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Pitiful Pilate’s Peer Pressure

Today I find myself thinking about Pontius Pilate.  Does anyone think of him with any thing but disdain, and disappointment?  I don’t think so.  Ha ha, can you imagine it, “Pilate is one of my heroes.”  Nope.  It’s sad, he had power and potential, but he threw it away for peer pressure.  (Okay, enough illiterations, sorry I just couldn’t resist.)  Seriously, his story always makes me feel a little sad.  Here he stood at a crucial point in history, and he failed.  The reason he did it is what bothers me most about his story.

He caved  into pressure from others to do something that he didn’t feel good about.  I hope you can see where I’m going with this.  Haven’t we all done that at some point–hopefully an error of youth not repeated, but still.  Certainly our caving was short, and not often repeated.  For most of us, no one will ever know of our weakness.  Not so for Pilate.  His story stands for all as a cautionary tale.  Let’s look at his story more closely:

Matthew tells us (in chapter 27) that Pilates wife warned him:

19 ¶When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

Luke points out that Pilate knew Christ was innocent:

Luke 23:14 [Pilate] Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

But he ignores his wife’s warning and his own conscious and gives the command for Christ to be killed.  Why?  Because that’s what the people wanted.  He tries to escape the blame:

Matthew 2724 ¶When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

As if saying the words will release you of guilt, Pilate.  I don’t think so.

We can look at this story and tell ourselves we would never to anything that bad.  I hope not, but we also have to be honest with ourselves and admit Pilate probably would have said the same thing before it happened.  We don’t know, of course, but it seems reasonable.  So what happened to him then?  My guess is that this was not his first time caving into peer pressure.  I think we can say with a fair amount of certainty that he did not have a history full of standing up for what was right.

So when I read his story, I ask myself are my choices leading me to be someone like who stands boldly for truth like Daniel or Abinidi, or are my choices leading me down a similar path as Pilate.  This may seem like a simple choice, a “no brainer” as they say, but I see in it something deeper.  Standing up for the right is not always as obvious as standing for Christ.  It also means standing for the weak and vulnerable.  I’m thinking of Edmund Burke’s quote:  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  With that in mind, am I a Pilate?  It’s a weighty question that I think bears consideration from time to time.

Photo Attribution: https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/bible-video-jesus-pilate-1401013?lang=eng

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What Kind of Servants are We?

This week I read and pondered, once again, the Parable of the Talents.  We know that parables can have multiple layers of meaning, that was the point, right?  I mean to disguise the true meaning from those who were not ready to receive it.

The parable of the talents has always been quite puzzling to me.  I have tried, but struggled to see it as anything more than what it says on the surface, talents as literally talents or maybe money.  I just couldn’t stretch my brain any farther than that for some reason.  But this week, I made a little progress.  I still don’t claim to fully understand what the Savior wanted us to understand with this parable, but I’m getting closer.

I was struck by this scripture: Matthew 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Outer darkness is serious business.  It seems like the Savior is talking about a lot more than whether you practice the piano (or some other talent) or not.   So what was he referring to?

In talking to my peers, in my religion class, we came up with a variety of ideas ranging from spirituality, Gifts of the Spirit, and time.  Maybe it is a combination of all of them.

Something else I noticed that I don’t recall noticing before is that both of the first two servants appeared to receive the same reward.  They were given different amounts of talents, but both seemed to do the best they could, and they were both rewarded.  The third did nothing and was severely punished.  What I take from this is that even if we feel others have been more blessed than we have with (insert whatever you like here…talents, money, time etc), what the Lord cares most about is that we do SOMETHING with what we have been given.  Effort is rewarded, and sloth is punished.

I hope that we are all being profitable servants.  The good news is that if we haven’t been, there’s still time to do better.  That is the beauty of the Atonement and forgiveness.  We are given as many chances to improve as we will accept.  Which makes me think, maybe repentance is a “talent”.  Hmmm.

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2014-01-001-the-parable-of-the-talents?lang=eng

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Let’s Rejoice with Zaccheaus

Zacchæus was part of my reading this week.  I love this guy.  I’m prone to be impulsive myself, so I love impulsive people.  I love the apostle, Peter, for this reason.  Zacchæus wanted to see Christ but because he was “little of stature” (Luke 19:3) he couldn’t see over the crowd.  So impulsively, he went ahead and climbed a tree.  That’s serious determination.

He was rewarded for his efforts, when the Savior saw him and told hurry up and come down because He, the Savior, would be coming to Zacchæus’ house.  Imagine how thrilled Zacchæus must have been.  My heart feels happy for him just reading this story over a thousand years later.

But there were some in the crowd who did not rejoice with him.  Luke 19: 7  “And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”

I hope that Zacchaeus did not allow that to diminish his joy.  There will always be “haters”.  Even Christ, who was perfect, couldn’t please everyone.  In fact, some became so angry with Him, that they sought His death.  And why?  He was perfect, so really wasn’t what He had done, but they way they interpreted it in their own hearts, for their own reasons.  I think there are three main lessons from this.  First, we can never please everyone.  Second, because we can’t please everyone, we should focus of pleasing Christ.  Finally, and this is the hard one, when we are upset, angry or disappointed with someone else, we need to at least consider that the way we see the situation may not be the TRUTH.  We see life through the lens of our experience, which may help, or may deceive us.  Often (perhaps most of the time) there is information we don’t know or see, that is needed to interpret the information correctly.  Whatever the reasons, even when we think we understand a situation, we must remember that we “see through a glass darkly” as Paul said.

Two of my favorite books illustrate this idea (of not seeing everything clearly).  They are Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, and The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  I highly recommend both of them, even if you’ve read them before.  I like to read and re-read them as a reminder to myself to try and be as patient and loving with others as I hope they would be with me.  Let’s rejoice with Zacchaeus and not condemn him, and perhaps we’ll be the next one favored to have the Savior visit our home.

 

Photo Attribution:  Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Tree, by James Tissot  – LDS Media

 

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Once Blind, Now I See

Visualization is a scripture study skill where you try to imagine in your mind what you are reading about.  I think of it like being a movie director.  If I were making a movie about this scene, how would I do it.  What would the characters look like, young or old, male or female?  How would they be dressed?  What would the weather be like, the scenery?  Then I like to think about each character and about their “motivation”, I mean how they are feeling, what they bring to the scene.  It can be very powerful and help me see things I hadn’t noticed in the scriptures before.  For example this excerpt from Matthew 20:

30 ¶And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

 31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

 32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?

 33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.

 34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

I don’t even remember reading this story before though I’m sure I have.  The first thing that struck me was about the possible friendship that the two blind men shared.  To me the idea of being blind sounds terrifying.  If I had to choose, I would choose almost anything else, the world is scary enough sometimes when you can see it coming.  These two men were facing one of my greatest fears, but they were not alone, they had each other.

It made me stop and think about friendship and how important it is in our lives.  We, human beings, are wired for connection.  Sometimes we marry our friends, or our friends are blood-related.  Sometimes they are people we found while we were sitting on the sidewalk.  But whether they’ve been there all your life (like family) or they come to you along the way, what matters is that they are there for you in those dark moments.  When you cry out for help and the rest of the world ignores you or rebukes, you but that friend is there.

And who else is there?  Christ.  How did they know He was near?  They couldn’t see Him.  They must have heard the voices in the crowd.   Perhaps they felt a different energy in the air.  Somehow they knew.  It is the same for us.  We can’t see Him, and yet He is there for us in our darkest hours.

Finally, over the voices of the crowd, He heard them and answered their request.  They did what good friends do, they got up and followed Him.

Had He helped you to see?  Are you following Him, being a loyal friend?  It reminds me of the song, Amazing Grace.  “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”  This is the invitation He extends to all of us. It’s our choice whether we follow Him, or stay behind in the dark.

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Light of the World

The many names of the Savior and their symbolism are fascinating to me.  One of my favorites is Light of the World.  This is because I love light and hate the darkness.  Ever since I heard of people in the Twin Towers on 9/11 making their way IN THE DARK down flights and flights of stairs, I have tried to keep flashlights readily available.  I have one in my purse, one in the car, one next to my bed, and there is even a flashlight in my bathroom.  While this might seem to border on paranoia (and maybe it does) but since I live in Western Washington where we experience frequent power outages in the winter, it comes in pretty handy.

A More Permanent Darkness

When I was 10 years old, a friend of mine told me he had leukemia and might die.  At the time my family and I did not attend church.  I had no idea what dying meant, really.  One of the first things that came to my mind was that it was like going to sleep and never waking up-a permanent form of darkness.  I was horrified by that idea.  That was when my search for God began.

Christ is that light that saves us from permanent darkness.  Unlike my flashlights, His light is not dependent on batteries or light bulbs.  His is a constant and dependable source of light.

Everlasting Light

This week in my reading in the New Testament, I came across another symbolism of Christ as the Light of the World that I had not noticed before.  I might have missed it this time too if it weren’t for theInstitute Manual.  The stories from John 7 took place during the “Feast of Tabernacles”.  This was one of the “greatest and most joyful” of the feasts.  While their customs were different than anything we do today, I’ve read that it loosely relates to our Thanksgiving.

The festivities included, “On the temple mount, four large golden candelabras (also called menorahs or candlesticks) illuminated the temple grounds during dances and other festivities held late into the night and early morning. The golden candelabras, which were 50 cubits tall (approximately 73 feet or 22.25 meters), not only provided light for the celebrations, but they symbolized that Israel was to be a light to those who walked in darkness.” New Testament Student Manual

That is mind boggling to me–73 feet tall!  How tall is that?  I wanted to be able to compare it to something so I did a quick google search and learned that wooden phone poles are approx. 24 ft tall.  Suffice it to say 73 feet is ginormous. So imagine the surprise of the Jewish leaders, who were seeking to entrap Jesus, when He stood before these giant candelabras and proclaimed Himself to be “the Light of the World.”

It’s powerful, stunning and beautiful to me all at the same time.

 

Photo attribution: LDS Media Images

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The Believers

My therapist says that healing is like a coil, it may feel like we are going round and round (and round!) in circles, but hopefully that coil is vertical and we are moving upwards at the same time.  I like that analogy-like a spiral staircase.  I find that I’m on that spiral staircase in my relationship with Heavenly Father and Christ (as well as many other issues).  I feel close to them, then I feel confused, and distant, then something happens and I feel close to them again.  And round and round I go.  As part of my effort to be sure the staircase is ascending, and not heading off in any other direction, I’ve decided to focus on the stories of “believers” as I find them in the scriptures.  I hope to be inspired and moved by them.  I’m leaving out the people who were physically healed for this project mostly because their healing was instantaneous while ours is generally slow.)

In my reading last week, I learned about Nathanael (John 1:47-51).  Nathanael believed because Christ said, “Before that Phillip called thee when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.”  That was enough for Nathanael to proclaim Jesus, the Son of God.  I am so impressed by Nathanael’s humility (I think many people, myself included would be hindered by our pride and be a bit more skeptical.)  I’m also impressed with his faith.  This story reminds me to look back on all the ways that God has blessed my life, and really their are many.  If Nathanael could believe with just one comment, surely I can believe because I have been given much.

This week, I read about the Roman Centurion who came to Jesus to plead for his sick servant.  Jesus offered to come right away, but the Centurion wasn’t having it.  He said he was not worthy of such a visit, but asked that Christ only speak the words and He knew it would be done.  Christ was very pleased with him, and the servant was healed.

This story fascinates me because this is not what I would have expected from a Roman Centurion.  From what I have read Roman soldiers and their leaders were fierce fighters, whether it is fair or not, I’ve always imagined them to be–not nice people.  (As an aside, a book I’m currently reading is softening my heart by helping me see that they were undoubtedly affected by their surroundings.  The book is called The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How God People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo, PhD.  This book helps me understand why God is willing in some cases to even forgive murderers.)  What the Roman did is amazing for several reasons:

  1. Rome ruled over Israel at this time, so the Centurion could have made the mistake of seeing Christ, along with all other Jews, as his inferiors.  But he didn’t.
  2. He plead for his servant, who is also technically his inferior.
  3. Again he showed humility by saying he was not worthy for Christ to come to his house.
  4. Finally, he had enough faith to trust on words alone that his servant (friend?) would be healed.

No wonder Christ was impressed with this man!  This story is a reminder to me to be humble but also in those moments that I don’t feel worthy to ask for anything for myself, I can still reach out and ask for blessings for those I love.

 

Photo Attribution: LDS Media Library

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Walk With Me

Dear Friends,

It’s been awhile, but here we are.  I’ve missed you.  I mean to say, I’ve missed interacting with you by sharing my thoughts and reading your comments.  What brings me back now is a class, a religion class, where I’m encouraged to share what I’m learning.  The class is on the first half of the New Testament.  As you may know if you’ve been here before, the stories about the Savior from the New Testament, and His teachings were a great comfort to me in a difficult time of my life so taking this class feels like coming home.  I’m really excited to study the New Testament in depth again, and I’d love for you to join me.

Something I really enjoy about this religion class is the tips on different ways to delve deeper into the scriptures, to truly drink from them, not just casually read.  This week the study skill I used was called: Lists.

“A list is a purposeful grouping that items are included in a list or excluded for a purpose. For a purpose like you make a grocery list and you make a separate list like a to-do list or a chore list or a homework list. A list implies that the things on that list are there together for a purpose. So the first question when you find a list is what’s the purpose of the list, what’s the topic, what’s the subject? What is the Lord trying to talk to me here? Another really good question to ask is does the list have an order to it? Are the things on the list being presented according to some ordered scheme, like chronology or hierarchy or process.” Dale Strum, BYU-Idaho

Lists are one of my favorite study skills to use.  It seems fairly simple, and it is, but somehow looking for these lists helps me see things I might have otherwise not noticed.  Sometimes lists simply help me bring things together that I love.  For example this list of Christ’s names thus far: Emmanuel: God With Us, Son of the Highest, and Word of God.  Each of those names could be a blog post on their own.

I also wrote a couple quick, fun (at least to me) lists.  Here’s one:

The Angel’s Instructions to Joseph:

  • Arise – take the child and His mother
  •  Flee in to Egypt
  • Stay there until you hear from me.

It occurred to me that at different times in our lives, we may have been given very similar instructions.

  • Arise-follow Him
  • Flee from sin and temptation
  • Stay there- be strong in the faith, keep the commandments

I really loved this list that I found in the Institute Manual:

Primary Audience

  • Matthew – Jewish People
  • Mark – Romans
  • Luke – Greeks
  • John – Members of the church

Wow, how did I never notice that before!

Do you make lists when you read the scriptures?  What lists have you found?

Til next time . . .

 

Photo attribution: LDS Media Library