Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. 
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Mark 15: 7, 11-13

God is very strategic and specific in choosing those who will fulfill His will, even down to their very names. A person’s name denotes his character and his purpose. The name Moses, for example, means “drawn out”. Moses was drawn out from the river Nile as a baby, but God also used him to draw out the Israelites from Egypt. Later, the people of Israel desired a king so they could be like other nations. God gave them a king by the name of Saul. Saul’s name means ….desired!

In Jesus' day it was customary for the Romans to release a Jewish prisoner during the Passover festival, and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate tried to use this custom as an excuse to release Jesus. But the crowd in the courtyard demanded that Barabbas be freed instead. Thus Barabbas was released, and Jesus was crucified.

The above Scripture indicates that Barabbas had participated in the rebellion. This was most likely the Jewish rebellion against the controlling Roman system. Incidentally, the name “Roman” means strength. So, in essence, Barabbas was among those who were resisting the strength of that day. Matthew’s gospel describes him as a notable prisoner, so this Barabbas was a man who was well known among the people.

Barabbas was the chief priests’ choice because his release would ensure their continued comfort. They knew that Jesus would bring change that they were not willing to submit to. They were most interested in status, physical well-being and financial gain, all the while performing religious rituals of the day. They were not willing to change their hearts and minds, so they enticed the crowd to ask for Barabbas’ freedom. The unsuspecting crowd followed the loudest and most influential voices of the chief priests and their henchmen.

Jesus, too, was well known, and some of the Jews considered Him to be the one who would free them from Roman control, so to many He was a political savior. The name Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation”. But He always talked about His Father, so we know that He was, and still is, the Son of the Father.

Picture the scene that day. Pilate stands on a platform above the courtyard which is filled with a large crowd of people. On one side of Him stands Jesus – the Son of the Father. On the other side stands Barabbas whose name means..... “son of the father”!

Unknowingly the people were being asked which son they would choose – the murderous son of the father, or the true Son of the Father who came to give eternal life.

Today history is quietly repeating itself. Many are looking to politicians and leaders in society who tout their commitment to make life more comfortable for the masses. A similar question to the one that was posed 2000 years ago is again being asked – “what then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of kings?”

Whom do you choose?

Note: here are some of the names (and meanings) of today's world leaders…

President of the United States
Barack: lightning; blessing
Hussein: virtuous, attractive
Obama: crooked, slightly bending

President of Canada
Nicholas: victory of the people
Sarkozy: (several possible meanings) – prince of darkness; dweller of a place where a fire occurred; between the mud and the river.

Chancellor of Germany
Angela: messenger
Merkel: name derived from a mark in Germany which was “an immense inhospitable forest wilderness”

Prime Minister of Italy
Silvio: wood, forest
Berlusconi: (meaning unknown)

Prime Minister of Great Britain
Gordon: great hill
Brown: brown

President of Russia
Dmitry: earth mother
Medvedev: bear

Prime Minister of Israel
Benjamin: son of my right hand
Netanyahu: gift of God

Thursday, April 8, 2010

ABIDING IN HIS LOVE - Filled with His Joy

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 
John 15:11

The word “joy” comes from a root word meaning to rejoice exceedingly, be well, to thrive.

Think about this…even though Jesus was “despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” He talked about His joy more than His sorrow. It is because He knew that any sorrow He felt was short-lived compared to the everlasting joy that He had within. Moreover, His sorrow was not a self-pitying one, but rather was for those who were still lost and without a Savior.

In the world today joy and happiness are used interchangeably. The truth is that the world can only offer you happiness which is a temporary feeling of euphoria brought on by some external factor – a raise in salary or a good time out with friends, for example, or some other pleasant event that appeals to your senses.

Joy, on the other hand, is not dependent on external influences or your sense realm. It originates within. It is understandable, then, that Jesus, even though He was hated and reviled by so many, maintained His joy. Not only that……..He wants you to have His joy.

Jesus’ joy originated from the intensely intimate relationship that He shared with the Father. Because of this, He was able to maintain His joy even in the face of terrible persecution and rejection. He did not allow temporary situations to permanently affect Him. He remained focused on His mission and His continuous communion with His Father.

For Him to be moved with such compassion for those who were afflicted, Jesus had to know the joy they were missing. When He saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd, He knew they were missing the joy of having the love of the Great Shepherd to guide them. He knew the joy they were missing when their bodies were afflicted with disease or the minds were tormented. He also knows the joy you miss when you don’t abide in Him completely.

John chapter 15 details Jesus’ final commands to His disciples before His crucifixion. The last words that are spoken are usually the ones that you remember most vividly. This is why I believe He took the time to expound clearly in this chapter on His two commandments – love God by abiding in Him (verses 1-8); love your neighbor as Jesus loves you (verses 9-17).

Jesus described the joy that awaits a good servant. When you are a faithful steward over the things that the Father has assigned to you, you can be assured of the right to enter into the joy of the Lord.
  • His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:21
Joy and peace go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.
  • These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
  • “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
Everything on this earth – interpersonal relationships, challenges, triumphs – comes to pass. The only thing that is permanent in your life is your relationship (or lack of it) with the Lord, which determines where you will spend eternity. Therefore…
  • …lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrew 12:1,2
The following Scripture summarizes what you do to maintain your joy…
  • Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Finally, (insert your name here), whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:4-8
Friends will disappoint you; family will fail you, but the joy of your intimate relationship the Lord will always continue to be your strength. Abide in Him and enter into the joy of the Lord!
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