We’ll take a break from the serious stuff…
Hershey hates squirrels.
Hershey doesn’t know that dogs don’t climb trees.
Hershey is about 16 inches tall (long legs, though).
Yes, that is a 6-foot security fence in the background.
No, this is not a new occurrence. Note how worn the bark is at the crook of the tree.
“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” (Mark 15:6-15)
A man went free the day He died. Thief. Terrorist. Killer.
A man went free the day He died. Barabbas’ name is interesting. “Bar” means “son of” and “abbas” comes from the word for father. “Son of his father” would be one translation. The name itself shows us the universality of his role. He stood there and represented every son of every father.
A man went free the day He died. A guilty man. One who, under Roman law, deserved the punishment that Christ received. His was an unexpected and undeserved reprieve.
A man went free the day He died. The guilty went free. The innocent was killed. The Holy One died, while the sinner lived. One man paid the price He never owed, one had his debt erased. The day Christ died another man received freedom and life, mercy and grace, liberty and forgiveness.
A man went free the day He died. And I AM THAT MAN.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
In Genesis 22, we find the story of Abraham being told to offer his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. We can only imagine his agony as he takes his son “Isaac, whom you love” on that three-day death march. Could he look him in the eye? Could he sleep at night? As a father, I can’t begin to imagine.
It must have torn Abraham apart when his son innocently asked, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” All he could say was, “The Lord will provide.” And provide He did. Abraham tied his son, laid him on the altar and prepared to kill him as he had done so many times with animals he had offered. But this offering was his son. He went so far as to raise his arm to kill Isaac when an angel of the Lord stopped him. And a substitute was provided, a ram that Abraham could offer instead of his own son.
Years later, another man stood on Moriah. His name was David and he came seeking a substitute, seeking to offer the sacrifice that would stop the slaughter of his people. We read in 2 Samuel 24 how he bought a threshing floor and offered a sacrifice to stop the plague that had been sent to punish him for his arrogance. Later David’s son, Solomon, built a temple, building it on Moriah, on the very spot where his father had offered that sacrifice. Thousands of animals were offered there, offered as a substitute for God’s people.
Then came the day when God offered His own Son. All of creation watched and waited, knowing that this was the God of substitutes, the God of mercy. Where would the substitute come from this time? But there was none to be offered, for Jesus was the substitute. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
It’s that sacrifice that we remember as we eat the bread and drink from the cup.
In the Old Testament, under the Law given through Moses, there was something called a “peace offering” or “fellowship offering.” These animal sacrifices were offered for a variety of reasons: gratitude to God, the making of a vow or a mere desire to honor God through sacrifice. Until recently, I hadn’t realized that many of the offerings would have been a community event. The meat from the offering had to be eaten within two days, or in the case of an offering of gratitude, the same day. If the animal that was offered was a cow, this meant that hundreds of pounds of meat had to be eaten in a short amount of time. The only way to do this would be to bring together a large group of people. That’s why the book of Deuteronomy speaks of offering peace offerings, eating and rejoicing in the presence of God (Deuteronomy 12:6-7; 27:7) and Psalms talks about offering with “shouts of joy” (Psalm 27:6).
When writing to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of something similar, saying “Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:18) Sharing in the table after the sacrifice meant sharing in the benefits of the sacrifice itself. As we come together around the Lord’s Table, we are participating together in His sacrifice by participating together in the meal. We eat the body, drink the blood and are joined with Him and with one another. In this same passage, Paul says: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
This is a community moment, one in which the family of God shares together the table of the sacrifice. This isn’t the altar. The sacrifice was offered but once, yet the meal is celebrated again and again in an unending chain of fellowship. That is the wonder of the Lord’s Table. It’s not a funeral, but a time of rejoicing in what God has done for us. Let us share together in this meal that binds us to one another and to the Lord.
OK, so my blogging software/website connection is still screwed up. I need to remember what yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine said.
[Admin note: This was before I moved the blog to WordPress]