Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Block 80 Cornelius

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God does not show favoritism…” Acts 10:34

Cornelius was a Roman centurion, a commander in an Italian regiment of the Roman military, a Gentile who believed in God. One God.  One true God.  Most Gentiles believed in multiple gods, but Cornelius believed in and prayed to our God.  He was a good man.  He prayed regularly, gave charitably, and did good deeds for others.  One day, while he was praying, an angel came to Cornelius in a vision.  The angel told him that God heard his prayers, but had bigger plans for Cornelius.  The angel further instructed Cornelius to find the apostle Peter.  Because his faith was strong, Cornelius immediately dispatched two servants and a loyal soldier to find Peter in nearby Joppa.
It would not have been typical for Peter to suspend ministering to Jews to visit a Gentile, but God had prepared Peter’s heart to recognize the strangers and to go where he was needed.  When they first met, Peter told Cornelius that it was against Jewish law for him to associate with a Gentile, BUT, he further explained, God had sent Peter a vision that told him to accept and minister equally to the Gentiles.  Peter began sharing the gospel with the Gentiles in the house.  He baptized them, and nearly immediately, the Gentiles began speaking in tongues.  Peter was convinced that what he had witnessed was evidence that God’s saving grace was for all people, not just for the Jews.
So what’s the big deal here?  The disciples were baptizing people all the time.  But Cornelius’ baptism was a VERY big deal.  Cornelius was the first Gentile converted to Christianity. Luke describes this event as a monumental — the first time when Gentile Christians were granted equal fellowship with Jewish Christians.  Essentially, Cornelius paved the way for all of us (non-Jews) who choose to be Christians.



 

I chose Coxey’s Army to represent Cornelius because of Cornelius was a commander in the Roman army. 





Block 79 Nicodemus

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“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

If Nicodemus had been in a motorcycle club, his jacket would have said “Leader of the Jews.”  The Pharisees were persnickety about keeping Jewish laws and traditions, so the Pharisees were strongly opposed to Jesus.  And Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews – the same people that petition Pilate to crucify Jesus.  So, by birth and upbringing, Nicodemus was also an enemy of Christ.

But Nicodemus had heard enough about Jesus’ teachings that he had questions.  So one night, he visited Jesus in secret (he couldn’t visit by day, because he didn’t want to be seen).  Nicodemus questioned Jesus at length, trying to determine if Jesus was leading people astray.  But Jesus took the opportunity to convert Nicodemus.  He immediately informed Nicodemus that he needed to be baptized in order to enter the kingdom of God.  He went on to tell Nicodemus that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16. Nicodemus was not quite convinced, but he did not openly condemn Jesus to his fellow Sanhedrin.  When the Pharisees sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus advocated that Jesus should not be condemned without hearing from him personally.

When next we hear of Nicodemus, he was assisting Joseph of Arimathea (also a Sanhedrin) with Jesus’ burial.  Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of myrrh, aloe and other spices.  By any standard, this was a burial fit for an important man, not a crucified criminal.  The Bible doesn’t mention whether or not Nicodemus converted and became a disciple.  But we like to believe that he had secretly converted and helped Joseph give Jesus a burial fit for the King of the Jews.

 

I chose Right & Left to represent Joseph of Arimathea because he was not a stereotypical Pharisee.  On the surface, he was on the Right, but secretly, Joseph of Arimathea was on the Left with questions only Jesus could answer.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Block 78 Joseph of Arimathea

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Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
Jesus had a secret admirer (in fact, he had many)!  As a voting member of the Sanhedrin council that actively opposed Jesus and wanted him crucified, Joseph of Arimathea was searching for the kingdom of God and was a secret follower of Christ.  Joseph was a wealthy man, most likely a metals merchant.  Some historical sources indicate that Joseph travelled the world to trade metals and was designated Minister of Mines by the Roman government.  Other sources indicated that Joseph took young Jesus with him on many of these trips to England and India.  Why??? Well, MAYBE Joseph of Aramathea was Jesus’ great uncle, the uncle of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  It’s hard to know, as the sources are not verifiable, but we DO know that Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus.  At a time when the Sanhedrin was calling for Jesus’ crucifixion, Joseph stayed near and was ready to act.  Joseph secretly went to Pontius Pilate and asked to take Jesus’ body and prepare it for the grave. Pilate granted his request.  This was very significant.  The responsibility to remove the body from the cross and prepare it for burial would normally have gone to Mary, Jesus’ mother, or Mary Magdalene, or even any one of the apostles.  But most of the apostles had all fled the scene.  So Joseph of Aramathea brought a cart and carefully removed Jesus from the cross.  Together with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, they gently cleansed the body, wrapped it with linen strips soaked in myrrh and aloe, and placed Jesus in a tomb that Joseph had originally intended to be his own.
After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea lived a self-imposed exile, an apology for the actions of the Sanhedrin council.  Some sources say that Joseph was briefly imprisoned for his support for Jesus.  When he returned to the apostles, Peter selected Joseph to be one of the 72 disciples who would spread the good news throughout the world.  He travelled to Gaul with Phillip, Mary Magdalene and Lazarus, and later split away and travelled to England with 12 other disciples.  He arrived in Glastonbury and remained their until his death over 40 years later.  Joseph converted over 1000 souls, baptized tens of thousands and founded the abbey of Glastonbury, the first Christian church in the world.  A wonderful tribute by one of Jesus’ secret admirers!

I chose Secret Drawer to represent Joseph of Arimathea because he was a secret admirer and secret disciple of Jesus Christ.  Only after Jesus’ death did Joseph of Arimathea come out to be a proclaimed follower of Christ.

 




Block 77 Joseph

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“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49
He was a 90-year-oldwidower with four sons and two daughters.  He should be looking for a wife who could help him care for his family.  But instead, Joseph answered It would take a special man to stand up and agree to take a young pregnant women as his wife. But that is exactly what Joseph did.  The details are a little sketchy here.  One source says he took Mary in and later learned of her pregnancy.  Another source says that Joseph was chosen by “lot” by the elders of the community.  Regardless of how they came to be together, we know that Joseph agreed to marry Mary and become the babe’s stepfather. During a time where Mary could have been ostracized (or even killed) for being an unwed mother, Joseph protected her and her unborn child.
Joseph was a deeply religious man and a skilled carpenter.  As any father would, Joseph shared his faith and his trade with Jesus.  Jesus worked alongside Joseph and his brother, James on a wide variety of carpentry jobs.  They faithfully observed Holy Days and travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover festival each year.  You will recall that when Jesus was twelve, they lost him.  I can only imagine their sense of panic when, as they were travelling in a caravan of friends and family, they discovered they had left Jesus behind.  I could see how it could happen, though.  They were traveling in a large group.  Joseph probably thought that Jesus was with Mary, and Mary probably assumed that Jesus was with Joseph.  They had travelled a full day before discovering that Jesus was not with the caravan.  They rushed back to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the temple among the teachers asking questions.  When Joseph and Mary rushed in, Jesus seemed surprised at their anguish and wondered aloud, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 The family returned to Nazareth, where Joseph continued to train Jesus as a carpenter and continued to nurture his faith.  Joseph is not mentioned again in the Bible.  We assume that Joseph died of natural causes sometime before Jesus began his ministry when he turned 30.  Joseph must have been a wonderful, loving father, offering Jesus a great model of fatherhood.  Later, Jesus described God as a loving father, a description he could offer easily because he knew from experience how a loving father behaves.

I chose Father’s Choice to represent Joseph, Jesus’ step-father.  Joseph CHOSE to become Jesus’ father, and took the role very seriously.

 




Thursday, July 27, 2017

Block 76 Barsabbas

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“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14
When you think of all of the important men of the Bible, does the name Barsabbas make your list?  Probably not.  His name is similar to Barnabas; it’s similar to Barrabas, yet Barsabbas shared none of their notoriety.  In fact, the only disciples that were less known than Barsabbas were those who were never called by name in the Bible.  Even less remarkable than Matthias, Joseph Barsabbas is the disciple that was NOT chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.
Like Matthias, Barsabbas had been an avid follower of Christ, sharing His ministry from His baptism to His death and resurrection.  Yet, when the apostles cast lots, Barsabbas was rejected, and Matthias was chosen to become one of THE Twelve. We’ve all faced our share of rejection in our lives, but imagine how Barsabbas must have felt.  Do you imagine that he questioned himself, “Why didn’t God choose me?”  “What does Matthias have that I do not have?”
Although he was not chosen to be one of the twelve, Joseph Barsabbas was “chosen of God.”  So are we.  Rather than feel sorry for himself, Joseph Barsabbas could rejoice with Matthias’s leadership role because he knew that God had chosen him to play an equally important supporting role.  Just like us.  Not being chosen as one of the twelve changed nothing for Barsabbas.  He was still expected to continue his discipleship, leading others to know Jesus Christ.  Just like us.
Our lives will be filled with road bumps and disappointments.  Like Barsabbas, we must remain focused on the prize — eternal life with our Lord in heaven.  But first, we, like Barsabbas, have much work to do first. So why wait?  Let’s get to it!

I chose The Lost Ship block to represent Barsabbas.  On the surface, it appears that he lost the opportunity to serve as one of the twelve apostles, but we know that he was chosen for a different purpose.