Simon Whitley

Simon Whitley

Luke 23: 32-34 “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 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. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Do you remember where you laid your life down?

We get our word ‘excruciating’ from the Latin word for torture from the crucifixion.

4 words.

‘They crucified him there.’

There is pain today. Incredible pain.

The joy comes in the morning. Incredible joy.

It looked like they killed Jesus. It looked like a terrible defeat.

We know that’s not the truth.

Today I conduct the funeral for one of my Pastors. A young man, vibrant, full of potential.

It looks like his life has been taken from him. It looks like the disease has got the victory.

That’s not the truth.

What happened was the Author of Life called him home.

Simon Whitley surrendered his will to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well done good and faithful servant.

For the Simon’s of this world …

For the Simon’s of this world …

Luke 23: 26-31

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. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 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!’ 30 Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” 31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

 

Simon set out from his Jewish community in North Africa for the Passover pilgrimage totally unaware that he would return with a story that he would never have imagined.

Luke has constantly been telling his readers that the Jesus’ call is to take up your cross and follow him. It was Simon who modelled this.

I hear the word ‘calling’ so much. I am called to do. I am called to be. I am called to lead. We are not short of making bold claims either. ‘God has called me to …’

All that is good. But let’s talk more of the call to pick up the cross and follow him.

Little did Simon realise that day when the cross beam was placed on his shoulders that 2,000 years later people would still be talking about him.

We don’t know why Jesus could not carry his cross. Of course the Roman flogging and the torture had been a death itself, so he was weakened by that. Perhaps he knew Simon was in the crowd. If he knows where all the fish are and if he knew what people were not only whispering but thinking, then it is not beyond the possibility that he knew Simon had arrived and he would be dragged from the crowd to model something that he had been teaching his disciples many times. The road to the cross is the road of surrendering oneself to the purposes of God even if you had other hopes and plans. Simon modelled the life of humility as he followed behind Jesus.

So here is the picture.

The crowds of people. Many who liked a crucifixion; many who saw another rebel leader and movement coming to an end; many in support of the religious leaders who had brought this to an end.

Amongst the crowd were the women mourning and wailing as one does at a funeral. They are crying over the failure of this leader. He had been so kind and had touched their world but now huge disappointment fell on them, their kind world was over.

Then there is Jesus. He knew that he wasn’t deserving of this death. He wasn’t the dry tree which was ready for destruction. He was a green tree. He had come to bring them the Kingdom. He had come to heal and to help them. If this is what they do to the green tree, what will happen to the genuine dead leaders? How much more will their destruction be?

Where are the 12? We’re not sure exactly where they are. But what we do know is that they are not following Jesus.

Then there is Simon.

The Simon’s of this world model Jesus. They follow Jesus in such a way that they not only carry their own cross but they carry the cross of Christ. Carrying your own cross is to lay down your own hopes and dreams. But to take the cross of Christ is to share in his sufferings. It is to wash feet of those who will betray, deny and desert you. It is to learn silence when every defensive desire wants to rise within. It is knowing when to take the lower ground and risking people thinking you have done wrong when all you are doing is showing humility. “Why isn’t God rescuing him?” It is knowing when to take the higher ground and not dive into the stupid arguments and divisions that so many base their life around.

When you have found such a Simon then you know it is possible for you also.

 

He who shouts loudest doesn’t always have to get their own way.

He who shouts loudest doesn’t always have to get their own way.

Luke 23: 20-25

“Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ For the third time he spoke to them: ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.’ But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.”

Three times it looked like Jesus may be released and freed from the threat of death.

But the shout of the enemy prevailed.

Pilate caved in (the Message paints such a great picture at times).

What or who is trying to shout you down today ?

You know the truth. You know who is innocent. But the shouts are louder and louder. They are relentless.

Don’t be tempted to go for an easy life.

Don’t be afraid of the bark.

Stand your ground.

Stand up for the innocent and those who cannot speak. Especially if God has put you in a place of authority.

The loudest don’t have to win.

 

Some people just want your blood

Some people just want your blood

Luke 23:13-19

“Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.’ But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)”

 

 

Even when there is no proof. Even when the rulers said he was innocent.

Even when you have done nothing wrong. Even when the only proof is that you have been set up. Even when you are going to face some punishment as a token to please others.

Even then there will be some who want more.

You see some people just want blood.

On to centre stage walks a villain. In fact it has been proven he is guilty of some of the things that Jesus was falsely accused of.

The same people who want Jesus blood don’t want the blood of the murderer.

But they don’t understand the reason Jesus came was to take the place of Barabbas anyway.

Not only his place but theirs too.

People like to play being God. They want you removed. Out of position.

However, you belong to God. He has appointed you. Your position is in Him.

Those who want blood are usually blinded to the important detail.

Why do people fall out of relationship?

Why do people fall out of relationship?

Luke 23: 8-12

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

Why is there so much fighting?

Why are there so many arguments?

Why such unkindness?

Why do people walk away from each other slandering their names?

Why do people write complaints?

Why so much hurt and division?

Why is there abuse from those who carry power?

Why do friends break up?

Why do those who used to walk with one another now ignore each other?

Why are there plans to bring one another down?

Why?

This passage shows us the reason.

It is because Jesus is not there.

When Jesus is brought to Herod, sent by Pilate, Luke is keen to remind us of something amazing that happened.

Herod and Pilate hated one another.

The Lord of lords is standing before a lord of this world and in his silence and the journey of the cross something remarkable happens. Luke tells us that two enemies became friends.

Luke will later write of how there is no division in the kingdom between Jew and Gentile. But here he is in his gospel telling everyone that the shadow of the cross has a powerful effect of reconciliation. How much more so for those who bend their knee at the foot of the cross? How much more for those who surrender their lives and allow the power of the cross to change them? How much more for those who truly receive salvation through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross? How much more for the Church? How much more for the family of God? How much more for us?

Under the shadow of the cross it is really difficult to have enemies.

So the answer remains to my many why questions.

It is because Jesus is not there. It is because there is no shadow of the cross because the distance from the cross is too large.

Come near to the cross and miracles of relationship happen.

Liars, lies and being lied to.

Liars, lies and being lied to.

Luke 23: 1-7

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Whenever we turn on the television or listen to the radio at the moment it seems an interviewer os asking a political figure, ‘But how can the public trust you?’

Is this a lie? It seems to be the big question at the moment.

Well it’s not new is it?

You have many stories I am sure. I recall a man who went to Bible College many years ago for a 12 month course and had his spouse do every single essay for him. He passed, so she did well!

Jesus has been taken into the centre of politics. He is there because of lies.

  • Subverting our nation.
  • Opposes payment of taxes to Caesar
  • Claims to be Messiah, a king
  • Stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching.

You can see elements that are true but they are packaged in lies. Distorting the truth. Misrepresenting the accuracy of the situation. It is what the father of lies specialises in. All that needs to happen is to convince others to see just a glimpse of the accusation and then the lie has worked.

It is so difficult when people are speaking lies about you or when they believe things about you that are not true.

Here is what I have come to believe:

  • What is spoken against you is not as established as it may look.
  • What is spoken to you about someone else is not the evidence of the reality.
  • The lie against you can lead you into the destiny God has for you, it can become a servant.
  • It takes wisdom to dissect a lie.
  • It takes courage to walk through a lie.

I have found the above 5 statements of great comfort to me.

But what does Jesus give us in this passage?

I believe He would say. Let the liars have their day. There are moments when what you say is not as important as what is being said about you. Resist all attempts to defend yourself. You have nothing to hide.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied

That is his reply.

Let the liars speak. We serve the ‘I am the Way, the TRUTH and the Life’.

Don’t be pigeonholed, learn to dance.

Don’t be pigeonholed, learn to dance.

Luke 22: 66-71 “At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

 

Jesus was not letting the religious court of justice pigeonhole and categorise him. He turned their questions around. He didn’t deny who he was but he didn’t state it either, “You say that I am.”

To be pigeonholed is to have people stereotype you and summarise you in order to have an unfair advantage and opinion of you.

It is a lesson for us all.

The only person that truly knows you is your gracious, loving, forgiving and merciful God.

The enemy of your soul will want to categorise you in order to box you in, entrap you and lead you through the pathway of accusation to sentence you unfit for service. He wants you cornered.

Learn to dance. Don’t give away your identity, who you really are, to people you do not trust. It is the most precious thing you have.

Jesus does this expertly. Even in Mark’s gospel (14:60-62) the translation is probably the other way round, instead of ‘I am’ many think it reads ‘Am I?’ In all the gospels, Jesus is veiling his identity. Though he dances around, tantalising so.

“If I tell you ….”

“But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Leading them to ask if He was the Son of God, a title reserved as the adopted chosen son of God, the Messiah.

The world doesn’t need to know you. God knows you. This doesn’t mean you become a recluse. But it does mean you learn to dance. You become unpredictable. You mix it up a bit. You work at not being the label people give you.

God truly knows you.

Protect your identity. Share it with the trusted.

Contempt

Contempt

 

Luke 22: 63-65 “The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.”

 

Contempt. That’s what Jesus suffered amongst other things. Treated with no respect. Belittled. He was dealt in a way that showed no consideration for who he was.

We have all experienced that at some point in our life.

Contemptuous bullies are sadly everywhere and in places where we least expect them to be.

I remember the day I was called into a senior’s office to be given an experience of what I can only call as being bullied. I felt 2 inches tall which of course I am actually much taller than that. But contempt is to be treated less than you really are. The senior did a good job. I later learnt he was quite experienced at it as well.

I heard of a senior recently leaving their junior in tears.

We all have our stories. But why do people treat each other that way?

Here is why.

Jesus was blindfolded that day but he was the only one who wasn’t blind.

Those who show contempt are often small-minded and blind.

Bullies are the most blind of people.

The denial

The denial

 

Luke 22:54-62

“Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

 

He followed at a distance. (Not too far that he couldn’t see Jesus but not too close to be associated with him and under threat himself. How close would you say you are?)

 

He sat down with them. (The temperature had dropped. He was feeling the cold. He sat with strangers and warmed himself by the fire. But something of their conversations began to trouble him. He was about to do something he said he would never do. What had they said? In your relationship with Jesus how warm are you? Be careful who you listen to as it may have an effect you wished it had never had.)

 

Two denials happen. (He was recognised firstly by a woman and then a man. It was a denial to both. It is easy to do something you would never do when you have done it before.)

 

One hour goes by. (What was he thinking during that time? Why didn’t he remember what Jesus had said about him denying 3 times and got out of there? We often find ourselves stuck in a moment that we can’t get out of. Glued to the spot.)

 

Another denial happens and at the same time the rooster crows as the Lord and Peter locks eyes on each other. (The look of love. The spotlight look. This is our prayer. Search my heart O God the Psalmist cries. The look is not condemnatory, it is a look of grace and a look that leads to repentance. May we lock eyes with Jesus today.)

 

He goes outside a broken man. (There is a brokenness that leads to death as Judas experienced. But there is a brokenness that leads to life. The tears of repentance.)

 

Let’s not chop off any more ears!

Let’s not chop off any more ears!

Luke 22: 49-53 “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

John’s gospel reveals the servants name was Malchus and that it was Peter who chopped off his ear with his sword (a dagger).

The enemy comes in the darkness and the ‘Church’ rises in the chaos and the confusion. We don’t know what the enemy is doing but we are rattled. We didn’t expect this attack, it feels like an enemy within for this crowd are not the Gentile soldiers, but we are ready. Our daggers are at hand. We have Jesus to protect, our Messiah. We have to stand for true righteousness. The manipulative kiss was unbelievable. But here now comes the pressure of the enemy. So we swing out. We react. We push back.

We hurt because we are hurt.

But wait. Here comes Jesus.

In the darkness He heals the enemies of the kingdom. Jesus heals what the Church harmed.

And a voice shouts, “No more of this!” Surely Jesus is speaking to the enemy eh? “No more attacking, I will come with you!” Surely?

I mean, He wouldn’t be speaking to the Church would he? “No more reacting. Stop fighting back.”

Maybe the Church behaves more like the enemy than we should.

Spirit, make us more like Christ!