Good morning, brethren.
I hope last night's Passover observance was moving, meaningful, and motivational for all of us.
God gave us this annual reminder of what His Son did for us. He sacrificed His comfort, His body and His life so that the penalty for our sins could be paid, and we could have the opportunity of eternal life and achieving the potential with which God created mankind.
As we left the Passover service last night and came home to bed, that Passover night in 31 AD was not over for Christ.
After His words that we read together as His body, He was betrayed by one of His disciples, arrested, and taken before the Sanhedrin.
As we slept on the 14th of Abib last night, Christ was before a most hostile group--a group that hated Him and would stop at nothing in order to see Him dead.
"Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion.' (Ps 22:12-13).
The Jewish leaders accused Him, mocked Him, falsely accused Him, hit Him, spit on Him, and finally laid the charge of blasphemy on Him when He admitted He was the Son of God. It was the truth, something that the Jewish religion still cannot admit today.
As we woke up this morning, Christ was being led off to appear before the governmental authorities, as the Jews sought death for Him. It would begin the daylight hours of this 14th of Abib in which Christ would "be marred" more than any other man.
The Roman magistrate, Pontius Pilate, would hear the charges levied against Christ, and he would speak with Him privately. He could find no fault in Christ and knew that the Jews had "handed Him over because of envy." (Mark 15:10)
The Jews, Christ's accusers, would not listen to Pilate. They hated Christ because of what He said, because of what He stood for, and because He dared to challenge their religious ideas and traditions, which they counted more important than the clear directives of God's word.
The mob ruled. They chanted, "Crucify Him!" over and over, and in the face of such hostility and possible civil unrest, Pilate gave in to the crowd, and against Roman law, first had Christ scourged, then committed Him to the most painful death of crucifixion--a sentence reserved for blatant criminals.
As we go about our day today and this afternoon, Christ at this time on that 14th of Abib in 31 AD was enduring unimaginable pain and humiliation as the world of His day, under the influence of Satan, exhibited a hate so extreme that there was no mercy or compassion at all shown Him.
"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws: You have brought Me to the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide my garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." (Psalm 22: 14-18)
By mid-afternoon on the 14th Christ died on the crucifix.
He was basically left alone to die, with all but one of His disciples abandoning Him. He saw the cruelty, heartlessness, and hate of those who stayed there to watch Him die.
But He never condemned them or returned their hate. Instead He uttered words that reveal His deep love (agape) for all mankind, and a recognition of what God is working out here on earth. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
In His hour of need, Christ turned to God the Father and cried out to Him time and time again. Neither He nor Jesus Christ will ever leave us or forsake us. As long as we are committed to doing His will and following Christ's example explicitly... Striving to live "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Eph 4:13)
Doing it God's way, which is exactly what we committed to when we were baptized.
As the 14th ended, as it will at sunset today, Christ was in the tomb, awaiting the resurrection. He had completed His mission, the reason He was on earth at that time. He had effectively delivered all who will choose to truly follow Him from the bondage of slavery, oppression, and eternal death. He had "overcome the world" and told His disciples to be of "good cheer."
As the 14th of Abib ended and the 15th began, for ancient Israel back when YHWH had "executed judgment on all the gods of Egypt," He led Israel out of the bondage, cruelty, slavery and hopelessness of life in Egypt and they embarked on the journey God had prepared for them to the Promised Land.
As we gather together tonight as the 15th of Abib begins, as the Days of Unleavened Bread begin (rich with so much meaning), on this night that God calls the "Night to be Much Observed," let's remember (a key word during these spring holydays) what God and Christ have done for us.
Let's be in awe as we gather together with those of His body--one body, one with each other and one with God and Christ, one Spirit, one God, one truth, one faith, one baptism, one way to salvation--in praise, honor, and in deep, deep appreciation and recognition of what God has done and will do for all of mankind.
Let's be ready to live and commit to the spiritual purpose of the Days of Unleavened Bread and determine in our hearts to put out all the spiritual leaven in our lives.
And let's glorify Christ's and the Father's name in all we do.
Have a wonderful and profound Night to be Much Observed tonight. (If you need someplace to be with others, let us know.)
And have a meaningful day as we take time to remember what Christ went through on this day and the commitment we made to Him as we complete putting the leavening out of our homes and lives.
Let's purpose to gather together before Him on the First Day of Unleavened Bread tomorrow, which is also the weekly Sabbath.
There will be one service in Orlando at 1:30 pm at our regular place of meeting. In Jacksonville, there will be one service at 1 pm in our regular place of meeting.
Services tomorrow will be live webcast at youtube.com/ucgorlando if you cannot attend for good reason.
In accordance with scripture, we have the privilege and opportunity of bringing an offering to Him. Please prayerfully prepare it and bring it in the green offering envelope provided you.