held as truth. That Caiaphas would ask about His doctrine was not surprising. But why did he first ask about His disciples? What was Caiaphas looking for?

Remember the account of the man who came to Jesus one day and asked if there were few that be saved? The man was looking to find out how popular this salvation was, and whether it might be good to jump onto the bandwagon. I think Caiaphas was also looking to find out how popular Jesus had become. By asking about His disciples, he could determine whether Jesus was claiming that a large portion of the people had turned to support Him. If Jesus should make such a claim, Caiaphas would be able to mark Him as a revolutionary and a traitor. His question was an attempt to entrap Jesus into convicting Himself. And it might gain the high priest some information that would enable him to squelch the Nazarene’s support. Like all enemies of the Lord Jesus and of His Gospel, Caiaphas had nothing but destruction on his mind, and selfishness in his heart.

We read of no response from Jesus concerning His disciples. He identified none of them, and made no reference to His supporters in terms of numbers or location. How different He was from us! If we were there, we could tell of the thousands who flocked to hear Jesus preach on the Galilean hillsides, and even of the throngs who welcomed Him with palm branches and hosannas to Jerusalem. Even today, we note the hundreds who attend our conferences and hope nobody notices the twos and threes who gather in our little Assemblies for weekly meetings. We would like people to think that the doctrine of Christ is that which attracts many disciples. But Jesus never made such a claim.

When Jesus was asked about His disciples, He made it obvious that His disciples were His business. And we must concur. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

January 19th, 2022

But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. John 18:16

The man who had sworn to march into the jaws of death for his Lord was facing a problem. His Lord had been taken into the high priest’s house for a hearing, and Peter had no way to get in. He had already proven his valour by attacking a member of the arresting mob. Now he wanted to attend the hearing, especially considering the likelihood that the hearing would not go well. The door was guarded, and admittance was by invitation only. But an invitation came. John, who had some sort of acquaintance with the high priest, had been admitted on that basis. Now, John notices Peter outside, desiring to get in. So John tells the doorkeeper, ‘It’s OK, he’s with me,’ and brings Peter inside. And it turns out that Peter’s intentions are better than his ability to carry them out.

Yesterday, you faced a situation in which the Holy Spirit presented you with  an opportunity to stand up for your Lord before His enemies. The same thing will happen today, and probably tomorrow, although the circumstances will be different. We have nothing so dramatic as what Peter faced. And hopefully, we won’t experience the same collapse that Peter fell into. But we are disciples of the same Lord that Peter followed. And we see all around us the same enmity of the world against Him. We also know that it will cost us if those around us know that we are on His side. We know that there is reproach from those who reject our Lord. And just as it was a problem for Peter, it can be a problem for us. Like Peter, we find a little comfort at the world’s fire; we cringe from the stinging accusations of the scornful; we become embarrassed about standing out in the Christ-rejecting crowd. Peter had a great opportunity. And he blew it. And for the rest of his days, he regretted it. As we have opportunities to be faithful to our Lord, let us remember there is regret for blowing the opportunities.

When the cock crows, let us not regret the missed opportunities that we are given each day. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

January 18th, 2022

Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him. John 18:12

We remember the story of Sampson, and the problems that the Philistines had to capture him. Three times the mighty judge gave Delilah false information about the source of his strength, and three times she and the Philistines were fooled. Being bound with green bowstrings, with new rope, and even with his own hair had no impact on him. But the fourth time, Samson revealed the true secret, and was captured. When he lost the visible evidence of his devotion to God, he lost his power. How different was the Lord Jesus, who, like Sampson, was bound by the enemies of God. But unlike Sampson, the Lord Jesus never deviated from obedience and from displaying the true nature of God.

We know what happened after the so-called capture in Gethsemane. The band and captain and officers of the Jews thought they had Jesus of Nazareth in their power. But He retained all of the power He ever had; His submission to the mob was His display of His submission to His Father’s will. The ropes they bound Him with were no more binding than the bonds that the Philistines placed on Samson in his long-hair days. His pathway had always led Him in the direction that the mob was taking Him. Their capture of Him did not foil His plans; it merely accommodated His eternal purposes. For you and me, there is a lesson in obedience. If we maintain our testimony for Him, even the apparent victories of our enemies will be for our blessing and God’s glory.

There are problems that come around us, many of them affecting our ability to witness, to be effective in the Gospel, to contribute to the work of the Lord. We often see these things as reversals, as victories for God’s enemies. But are they? If we had followed the Lord Jesus through the trials and crucifixions, but never made it to the tomb on resurrection morning, we might have thought the enemies of Christ had won a victory. If we follow the whole story, we find displayed the greatest victory ever won on earthly soil. If we trust God through our apparent reversals and trials, we too will experience ultimate triumph. But only if we, like the Lord Jesus, remain within the will of God.

The world’s bonds can have no binding effect on us but what God allows. Submission to Him means certain victory. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 17th, 2022

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and smote the the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. And the servant’s name was Malchus. John 18:10

A preacher named Dr. Ralph F. Wilson wrote a fictional account of Malchus. Wilson’s tale begins with Malchus being the man who used his ears to learn what was happening in the community and to report to his master, Caiaphas. As Dr. Wilson’s story goes, impressed at the gentleness of the One Who healed his injured ear, Malchus becomes ashamed at his part in the capture of Jesus of Nazareth, and follows the trials and crucifixion with remorse. When he hears the prayer ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, he is no longer the servant of the high priest, but the servant of the Nazarene. As I said, the story is fiction; we have no idea what happened to Malchus after his ear was restored. But all the others who saw the miracle were not affected, although they should have been.

People today are looking for miracles. They say they will believe if Jesus will reappear and stop the violence and killing, and fix all the injustices and pain in the world. They say they will believe if Jesus will do some great thing for them, such as provide them with wealth, health, or happiness. But even the restoration of his ear did not cause Malchus to speak up for the Healer. People need conviction, not miracles, to cause them to repent and trust. Dr. Wilson’s tale aside, Malchus stands as proof today that it takes more than the loss of an ear to change hearts and convict souls. Poor Malchus probably died with both ears intact and perished in his sins.

Malchus is a tragic lesson to the unsaved. But He is also a reminder to you and me that even those who encounter great experiences concerning Christ can still remain His enemies. Do we have false professors around us who have had dramatic experiences, and nothing but dramatic experiences? Even among the saved are those whose salvation has not created a difference between themselves and the world they once belonged to. Like Malchus, they allow themselves to remain in the camp of the rejectors and despisers. Let us not be among them.

Jesus healed Malchus’ ear, but would just as readily have saved his soul. Jesus has saved you and me, but would just as readily be Lord of our lives. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 16th, 2022

They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. John 18:5

In the middle of the night, a few decades ago, a group of young criminals broke into a Nova Scotia house to steal what they could. As they made their way up the stairs, they were confronted at the top by the owner of the house, who feared for the safety of himself, his wife, and his children. He ordered the thieves to leave, telling them that he had a gun. One of the thieves, instead of backing down the stairs, rushed forward toward the owner. The owner fired his gun, and the thief fell, mortally wounded. In the investigation afterward, the slain thief’s companions declared that the young man had just joined their gang, and had never been involved in a home break-in before. Nobody believed them, of course. The young thief had taken his place among criminals, and had suffered the consequences. Just like Judas Iscariot.

The picture that John paints of the mob that came to arrest Jesus includes this reference to Judas standing with them. The one-time disciple of Jesus had now taken his stand where his heart was, where his real character was, with the enemies of Christ. He stands as a warning to us that those who might appear to be with us could be against us; those who we believe to be faithful could be traitors; those who we expect to see in the Glory could be sealing their doom for hell. We don’t know when or where the traitors will come from. But they will come, and like Judas, will eventually take their stand with the enemies of Christ, after they have performed their treachery. Calvary would have occurred without Judas’ guidance to the temple mob. But his betrayal stands as a warning today for us to be careful, and for sinners to beware lest they share his fate.

The devil has his would-be traitors anxious to come in among God’s Assemblies, just as they have come in among the denominations around us to destroy testimony and to dilute the Gospel message. They have succeeded in reducing ‘worship’ to the playing of rock music with religious overtones. They have succeeded in replacing the Gospel with pledge cards and a ‘faith’ that knows nothing of repentance. How long will it be until these traitors make inroads among us, mingling among us until their treachery does its damage and they can take their stand with our enemies?

Judas’ treacherous stand became his downfall. May God preserve us from his successors’ treachery. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

January 15th, 2022

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word. John 17:20

On the evening of April 8, 1967, Joseph Drybones was found drunk in the lobby of the Old Stope Hotel in Yellowknife. He was taken to court and was charged with being an Indian and intoxicated while off a reserve, which was a violation of the Indian Act. The lawyers who became involved decided to appeal the case. And they did appeal, through the Northwest Territories Territorial Court and the Northwest Territories Appeal Court. But they didn’t stop there; they took the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. And they won! On November 20, 1969, in a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the crown’s appeal and upheld Drybones’s acquittal. Although the court agreed that Drybones had broken the Indian Act, they found that such a crime was only a crime if committed by an Indian, and therefore was in violation of the Canadian Bill of Rights. The Drybones case set a valuable precedent in Canada, supporting the position that all Canadians are equal before the law. The Lord Jesus establishes an even greater precedent in today’s text, declaring that all Christians – not just the disciples – are the beneficiaries of His prayers.

We know how the Lord Jesus cared for and prayed for His disciples. His prayers carried them into apostleship and valuable service for Him, most of them achieving martyrdom, and seeing the spread of the Gospel throughout most of the known world. They achieved, because Jesus prayed for them. But the Lord Jesus did not pray just for them. He also prayed for those who would believe the apostles’ words. You and I have received the witness of the apostles, in the writings of the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the epistles. The great work of the spread of the Gospel and of the testimony of God’s Assemblies continues to our day, because of those like us who have believed the word of the apostles. And because the Lord Jesus prays for us, too.

We are amazed at the precedence that the Lord Jesus sets in his prayers for His disciples. His prayers are for us today because of that precedence. We may never encounter the situations or see the same results as the disciples did. But we are no less supported by our Lord’s prayers. The Lord is on our side, and we can rejoice that those who believe our word concerning the Lord Jesus will come under the same blessing.

The prayers of the Lord Jesus for His disciples are also for us and for all who will believe the Gospel. For this reason, we should make sure the Gospel is spread as far and wide as possible. -Jim MacIntosh