The Baptism of Jesus / Call of the Disciples: 30th April 2021

Joshua 17:1-18:28

The Israelites struck a blow for women’s rights as the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons (v.6).

The land of Gilead was assigned to the rest of the descendants of Manasseh. They went on to make a renowned rare, perfumed healing balm that inspired this beautiful song. The Balm of Gilead is interpreted as a spiritual medicine that is able to heal Israel (and sinners in general) i.e. Jesus’ Christ’s precious blood that he poured out for us on the cross.

The Canaanites put up strong resistance in areas that they were determined not to give up (v.12), However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labour (v.13). The Canaanites were a sophisticated fighting force and had iron chariots (v.16) – formidably effective when fighting on a plain. Joshua encouraged the people of Joseph: ‘You are numerous and very powerful’ (v.17). They would be able to conquer the land with God’s help despite the chariots of their enemies.

The tent of meeting was set up at Shiloh (18:1). Seven tribes were still to receive an inheritance and so three men from each tribe were sent out to survey the land. It would then be split into seven parts and allocated by lot. The only proviso was that the tribe of Joseph would remain in the North and Judah would remain in the South. Joshua showed his wisdom and trust in the Lord. Casting lots, in the presence of the Lord, would ensure that the land was allocated as God desired. God can influence the role of the dice when required. Amongst my many sins as a teenager, I used to play the role-playing game: ‘Dungeons and Dragons‘. I have since renounced and repented of such activities. Before starting, you have to choose to play as one of 12 character classes, such as fighters, clerics or sorcerers (I told you this was a dodgy activity). You then make decisions, while imagining you are this fantasy character, about how to progress in various adventures (made up by an imaginative friend, termed a ‘Dungeon Master’). The idea is to progress through various adventures, nurturing your character, making him (or her) stronger and gathering treasure by battling legendary creatures. The outcome of fights are determined by rolling various strangely-shaped multicoloured dice. I always choose to be a paladin – a charismatic / fancy type of knight. I was always particularly attracted to the word ‘charisma’. One day, our ‘Dungeon Master’ was in a particularly vindictive mood and set up our adventure so we would have to fight the powerful demon, Asmodeus, one of the Biblical big-hitters in the book of Tobit. He basically wanted to kill off all our characters whom we had nurtured for months. I waded into battle – a certain suicide mission as I would have to roll sixes continually on a normal dice to win. However, there was an option to invoke the angel Gabriel for help in the battle and, lo and behold, after asking for angelic assistance every time I rolled the dice in fantasy ‘combat’ with the demon, I rolled a six. I rolled about twenty sixes in a row and defeated this virtually invincible foe. The probability of this occurring is infinitesimally small. Someone was controlling the outcome of those dice rolls to show that when I ask for help, evil can be defeated no matter how impossible it seems. There are other forces in the room when people play games like this. Don’t do it kids, stick to less ‘spiritual’ games. I would say ‘Monopoly’ but that combines being immoral with being incredibly dull. Maybe kick a football around outside instead.

John 1:29-51

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and proclaimed ‘Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ The Holy Spirit residing in John gave him a prophetic word of knowledge allowing him to tell the future of his holy relative. The blood of the Passover lambs applied to the door frames and lintels of the Israelites’ houses in Egypt protected them from death as the destroying angel passed over. Jesus’ blood saves us from our sins, destroying death and opening the gates of heaven for us.

Even though Jesus was born six months after John, Jesus was ‘before him’ (v.30) as ‘he was with God in the beginning’ of all things (v.2).

John revealed the reason he had been baptizing. It was so that Jesus ‘might be revealed to Israel’ (v.31). John had seen the Holy Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Jesus. John testified that Jesus ‘is the Son of God’ (v.34). Jesus was 100% God and 100% human – a unique mathematical mystery.

Some pastors say that Jesus didn’t perform any miracles before the Holy Spirit descended on him at his baptism. I don’t think we can be so sure as Jesus was 100% filled with the Holy Spirit from the time of his conception. If he didn’t perform miracles in his ‘hidden years’, it would have been because he freely chose to lay aside his supernatural Godly powers until he was publicly revealed as the Son of God. We will find out more of the story when we get to heaven. I remember Monty Python publishing an amusing school report for God that complained about Him parting the waters of the swimming pool, ‘which was both unsporting and dangerous’: https://friarminor.blogspot.com/2009/09/monty-pythons-report-card-for-god.html

Andrew was the first disciple to follow Jesus. Verse 35 shows that he was originally John’s disciple but went after Jesus when John identified him as ‘the Lamb of God’. I have visited Saint Andrew’s tomb in Edinburgh cathedral. The first thing that Andrew did after finding Jesus was to find his brother, Simon and tell him ‘We have found the Messiah’ (v.41). Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, who renamed him ‘Peter’, which translates as rock. It is one of our roles as disciples to bring people to meet Christ. Jesus will have a great future mapped out for them.

The next day Jesus finds Philip and asks him to follow him. Philip found Nathanael (who many people think is the same person as Bartholomew) and told him to ‘come and see Jesus’ (v.46). Church tradition is that Nathanael / Bartholomew later carried a translation of Matthew’s gospel to India.

Nathanael was sceptical about Jesus when he heard that he was from Nazareth. ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (v.46). My wife pours a similar amount of light-hearted scorn on me for growing up in Essex. Nazareth did not have a good reputation see: https://www.gotquestions.org/Matthew-2-23-Jesus-Nazarene.html

Jesus was able to instantly assess Nathanael’s character, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false’ (v.47). He had seen him under a fig tree before Philip had called him.

Nathanael blurted out, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’ (v.49). Both Jesus and these early disciples are all being moved by the Holy Spirit to utter prophetic words of knowledge.

Jesus saw in Nathanael some of the qualities of the patriarch Jacob and promised him the same sort of vision that Jacob had experienced: ‘You shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’ (v.51).

It is touching to read how these disciples started their life with Jesus and remember how they kept their faith until their violent deaths. Saint Andrew was crucified on 30 November 60AD, by order of the Roman governor Aegeas. He was tied to an X-shaped cross in Greece, and this is represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag. Saint Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the reign of the tyrannical Emperor Nero. Saint Philip was scourged and crucified in Egypt. Nathanael / Bartholomew the apostle was either flayed alive and beheaded in Armenia or crucified upside down (head downward) like Saint Peter. Even if they could have foreseen their eventual appaling fate, this men would still have chosen to follow Jesus. https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/64320/Local-News/How-did-the-apostles-die

Many people go on holidays and unwisely visit temples that are not Christian – from which you can bring back unholy oppressing spirits. It is much better to visit great Christian cathedrals and shrines when you are are abroad. So far in my life, I have visited various magnificent cathedrals preserving the relics of Saints Peter, Mark and Andrew. I have also visited the relatively simple grave of Saint Patrick in Northern Ireland that was being guarded by an impressive raven. I would love to visit Santiago de Compostela in Spain to visit the tomb of Saint James. Why go on holiday and just bake on a beach when you can enhance your Christian faith by seeing that these heroes of faith were real people? They battled for Jesus and heroically died for their faith. As far as God is concerned, they are still alive They will intercede for us in heaven, we just have to think about them and ask them in prayer.

Proverbs 10

The book of Proverbs often mentions wisdom. God had bestowed Solomon with more wisdom than anyone else on the planet but Solomon still messed up his life – through being seduced by his hundreds of foreign wives to worship their deities.

Before his fall from grace, his temporarily righteous mouth did bring forth wisdom (v.1)

The mouth of the wicked knows only what is perverse. We may have strange thoughts pop into our minds during the day. Lewd jokes or scurrilous gossip. We should bat these thoughts away in the name of Jesus as they only take on a life of their own when we actually vocalise them. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can know what is fitting to say.

God hates people who cheat others (11:1). We should be guided by our integrity.

Our wealth will be no use to us when faced with death or the end of the world. We will only be rescued by righteousness, which we have obtained through the precious blood of Christ. This righteousness makes a straight way for us and delivers us from death and decay. Christ’s righteousness will rescue us from trouble. Our hope does not perish when we die, we hope for everlasting life through the mercy of God because of our belief in his son, Jesus.

Image: Ottavio Vannini (1585-c. 1643), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fall of Jericho / Betrayal of Christ: April 24th 2021

Joshua 5:13-7:26

One of the pleasures of reading the Old Testament is to spot when Jesus unexpectedly turns up. On several occasions, Jesus (the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God) makes an actual physical appearance and does or says something significant. These Old Testament appearances are known as ‘Christophanies’.

Jesus became incarnate of the Virgin Mary in the era of New Testament but one of the hardest concepts to grasp in the Bible is that time means nothing to God. The past, present and future are all the same to him. He knows what we are going to choose to do before we do it as he knows the future. So, as James pointed out (James 2:21-24), Abraham was not considered righteous just because of his faith. Abraham was considered righteous because he, in the future, would offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice on an altar. God mashes our faith and our future deeds together: ‘You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone (James 2:24). Similarly, even though Jesus didn’t become a baby until the year AD 1, he was able to travel back in time as both God and Man to create the world in Genesis 1, walk with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8), talk to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-33), wrestle with Jacob (Genesis 32:22-31) and abort the assassination of Moses (Exodus 4:24-36).

When it comes to Joshua 5:13-15, the jury is out as to whether this is actually Jesus talking to Joshua or an angel. Some pastors think this is Jesus because ‘Joshua fell face down in reverence’ (v.14). The argument is that an angel would have told Joshua to stand back up because angels are not to be worshipped. However, there is a big difference between reverence and worship. Reverence is to show ‘deep respect’ for someone or something and so it is legitimate to revere an angel – particularly this one because he is obviously none other than my boss, Saint Michael, ‘the commander of the army of the Lord’ (v.14). I belong to the Order of the Knights of Saint Michael and so I am a big fan. Saint Michael obviously thought it was fine for Joshua to fall face down because ‘the place where you are standing is holy’ (v.15). He told Joshua to take his shoes off as well.

However, here is some further confusion. One minute, it is Saint Michael holding a drawn sword in his hand speaking to Joshua but from the beginning of Chapter 6 it says, ‘Then the Lord said to Joshua… ‘. So the mystery person may have been Jesus after all. Maybe both Jesus and Saint Michael were there. The author has not explained this clearly enough. If I was marking Chapter 6, I would highlight it in red and write, ‘Joshua, you must try harder!’

God / Jesus told Joshua how to defeat the besieged city of Jericho. It was already a done deal: ‘I have delivered Jericho into your hands’ (6:2). The Israelites had to march around the city blowing trumpets once a day for six days but on the seventh day, they had to march around it seven times. Then, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall of the city would collapse and every man could rush straight in (6:2-5). The Israelites had started a working partnership with God. If they carried out certain actions to show their faith, he would carry out the supernatural miracle to enable the task to be completed. The plan might sound far-fetched but as the river Jordan had just dried up in front of them, the Israelites had full faith in both God and Joshua.

Joshua commanded that Rahab and her family would be the only inhabitants of Jericho to be spared because she had hidden the Israelite spies (v.17). As the walls were due to collapse, I would have been nervous for Rahab who actually lived in the wall of the city but her house was left standing (v.22). The Israelites shouted, the wall collapsed, they all rushed into the city and destroyed every living thing (apart from Rahab, her parents and her family). From being the disgrace of the family, because of her profession, she became their saviour because she recognised who the true God was and that he was fighting with his people. She had faith in the God of the Israelites. Rahab, and her family, had to stay outside the Israelite camp (v.23) as they had been contaminated by the devil worship in the city and their lifestyles. Eventually, Rahab was assimilated into society and became one of Jesus’s ancestors after she married a Jew named Salmon and gave birth to Boaz.

The Israelites burned the city to the ground and Jacob cursed it so it could never be rebuilt. With this second major miracle, Joshua’s ‘fame spread throughout the land’ (v.27).

An Israelite called Achan looted from Jericho some of the items that had been devoted to demonic entities. This was strictly banned. This made God very angry just as he gets very angry if we bring back dubious souvenirs from abroad such as Buddha statues or African masks, which might be infested by all sorts of evil spirits. Putting the wrong types of objects in your house can put a curse on it. My wife and I are rejoicing that now that my children have moved out we can get rid of all the dubious childhood items they collected that might affect the atmosphere in the house: Harry Potter books, Pokémon cards, soft toys, dolls, videos and music. We have had a complete clear-out. I need to stock up on holy water to bless the newly organised cupboards.

Incidentally, many children are scared of the cupboards in their bedroom. If demonic activity is going to start anywhere in a child’s room, it is often in a cupboard. It is dark for a start and these creatures avoid the light, but also kids store their commercial rubbish in these cupboards. Many items have dodgy spiritual associations. Cupboard doors often open ‘by themselves’, items fall off shelves and roll out of the cupboard. On the other side of my city in a council house, there was reputed to be an incubus, a sexual demon focused on women. This one kept organising the shoes of its young female victim in her cupboard. I talked to an exorcist from London at a conference once and he said the two most common locations he found demons were in council houses and hospitals. Pubs weren’t far behind.

The Israelites were expecting an easy victory against the inhabitants of the city of Ai but, unbeknownst to them, God was no longer protecting them due to Achan’s sin. Achan had secretly taken some of the plunder from Jericho and hidden it under his tent. When the Israelites attacked Ai, they were routed and thirty-six of them died. This is what happens to society when individuals start sinning. Many people think what they do in the privacy of their own house or bedroom won’t hurt anyone else. However, God sees everything. If he is upset at the sins people are carrying out – other people get hurt as he withdraws their protection and stops answering people’s prayers. God tells Joshua that the Israelites will not be able to stand against their enemies until any objects devoted to demonic entities are removed. God whittled down the Israelites through a selection process to show Achan was the guilty party. Only then did he admit to coveting items from Jericho, taking them and hiding them.

Achan, the devoted items, and all his belongings, including his sons and daughters were taken out to a valley and destroyed. This seems harsh as it was only recently in Deut: 24:16 that Moses declared; ‘parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for your parents; each will die for their own sin’.

However, Achan had let a whole nation down. The Israelites had been given a fresh start with God, yet almost immediately covetous greed started up and, as a result, innocent people died. Sin kills and God takes it incredibly seriously. Sin affects the whole of society. There is no such thing as a secret sin that doesn’t affect others. Think of humanity as a beautiful hot air balloon ascending up to heaven. If everyone in the world lived a faultless life, we would keep on rising together. However, whenever anyone sins, even in the ‘privacy’ of their own bedroom, a little bit of warm air is leaked from our balloon and eventually the whole of society starts sinking towards an inevitable crash. We might be personally trying to live a God fearing life and keep confessing our sins as soon as they happen, but next door there might be someone committing adultery or taking home abortion bills with no apology to God. The billions of hidden sins that take place every day in our world are why only the ultimate sacrifice of God’s beloved son, Jesus Christ, was sufficient to atone for our iniquities.

Luke 22:39-62

Jesus had long known he was going to die a horrendous death. I have an icon on my kitchen wall, ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’ which depicts Jesus as a tiny child being comforted by his mother Mary after two archangels had shown him the objects of his crucifixion. He didn’t just die – like you and I will. He was converted into sin – every sin that anyone would ever carry out, past, present and future. If any of us should murder someone or commit adultery tomorrow or next week, Jesus suffered pain because of that particular sin when he was on the cross.

Jesus would rather not have been tortured in this way but he totally submitted to the will of God, ‘yet not my will, but yours be done’ (v.42). ‘An angel from heaven appeared to him strengthened him’ (v.43).

Jesus was adamant that his disciples should pray that they should not fall into temptation. This should also be our daily prayer. We have to keep strong to the end without the stain of unconfessed serious sin on us.

Even when Jesus was betrayed by his friend and arrested, he still cared for his enemies. He healed the servant of the high priest, Malchus, whose ear had been cut off in the fracas. This is Jesus’ last miracle before his resurrection. One would hope that Malchus would have testified in Jesus’ defence at his trial or at least convert to Christianity.

Peter reached the all time low point in his life when he lied and disowned Jesus three times. As soon as Jesus was arrested, Peter fell back and ‘followed at a distance’ (v.54). Many people follow Christianity at a distance today. They want to have one foot in the camp of eternal life and the other foot in the secular world. We need to commit to Christ or it is too easy and tempting to slip away. Imagine if Peter had fought to the death to prevent Jesus being taken. He could have been a hero but he quickly obeyed Jesus’ call to drop his weapons. However, we know Peter eventually recovered in spectacular fashion after being empowered with the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His temporary weakness made him stronger in the end and compassionate to sinners. Peter gives hope to all disciples that we can repent, receive tender forgiveness, dust ourselves off and still achieve wonders for the glory of God through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Psalm 50:16-23

Wicked people today hate God’s instruction and laws (v.17). They use their mouth for evil, condoning adultery and abortion and try to eliminate religion from all spheres of society. They want to forget the historical facts of Jesus’ life and even try to use terms such as the year 2021 CE rather than AD – because the term ‘AD’ (‘Anno Domini’, the year of our Lord) is an everyday reminder that God became man 2,021 years ago to save humanity. By using the term CE, you are denying that Jesus is Lord and choosing to consign yourself to everlasting suffering in hell.

Many people call bad things good and accuse good things of being bad. They harness their tongue to deceit (v.19).

Most secular people have no idea how far away from God they have become. They are being gently led down the path to everlasting destruction thinking they are not as bad as infamous murderers, thieves or paedophiles yet they cheat with regards to their financial affairs, commit adultery with their eyes and cheat on God with man-made idols. If they do not repent, they will be torn to pieces.

Our first step back to God is to give him thanks. We need to apologise if we have forgotten him when things were going well. We owe all the good things in our life to our heavenly Father. God is always looking out for us, with outstretched arms and will run to gather us up when we sincerely turn to him. We just have to renounce, repent and hand over control of our life to him.

Saint Paul wrote that when we confess. ‘Jesus is Lord‘ with our mouth and believe that God raised him from the dead in our heart, we will be saved (Romans 10:10). However, Jesus said: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Matthew 16:16). The church has always believed that baptism, or at least the desire for baptism is vital for our salvation. As Jesus commanded us to be baptised, our desire to follow his wishes proves that when we confessed ‘Jesus is Lord’ we actually meant it. If we refuse to be baptized, Jesus obviously isn’t our Lord as we are rejecting his command. As James pointed out, we are considered righteous by what we do e.g. requesting to be baptized, not by faith alone (James 2:24).

Jesus won our salvation through his sacrifice on the cross. It is tragic when people have their hearts so hardened by sin, they do not turn to him and ask to be saved.

Image: Unterlinden Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Crossing the Jordan / The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: 23rd April 2021

Joshua 3:1-5:12

Joshua was full of faith in his new role as leader. He told the Israelites to ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you (v.5).

The Lord told Joshua that the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, should stand in the river Jordan. The river was in full flood – the worst time of the year to cross it. God loves a challenge. Joshua prophesied that the water flowing downstream in the river would ‘be cut off and stand up in a heap’ (v.13).

The water piled up ‘a great distance away, at a town called Adam’ (v.16). The priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood in the middle of the river bed, while all Israel passed by on dry ground. This shows how God can manipulate the elements just as Jesus walked on the water. Water has a very special role and significance in the church. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea to their new life away from slavery and this foreshadowed our freedom from sin when we are baptized in water. The Israelites were once again ‘baptized’ by walking through the Jordan – after a forty year sentence for disobedience. They were back on the right track being led by God. It was an auspicious new start. How did this miracle work? Did the holiness of the ark of the covenant repel the water? Water is a creature of God and can be affected by positive or negative spirits. God built his greatest mysteries on water. The church blesses water and priests can also exorcise it for use in baptisms, exorcisms etc. If water requires exorcism, it can obviously be affected by negative spirits: https://www.romancatholicman.com/exorcism-blessing-for-salt-and-water/

Exorcism and Blessing of Water

P: O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father (+) Almighty, and in the name of Jesus (+) Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy (+) Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy with his apostate angels, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

R: Amen.

Joshua appointed a man from each of the twelve tribes to pick up on their shoulders a stone from the middle of the Jordan and set them up as a memorial in their camp (at Gilgal). The Bible says ‘they are there to this day’ (v.9) but according to the internet, not many people know where they are. Maybe they have been submerged in mud from the flooding of the Jordan? https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/304063412312620676/

It must have been terrifying for the inhabitants of Jericho to see the major river next to their city dry up and watch 40,000 hostile fighting men marching towards them across the dry river bed. This awesome miracle made the hearts of all the Amorite and Canaanite kings sink and they ‘no longer had the courage to face the Israelites’ (5:1).

As soon as the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, set their feet on dry land the river waters ‘returned to their place and ran in flood as before’ (v.18).

This one miracle from the Lord sealed Joshua’s reputation and the Israelites ‘revered him all the days of his life’ (v.14).

Most people would have had a joyous party to celebrate crossing the Jordan in this manner but the Lord was preparing the Israelites for battle. All the fighting men now had to be painfully circumcised to seal the covenant with God. None of the young men had been circumcised during the forty years the Israelites had been compelled to wander about in the desert, which shows how disobedient they had been. This was a clear breach of the Abrahamic covenant with God and I am surprised that Moses had let it happen as he was nearly killed by God at the start of his ministry for not insisting that his own son was circumcised. The whole nation had let standards slip over the previous forty years. Imagine if spies from Jericho had sneaked into the camp to see what the Jews were doing to be faced with 40,000 bloody, adult foreskins. Actually, 39,998 because Joshua and Caleb would have been circumcised before they left Egypt. This act made them renewed in the sight of God again, freed from the slavery of Egypt and delivered into the promised land. It signalled a new start for them.

Now that the Jews had been circumcised, they were able to celebrate the Passover. The day after they ate some of the produce from the promised land, their daily supplies manna stopped raining down from heaven. After forty long years of directly supplying their food, God had brought them into the promised land, a land overflowing with milk and honey, and it was now up to the Israelites to subdue it and sustain themselves from it – with assistance from the mighty hand of God. As soon as the Israelites had a secure supply of food, God stopped feeding them. He didn’t want the Israelites becoming lazy. They now had wonderfully productive land and could support themselves. As soon as I had enough money to retire, God arranged for me to stop my secular job. I could have built up more in the bank – but I didn’t need it. He gave me exactly the right amount of money to lead a comfortable, healthy life but he didn’t give me excess riches to lead a lazy, ostentatious lifestyle. God doesn’t waste resources. Immediately, I had sufficient funds he diverted his money pipeline to someone else. Praise the Lord for his infinite wisdom.

Luke 22:1-38

Judas agreed to betray Jesus – the most notorious betrayal in history. There are many theories as to why he did this. Maybe Jesus had not turned out to be the military, violent leader that Judas had hoped for. He may have held the traditional view that the Messiah would arrive to kick the Romans out of Israel and had witnessed that Jesus didn’t match that stereotype. Maybe, Judas just loved money. Verse 3 says that ‘Satan entered Judas’ and that totally evil demonic presence whispering to him all day wouldn’t have helped. However, Judas could have simply turned to Jesus, the Chief Exorcist, for help. God always gives us sufficient grace to resist any temptation and Jesus never turned down a request for healing. Judas could have been forgiven, rescued and redeemed by Jesus but he chose not to be. It was prophesied that Jesus would die and God had planned this to happen to redeem us from our sins, but Judas had free will not to be the one that betrayed our Lord.

Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples in the upper room – the last supper. He gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to them. This represents his holy body being broken on the cross for us all, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’ (v.19). The cup of wine was ‘the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (v.20).

Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ (John 5:51). The following text means a lot to Mother Church Christians: ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them (John 6:53-56).

This passage and others in John Gospel clearly back up the Catholic church’s claim that the bread and wine during the Holy Mass are taken up to heaven by the angel who is permanently stationed at the altar in a Catholic church and he brings back down from heaven the actual body and blood of Jesus for the faithful to eat. The bread and wine, which humans made on earth, become the holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is immense. In fact, we should really approach the church on our knees in trembling awe because some of Jesus’ actual body and blood is permanently stored in the tabernacle. I cross myself whenever I go past a Catholic church in respect. When I first became a confirmed Christian, I could feel the supernatural power coming from the body and blood. Sometimes, a consecrated wafer (the Holy Body) is displayed in a round circular glass case, a monstrance, which is ornately decorated and displayed on the altar. This is called ‘Veneration of the Blessed Sacrament’. In my early days as a new Christian, I could feel waves of radiation coming from the Blessed Sacrament throbbing against the temples of my head. However, I was still heavily demonised having just come out of forty years in the spiritual wilderness, which could have been a factor in this spiritual discernment. Often a possessed person can’t go into a church or eat the Blessed Sacrament, probably because they are terrified of the actual presence of Jesus within it.

The tragedy is that apart from Catholics, the main segment of society that believe that the actual body and blood is present in a Catholic church are witches and devil worshippers. To join many witchcraft covens, a person has to steal a consecrated wafer, the actual body of Jesus, and take it a Satanic ceremony for it to be abused / profaned. In olden days, the priest would place the body on your tongue and you would have to eat it in front of him. Now, in the days of hygiene, a priest will lay it on your hands and so it can be easily smuggled out of the church. This is a mortal sin – which will send a person to hell if they do not renounce and repent their actions before death.

The irony is that many Catholics, who piece by tiny piece consume the body and blood of Jesus and so, in theory, turn their body physically into Jesus’ body week by week often show very little life and enthusiasm when it comes to worship. Whereas Pentecostals, who use any bread and sacrilegiously use grape juice instead of wine are absolutely full of the Holy Spirit and brimming with life and good works. I cannot deny that my lovely Pentecostal brethren are born again, saved and in the queue for heaven. That’s why I hang around with them and try to take back some of their enthusiasm to the Catholics – so far with little success. This week, I tried to organise a six week Catholic course on Baptism in the Spirit, to activate the tiny dormant seed of the Holy Spirit that my Catholic brethren have received at baptism and done absolutely nothing with. I did not get a single subscriber to my totally free and professionally produced course. So if you belong to any denomination and want to know more about activating the gifts of the Spirit, contact me. Just as Gentile Jews were sent to make to the Jews jealous with their spiritual gifts, I think spirit-filled denominations like the Pentecostals are here to make the Catholics jealous. However, it it very difficult to get them to even listen to the message that there is more to eternal life than their standard miserable Lent-like, low-intensity worship. Many Catholics never access more than a tiny fraction of the spiritual power and life that they have privileged access to.

I became a Knight of Saint Michael a few years ago, which is a religious order with a specific aim of fighting the devil and his minions. One of the side benefits of being in this army, is that the angels take special care of you and accompany you en masse at specific times. Whenever I get up from my pew in a Catholic church to walk up to receive the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have an angel from each of the nine choirs accompanying me. Literally, I say, ‘Lets go, guys’ to the immensely powerful Seraphim, Cherubim, Throne, Dominion, Power, Virtue, Principality, Archangel and Angel who are with me. The angels must look on with awe as I eat Jesus’ Body and Blood. They would love to do it themselves. They must be totally shocked at how millions of Christians spurn the opportunity to do this through distrust and unbelief in their Mother Church.

Jesus chose to lay down his life, to die for us all. He knew Judas was about to betray him. Jesus could have saved himself and left the city. However, Jesus always submitted obediently to God’s plan for his life and death. We are justified and made righteous in God’s eyes through the precious blood sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Everyday, pray for Jesus’ precious blood to be poured out on you, your family, your fellow church members and everyone you know. It will bring healing, deliverance and faith.

Even at a wondrous occasion like this disagreements can take place. A dispute arose as to which disciple was the greatest (v.24). Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

Satan had asked to sift Simon Peter ‘as wheat’ (v.31). The most evil demon in existence knew precisely who Peter was and wanted to use all his powers to make him lose faith. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times but he prayed for him to recover without his faith failing, ‘And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers’ (v.32). Jesus and the Holy Spirit have highly effective prayers. God the Father listens to them above all others. Peter would go on to lead the fledgling church after its first birthday at Pentecost, becoming the first Pope. Peter could have resisted denying Jesus three times but he was weak. Supported by Jesus’ prayers, he recovered. Once the Holy Spirit entered him at Pentecost, he became supercharged in the faith – the rock on which the entire Christian church was built.

Jesus told the disciples to equip themselves with money, luggage and weapons. It was nearly time for him to depart and for the disciples to start spreading the gospel around the world. Jesus would always be with them but missionaries do need to make practical plans to support themselves.

Psalm 50:1-5

Everything in creation, from the rising of the sun to its setting, obeys predictable natural laws because of the word of God (v.1). He is our righteous judge and will gather us, the ‘consecrated ones’ (v.5) to him. He made a new covenant with us through the blood sacrifice of his precious only son, Jesus Christ.

God didn’t need the Israelites to sacrifice animals to him because every creature in the world belongs to him already, including us. He is not dependent on us but wants to be our most trusted friend and father. God likes us to honour him with our worship, praise and thanksgiving.

He particularly likes it when we recall how awesome he was rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and safely delivering them to the promised land.

If we make a vow to God, he wants us to fulfil it (v.14).

When we make God the centre of our life and worship him alone it is second nature to call on him when we are in trouble. He will deliver us and we will honour him (v.15).

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/maundy-thursday-last-supper-6145303/

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑