Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Block 82 Lazarus (beggar)

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"…but now he is comforted, and you are in agony." Luke 16:25



Jesus has always been a champion of the underdog.  So it is no surprise that in many of his parables, the underdog comes out on top.  The same is true for the parable of Lazarus the beggar (not to be confused with Jesus’ dear friend, Lazarus).
Lazarus’s body was covered in sores.  He was dying slowly.  Each day, he rested outside a wealthy man’s gates, happy for whatever scraps would be thrown  his way.  But the rich man had no concern for Lazarus.  With each day that passed, Lazarus became weaker and weaker.  Eventually, his body surrendered and Lazarus died.  Angels delivered Lazarus to heaven to stand beside Abraham.  Shortly after, the rich man died and he was delivered to the depths of hell.  The rich man appealed to Abraham, asking that Lazarus be sent to wait on him and help him cool off.  He also asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about sinful behaviors and the punishment that awaited them.  Abraham denied both requests. Abraham knew that the brothers had denied the scripture and would be unlikely to believe a messenger.  Abraham responded to the rich man, reminding him that in life, he enjoyed comfort, while Lazarus lived in agony, and now in death, the roles are reversed. 
Reversed roles, for good reason.  In life, the wealthy man rejected the Gospel, so in death, God rejected him.  A rich man can’t buy his way into heaven.  God gives wealth with the expectation that it is used to better humanity.  This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “the last will be first and the first will be last.”  Matthew 20:16.





I chose Beggars Blocks to represent Lazarus, a beggar who was rewarded greatly for his steadfast faith.

Block 81 Lazarus (friend)

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I am the resurrection and the life....” John 11:25


How far would you go to save a friend?  Would you be willing to give up your life to save the life of your friend?  Well, Jesus did just that!
Siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus of Bethany were dear friends and disciples of Jesus..  When Lazarus fell deathly ill, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, asking him to come quickly to heal their brother.  Jesus received the message, but did not depart immediately.  Rather, He waited a couple of days before leaving, and by the time Jesus reached Bethany, Lazarus was already dead and had laid in the tomb four days.  When Jesus arrive, Mary and Martha were filled with grief.  Both women, individually, pointed out the obvious to Jesus, that if he had arrived earlier, Lazarus would still be alive. Jesus assured them both that Lazarus would arise.  Mary wept, and Jesus wept with her. Many Jews had gathered to console Mary and Martha, and they were all there to witness the miracle.
Jesus asked to be led to the tomb.  He asked to have the stone removed and called for Lazarus to come out.  Lazarus rose from the dead and walked out of the tomb.  Many of the Jews who witnessed the miracle became immediate believers, others raced back to the Pharisees to report what Jesus had done.  The Pharisees were worried that if Jesus continued to perform these miracles, his followers would continue to increase, and the Roman Empire would react in force.  They shared their concerns with Caiaphas the high priest who determined that Jesus must be eliminated. 
Jesus’s impending crucifixion fulfilled prophecy, and Jesus knew what his future held for him.  It is quite probable Jesus knew that resurrecting His friend would result in his own demise.  His actions gave meaning to the words of John 15:13: “Greater love has no man than this, than to give his life for his friends.”








I chose Friendship Quilt to represent Jesus’s dear friend, Lazarus. Jesus’s deep friendship is a human attribute that we all can understand.

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.