Hello and welcome to Thursday’s reflection, Bible passage and worship song. Today I want to give a special mention to our talented team who have produced the tracks at the end of the podcast… they have done such a good job! I also hope you are enjoying these reflections from the Bible. I hope in this 11 minute package we each feel refreshed by God for the day ahead. Perhaps in the quiet at the end of the podcast we could take some time to write down what God might be saying to us…
Let’s get into the Bible story. It is the story of the crucifixion of Jesus in Luke 23. Our focus verses for the day are v34 and v35…
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
Familiar words to us listening. Jesus hangs on the cross and is mocked with the challenge… “He saved others… let him save himself…” Three words at the start of that phrase that capture the life and purpose of Jesus. “He saved others”.
Before we continue let me tell us 4 short stories of people in the UK who have been acknowledged in their selflessness. I pulled these from a website called goodnewsshared.com. If, like me, you feel like some days and weeks the national news headlines are all rubbish, this could be a brilliant website to browse from time-to-time. These 4 short stories are of individuals who are learning about selflessness.
1. Alex Staniforth
21-year-old Alex has overcome anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, eating disorders, bullying, epilepsy and stammering to raise over £55,000 for charity. This year he took on his biggest challenge yet to help improve young people’s mental health and walked, cycled, ran and even kayaked over 4,000 miles around the UK, climbing to the highest point of all 100 counties.
2. Caroline Wareing
Caroline was paralysed in a horse-riding accident in 2009 but, determined to not let her paralysis stop her, she took on the gruelling challenge of cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, raising over £21,000 for Cancer Research UK.
3. Chris Pickhaver
After a long struggle with mental illness, Chris’ son Joe sadly took his own life last December at the age of 16. Chris created a beautiful book of photographs in his son’s memory that he uploaded to his JustGiving page. Joe’s family wanted to raise £16,000 – one thousand pounds for every year of his life. They’ve raised over £43,000 for Young Minds Trust, a charity committed to improving the mental health of children.
4. Brooke Taylor
16-year-old Brooke has been a patient at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital since the day she was born. At 11 days old she had lifesaving surgery to remove a pelvic tumour and since then she’s had more operations than birthdays. Last year, against medical advice, she completed the Manchester 10k with her surgeon by her side. This year, she recruited more than 70 people to run with her in Brooke’s Barmy Army, including a brass band, raising over £16,000 for the hospital.
I hope you found these stories inspiring. In a small way they are all victories won like that of Jesus on the cross. As we will hear when the story is read out in full at the end… through all the verses Luke gives us today… the big idea is that Jesus cares for and saves other people… even as he faces his greatest challenge and goes to his death. He expresses cares for the disciples and the daughters of Jerusalem in verses 30 and 31. He heals the man who came to arrest him, as we heard a few days ago. He even promises salvation to one of the criminals who is dying next to him on the cross. Jesus even asks God to forgive those who crucify him.
This is the beautiful message. The core message of the Christian faith. Rather than saving himself, Jesus sacrifices himself for our salvation and loves others to the end.
Here is where I am challenged today…
Real love – like the love displayed in the story today – is more of a mindset than a one off action. It is becoming clear to me that, as important this one off action is to save us all, Jesus consistently cared for others every step to the destination.
Real love is a posture not simply a gesture.
A friend once said recently… Charity can be done at distance but love requires proximity.
This real love on display is something I feel challenged to replicate today. Where are there opportunities to love people? Not to do things for the accolades, but because it is what Jesus did. What might that look like? Well, if I know someone in my community is struggling to fill their cupboards at the moment – I could buy them a shop; or I could do that and also we could invite them round for a meal one day.
Gifts are one thing. But where can we give the gift of our love and care today? Let’s take some space to pray and think about what God is saying to us today.
God thank you for Jesus. Thank you for your example of generous care. Thank you especially for what you accomplished on the cross. Keep speaking to us through he day we pray. Amen.
READING: Luke 23:26-43
As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then
‘“they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”
For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’