Archives for posts with tag: Jesus

Series on MarkNews flash: Jesus was also a victim of prejudice.

This comes across clearly in Mark 6. He had already been rejected by the religious authorities for doing things that only God could do, like forgiving sins (a valid accusation) and for performing miracles under the influence of the Devil (a false accusation). But now things get a little more personal.

Jesus is at home in Nazareth in what would be his last trip there before He would be killed in Jerusalem. He is about half way through His earthly ministry, a little over a year before He would shed His blood on a brutal cross on Golgotha.

As Jesus takes His turn teaching in the synagogue, he suffers scorn from the folks who were closest to him in his home town. They are offended that as a simple local boy from Nazareth, he is now dispensing wisdom as a bona fide Rabbi.

In other words, He didn’t have the academic credentials. He didn’t learn to interpret the intricacies of the rabbinical laws under the tutelage of an authorized Rabbi, like Paul did. That would be like becoming the President of a University without ever having finished High School. “That’s a no, no,” you would say.

They also take issue with his trade. Sophisticated Greeks were notorious for disparaging people who did manual labor. Jews in general were more affirming to those who worked with their hands. Many Pharisees, in fact, were craftsmen, as was Paul, a tent maker. But people like that, as respected as they might have been in their profession, were never expected to get up in front of others and teach the Torah.

Wisdom was acquired by those who had the opportunity of leisure. You needed time to ponder the intricacies of God’s laws and manual labor didn’t contribute to that. Jesus is labeled here by a Greek word that points to someone who did “construction work.” This could refer to masonry, carpentry and the like. Jesus was a manual laborer, how could he change clothes and pretend to be a teacher of God’s Word. That would be like the opposite of Superman in the telephone booth.

Jesus was also looked down because of his pedestrian family. They were saying something similar to “Isn’t this Mary’s boy from down the street?” The reference to his brothers and sisters adds insult to injury. It was like saying, “None of them pretend to be something they are not, only this presumptions little fellow.” You can only imagine what kind of reputation Jesus’ brothers and sisters had in the town. Suffice it to say that at some point they thought he was mentally deranged and not one of them apparently believed in him until after his resurrection.

Prejudice robs us from the opportunity to see the person for who s/he really is. In this case, the people were walking amidst deity and failed to recognize it. They were the losers in that Jesus did hardly any miracles then because of their unbelief. More importantly, they missed the opportunity to re-make their souls.

Prejudice also blinds us to the reality of who we really are. By putting Jesus “in his place” as a mere local boy with Messianic fantasies, the people failed to see that they were not superior Jesus or even His family. Had they paid attention to Jesus, they would see that by contrast they were sinners of the worse kind. They needed His divine intervention but they never saw the need for it.

Many Christians today experience prejudice by simply being Christians. They are not alone. Jesus preceded them in the via crucis of prejudice. My prayer is that people today will not act like the people in Jesus hometown, toward Him or any other human being created in the image of God. I also pray that God will silence the voices and stop the hands of those who hate His people.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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I don’t know whether CEO’s (Christmas and Easter Only) are a reality or a myth and I don’t know if the people coming on those two Holidays are simply COO (Come Only Occasionally), but the fact remains: on those two Holidays people are overwhelmingly more inclined to come to Church.

Though I love the opportunity to invite folks to come to church on those special occasions, there is a part of me that dislikes that. I want to ask myself: Is that what following Christ has been reduced to for the average Christian? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Is it to come only occasionally, give your five bucks and go missing the rest of the time?

That is not the feeling I get from the way Jesus went about making disciples. He first met these people, looked them right in the eye and said, “Follow me.” And they immediately left whatever they were doing and started following Him. Both men and women did. Rich and poor, loved or hated, clean or corrupted… They were all fascinated with this man who asked them to leave everything behind and follow Him. And Jesus kept drawing a line in the sand, and soon people were on either side of that line.

But today that line seems to have been blurred. Or it keeps being redrawn. Or in some cases there are no more traces of it in the sand. Many people have come to believe that they are disciples but will find themselves hearing the Judge say on the day of reckoning, “I never knew you.” I can’t imagine the magnitude of the tragedy when they get clued in that all their good deeds amounted to zero. They didn’t even get to the introduction part. “I never knew you.” How devastating that will be!

Once again our churches will be filled with CEO’s next Sunday. Then, the following Sunday, the parking lots will be crying for metal and rubber to fill their nicely painted spaces. We will go back to MIA (Massive Individual Absence) again. We’ll be gearing up for Christmas!

So I have a challenge for all of us: Don’t just invite people to come this resurrection Sunday. Yes, that is where you should start. Everyone in your neighborhood should get an invitation to the Easter Party at Grace on Saturday and to one of our services on Sunday morning. But if you see your friends there, take the next step – invite them to come the following Sunday. Plan to be there to meet them and maybe even invite them for lunch after they come the Sunday after Easter. Then keep inviting them and don’t go MIA yourself. You will soon see the results of your labor of love.

Easter Sunday is “Black Friday” for us at Grace Church. We will spare no efforts to offer people a wonderful celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You will notice when you come that there will be food and lots of colorful things around our building. The mood will be festive and there will be plenty of joy to go around. And people will hear about this wonderful Messiah who holds our affection. We want to celebrate the resurrection with the same zeal that motivates people to brave the weather hours or even days before the stores open on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s Sunday and Jesus is risen, what could be more significant than that?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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Here is a definition of “rat race”: “an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel.” Well, the original “rat race” was invented by Satan. I explain: Satan has convinced a goodly number of people to spend their entire lives engaged in a race. Actually, multiple races. There is the race for possessions, the race for power, and the race for pleasure. A veritable R.A.T. Race (“I’m Rich, Arrogant, and Tempting”).

Most people in this universe are caught up in one or more of these races. Possessions define us. Trust me. I have, by mistake, tried to enter one of those lounges for first class passengers at airports. I didn’t pass beyond the smiling ladies at the desk. Power corrupts many. There is a reason the U.N. often sends observers to judge how fair some elections are in some countries. Pleasure drives passions and unrestrained passions lead to disasters of the highest orders. I would speculate that together this unholy triad has vanquished more people than all wars combined.

Interestingly enough, in his most famous sermon, Jesus warned us against the dangers of each one of these races. For those wanting stuff, He said, “Do not store up treasures on earth.” For power grabbers, He said, “Blessed are the meek.”  For pleasure seekers, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.”

The mind is the main battleground for Satan and his demons. Unfortunately, many Christians either are not aware of this or have never been taught how to fight back. Memorizing Scriptures and reciting verses are very powerful tools, but the Bible is not a magic wand to be waved at the first sign of trouble. Even Satan made a feeble attempt to quote Scriptures when he tempted our Lord. The Scriptures have to be lived out in order to have effect against our enemy.   

I am reminded of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19. It is one of the funniest accounts of the Bible. These clowns saw Paul expelling demons out of people and decided to go on an exorcism tour of their own. They got the right lingo. “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”  The spirit wasn’t buying.  “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” In the next scene you see the man with the evil spirit jumping on the seven would be exorcists and beating them so severely that they were left naked and bleeding (Acts 19:13-16).

So it is not enough to be familiar with the Bible narrative or repeat formulas you have heard from others. You must let the Word change you. The key to winning the race against the R.A.T. race is to saturate ourselves with the living Word of God, seeking to live it out with every fiber of our being, and giving God complete control over the main battleground where most of our fights are fought and won, namely the mind.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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“Every time the righteous screams, a hangman rises to silence him; the wicked goes on living, the upright, they order him killed.” These words, originally penned by Brazilian poet Cecília Meireles, were later popularized in a song by Brazilian composer and singer Chico Buarque. They echo the story of Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, the man who planted the seed of Brazilian independence from colonial powers in 1789 and for this was executed and later hailed as a sort of Jesus Christ in the minds of the populace.

Well, fast forward to 1964, when the democratically-elected president of Brazil was forced out in a coup. A military dictatorship was installed and its brutality lasted 21 years. I personally witnessed so many aspects of those languished years, without freedom of movement or expression, dreaming of a world where people would go to sleep without worrying if they might still be here tomorrow.

But that world became elusive to the many that died at the hands of a repressive regime without ever experiencing the fruit of their labor. It wasn’t until 1984 that a President was finally elected and the country finally breathed a sigh of relief. I was in graduate school in Indiana at the time, tuning an old short-wave radio to a Brazilian language station and by one of those inexplicable feats, managed to get the live feed of the time in Congress when the candidate would reach the majority in the Electoral College. I was never able to get that station again.

So many times in our lives it seems that the long, languishing night of shattered dreams will never end. The forces we come up against seem invincible. Our bodies slip, our hearts faint, our souls shrivel, and our fragile humanity hangs by a thread. Metaphorically speaking we are like the righteous raising their voice only to feel the cold, sharp and merciless blade of the guillotine coming down fast for that last strike.

And it seems that throughout history this has been Satan’s main strategy of war. Not even God is immune to his malevolent plots. First, Satan gets in the pages of Scriptures by getting out of heaven. Next, he lands in the garden where God had started His perfect world and immediately chaos ensues. Man and woman fall and a permanent war between God’s Seed (The Messiah) and the Serpent (Satan) is anticipated in Genesis 3:15.

From then on, like a gyrating semi-automatic weapon, Satan goes on a rampage, shooting in divers and daring directions, hoping to strike at the heart of it all – God’s plan to redeem mankind through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

He tried ridding the world of all the descendants of David, through whom the Savior of the world was to come in 2 Chronicles 11, but the bravery of an unlikely heroine, a woman by the name of Jehosheaba, never known before or since, saved a little baby boy and thus made the Messianic line safe. Other attempts would be made at the Messiah Christ, but none more insane than Herod’s massacre of the innocents after the Birth of Christ.

For those being oppressed by foreign powers, and especially in the northern part of Israel, (“Galilee of the Gentiles, by way of the sea; the people walking in darkness”), as Isaiah put it (Isaiah 9), for them there seemed to be no end of suffering. But God was not sleeping. He was not distracted. He was not unjust or cruel. Eventually, He chose to act and when He did, the whole world took notice.

But ironically, God chose the fragility of a baby in a stable, an infant as exposed to danger as one could be, watched by parents who might be dozing off from sheer exhaustion and a labor in less than ideal circumstances, that’s where God chose to take His stand against Satan.

If God was afraid of Satan, the last thing He would do would be to put a bright star on the sky pointing to the place where this baby, who was targeted by Satan and his armies, was to be born. But God chose to fight on an open field with no fortification to show the world He could outdo the enemy anytime when He decided to. And in doing so, He claimed the victory for His Beloved and declared once and for all that no one could ever defeat His purposes.

Let this be a lesson to all of us who claim to follow Christ as we look this Sunday at three of Satan’s most daring strikes against God and His Messiah. Satan is defeated and the baby in the manger is proof of that. And that also means that the future will be bright for us. So don’t give up, don’t grow weary in doing good, and don’t lose hope. God is faithful and His promises are true.

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade