Thursday, November 30, 2017

Block 84 Caiaphas

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As high priest of the temple of Jerusalem, Caiaphas was the Jew’s representative to God.  Caiaphas, alone, was responsible for making annual sacrifices to God in the temple.  Caiaphas was also in charge of the temple coffers, temple guards and lower-ranking priests.  Appointed to the position by his father-in-law, Caiaphas was power hungry and had a good thing going —  a good thing going, until Jesus entered the scene and put a wrench in the works… 
Caiaphas hated Jesus.  HATED Him!  When Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, Caiaphas lost a significant source of revenue.  When Jesus taught in the temple, many Jews began switching their alliance to Jesus rather than Caiaphas.  When Jesus started performing miracles, Jesus continued to whittle away at Caiaphas’s leadership.  So when Jesus resurrected Lazarus, Caiaphas was fed up!  Worried that the Jews would universally rise up to follow Jesus, Caiaphas feared that the Roman emperor would become angered if the taxes and assessments were not paid in full.  So Caiaphas did the unthinkable.  He gathered the other priests and developed a scheme to have Jesus arrested and executed.  The degree of Caiaphas’s hatred can be measured in the Jewish laws that he broke to bring Jesus to trial.  After his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was brought to trial during a feast time (a big no-no). Priests were not given the chance to vote on Jesus’s fate privately, rather Caiaphas forced a public affirmation.  Jesus was sentenced to death in less time than accorded by Mosaic law.  The Jews exceeded their authority to execute prisoners. Jesus was denied legal representation.  Jesus was asked to incriminate himself, against Mosaic law.   Jesus’s trial was rigged to result in a guilty version.  Caiaphas knew it; Jesus knew it, and went along with it.  The execution of an innocent man fulfilled the Divine plan, and Caiaphas was merely an evil pawn in the plan. 
Hatred is evil.  It is a tool used by Satan to steer us away from God and His love.  We must always stay on guard against anyone and everyone who espouse hatred directed toward others.  God is LOVE, and we cannot fully receive His love if we harbor hatred for others in our hearts.  The only hatred we should hold onto is hatred of sin.

I chose the Swastika block to represent Caiaphas.  The Swastika is a symbol of one of the most hated men in human history, so it fittingly represents Caiaphas’ deep and unreasonable hatred for Jesus.


Block 83 Pilate

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"What is truth?” John 18:38

Probably the greatest coward in Bible history was responsible in helping Jesus fulfill the Divine plan.  Pontius Pilate was appointed Roman governor of Judea by Roman Emperor Tiberius 26 AD.  His responsibilities included tax collection, supervision of building construction, and maintaining law and order, which included being the sole judge and jury with the power to sentence criminals to death.  There was no love lost between Pilate and the Jews.  He loved to antagonize them, and in return, they hated and distrusted Pilate.  He was described (by the Jews) as being cruel and greedy.  Luke describes and incident (Luke 13:1) where Pilate was responsible for the slaughter of a group of Jews from Galilee. 
So when Jesus was brought before Pilate for sentencing, he found himself caught between a rock and a hard place.  Frequently in trouble with Roman authorities, Pilate wanted to get things “right.”  The Sanhedrin were calling for Jesus to be crucified, but Pilate was uncertain of His guilt. Pilate questioned Jesus, searching for the truth.  But in fact, Pilate was standing in the presence of “the way, the truth and the life.”  John 14:6.  Pilate was not aware that Jesus was the Truth, but he knew that Jesus did nothing to deserve the death penalty. The Jewish leaders continued to apply pressure.  Pilate’s wife interpreted a dream, warning Pilate to release Jesus.  The Jewish crowd was ready to riot.  What should the governor do?  Ultimately, Pilate washed his hands of the situation.  He turned the decision over to the Jews, letting them choose between Jesus and hardened criminal, Barabbas.  And we all know how the Jews responded.  It is unclear how Pilate came to die in 39AD.  Some stories say that the Roman emperor ordered Pilate’s death; other stories say that Pilate committed suicide. 
How many times have we been put in a situation where public or peer pressure makes it difficult for us to do the right thing?  How many times have we looked the Truth in the face, yet caved to that pressure?

I chose Stone Mason’s Puzzle to represent Pontius Pilate.  A stone was found in 1961 in an archaeological dig that provided evidence of Pilate’s existence, which in turn gives credence to the crucifixion story in the Bible.


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.