"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin
It's that time of year again where many of us say hello to our Uncle Sam with a .. 'gift' aka tax payment. Sorta like paying protection money to the mob.
and.. with regards to Tax Advice.. it's honestly not a good idea to listen to me. I hate taxes.. and THEY hate me.
So instead let me share the Gospel tax advice of Jesus.
Render (give back) unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. Mark 12:17
As I recall, the only other mention of Jesus and taxes was something about a 'fish tax', and having dinner with that big little tax man Zacchaeus.
Anyways, as I said earlier not much advice from me. Claim your dependents, and all your deductions in hopes of receiving a 'blessed refund' from your loving Uncle Sam.
AND.. if you are asked to pay more taxes..(I call it my tax penance)... then just 'render' a little more to Caesar as you can be sure 'Caesar' will make good use of it.
Happy Taxation wishes from.. The Back Pew
In Jesus final week there were many who failed him. His disciples fled, The priests fumed, the crowds jeered, Pilate washed his hands of the whole deal, but there was only one who BETRAYED Jesus. When I think of the major players as the last week of Jesus on Earth played out.. Judas was the one who betrayed our Lord.
I wonder about Judas. He was one of the 12 disciples, he watched the same miracles, he listened to Jesus teach and disciple, and he witnessed Jesus compassion and love for the common man. So what went wrong in Judas mind? Was he ever truly a follower of Jesus? Why was he selected to be one of the 12 disciples?
We can all speculate about the condition of Judas heart, but in the end I find myself feeling empathy for him.
You see if my sins and failures were recorded in the Bible I would be embarrassed, but to be the one who betrayed Jesus… how could a person live with that? ..
and so Judas decided he could not and.. hung himself.
Once again, NOT FUNNY STUFF.. this Easter week. The Bible records the dinner at Simon’s when Mary bathed Jesus feet with expensive perfume, but Judas was upset with what he regarded an extravagant waste. This perfume could be sold and the money given to the poor!
Then the following week Judas conspires to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. This became his price for INFAMY.
So was Judas truly a bad man or simply a man that slid down the slippery slope of compromise? We will never be faced with an opportunity to 'directly' betray Jesus like Judas did, BUT.. I believe we should all beware of our own slippery slopes that we wander on to.
Our slippery slopes may never be recorded in a book, and certainly not the Bible, BUT.. if we are not careful we may betray Jesus in words and/or actions.
Like Jesus taught.. “What you did (good or bad) to the least of my family, you did it to me.” I believe the lesson Judas betrayal is infinitely sobering, BUT.. the lesson of Matthew 25:31-46 is just as sobering. Sobering, but so very encouraging too.
When our hearts are focused on Jesus first (not a cheap cliché), then our focus leaves ourselves, and what we do for the least in God’s family will make God smile. God’s plan is simple, we only make it complicated our compromised hearts.
Finally.. WHAT IS JUDAS REPENTED of this betrayal? He did not, and was lost in the despair of these dark moments, but WHAT IF? We will never know, but I believe God’s Grace would have saved Judas. There is no dark place, there is no wrong path we can take that can not be reached by God’s perfect love and forgiveness.
May God bless each of you this Easter season. May our lives make God smile! May we recognize that God's grace can rescue any of us no matter what dark path you find yourself on. There is no betrayal that God will not forgive and so there is hope for all of us. It is a hope for forgiveness and complete restoration for the repentant heart.. AND hope for a life yet to be realized and blessed by God.
Jeff (saved by Grace) Larson
After serving with Jesus, witnessing his miracles, passion, and compassion leading up to this night.. His disciples NEVER SAW IT COMING.
I know personally that I sometimes stumble and fall after a high moment in my life. Maybe this is what happened to Jesus disciples. The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, demons are exorcised, the dead rise, the multitudes fed, the storms calmed, and with just a 'pinch of faith' they learn they can even walk on water. ..
Then they witness Jesus Triumphant entry on Palm Sunday. They believed Jesus was the Messiah and they were His special 'spiritual entourage'.
Who wouldn’t be riding high? Their time with Jesus was the spiritual and emotional adrenaline rush that is beyond my comprehension.
BUT. then on Thursday night Jesus shares the emotional LAST SUPPER with a heartfelt with a servant's heart sharing the bread and cup. Of course in my BP mind I see a bad carb moment but I digress.
Next they are led by Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is feeling the weight of what is about to happen, and so does what we all should do when troubled.. Jesus Prays.
He asks his disciples to "watch and pray". , but being so very human and so very tired did not comprehend what the next hours would hold for them all.. they sleep. I like to think I would done better, that I would watch and pray as Jesus commanded, but late at night in a peaceful garden if I was asked to be quiet and pray... sleep would be a very real possibility.
So while Jesus agonizes over what is about to happen, he prays “Father not my will but your will be done!”.. and at this moment as captured so powerfully in the movie the Passion of the Christ… Satan is Stomped! Prayers of Jesus are answered, the sleep of the disciples is now over, and now the final hours of Jesus life are set in motion.
Judas next arrives with temple guards to betray Jesus with a kiss, and these guards tumble backwards all over themselves like the keystone cops in a bumbling effort to arrest Jesus.
Since Peter had been sleeping when he should have been praying he runs to the rescue of Jesus with the spirit of a bull in a china shop cutting off the ear of a servant of the High Priest. In the midst of this chaos Jesus commands Peter to put down his sword, and he heals the severed ear for this servant.
Confused, and with his ego bruised, Peter and the other disciples run away. I am pretty sure I would have run too.
Of course I am a very sound sleeper, and so even worse I would have maybe slept through the whole arrest woke up around 8 a.m. the next morning all by myself wondering where everyone had gone.
note: Please understand I am not looking down at the disciples for falling asleep in the Garden when Jesus directed them to watch & pray. I am not criticizing Peter who in panic cut off the ear of high priest. And I am not making light of the disciples running away in fear when Jesus was arrested. Instead, I see myself just as sleepy, panicked, and running away afraid when I should have been watchful and praying. I too get my mind busy about me instead of Jesus. And I observe as a 'lifetime resident of Earth' I am not the only one, and so I pray to do better.
So with the lesson of the disciples who 'never saw it coming' I pray we all learn to follow Jesus words "Watch and Pray".
Holy Week Blessings
Jeff (often sleepy) Larson
Just one day after Jesus Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, we find Jesus suffering with more than just a 'Case of the Mondays'. This special Monday he enters the temple where it was reduced from being God's House of Worship to a first century Holy Land Mini Mall
Of course in my Back Pew way of looking at things I have imagined and illustrated a few of these temple violators. There were The Temple ..
All these and more turned the temple into as Jesus called it "a true den of thieves". So I guess frustrated was a true understatement as I will call Jesus state of mind The Temper in the Temple.
After turning over a few tables Jesus leaves the temple not in the mood for encountering a 'fig-free-fig-tree' which he promptly cursed.
This was a lesson NOT LOST on his disciples.
Jesus, fully God, fully man (He 2:17)
I cannot fathom the mindset of Jesus at this time, but from a human perspective I believe Jesus experienced the elation of his triumphant entry that first Palm Sunday all while knowing that would happen over the next week. While his crucifixion, and resurrection later this week shocked his disciples, this was all a part of The Father's Gospel Plan of Salvation for mankind (see Isaiah 53).
note: If I was Isaiah and I just finished writing Isaiah 53.. I would.. DROP THE MIC!
So Jesus knowing what this week would bring, the shameful conduct in the Temple, and the fig tree bore no fruit were the realities of this sinful and broken world just one day removed from that first Palm Sunday celebration.
These are normal emotions for any of man or woman since Adam & Eve but deeper and more complex for Jesus who knew no sin while being fully God and fully man.
Holy week is one of those times where my silly cartoon images feel out of place as a medium to communicate God's Heart and His truth. My prayer is that these sketches and comments convey the absurdity of man when compared to what is Holy, and NEVER distract from the message of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
May God find us faithful while living in a world of barren fig trees, and churches with tables to be flipped. In all things to God be the Glory.
The Grand Marshal of any big parade today would be sitting in 'nice ride' maybe a CORVETTE CONVERTIBLE or some other equally impressive car. But 2000 years ago Corvettes were scarce, and the sweet ride of choice In Jerusalem for any proper parade or 'triumphant entry' was a.. DONKEY. Go figure!
And it was 2000 years ago Jesus sent a couple disciples to request his 'sweet ride' with the words... "The Master has need of it."
And with this 'sweet ride' secured, the triumphant entry begins. The crowds cheer as Jesus rides down the streets on this 'choice' donkey. Even some OUT STATE tourists could be heard declaring Jesus was King in their own special way...
note: It is irony of Biblical proportions to realize the crowds on Palm Sunday shouted HOSANNA, then five short days later the crowds shouted CRUCIFY HIM!
Now back to that first Palm Sunday while most were celebrating King Jesus triumphant entry there were a few with bad attitudes I would describe as Palm Sunday Pouters.
These were the religious leaders of the day who were mostly indignant of these crowds honoring Jesus while a few others were simply jealous of Jesus sweet (donkey) ride.
Remember.. a good donkey was the Corvette of Jesus day.
This was how Holy Week began 2000 years ago (give or take a few cartoons). Seriously, that jubilant Palm Sunday would be followed later in the week with Jesus arrest and crucifixion. It was Friday, but Sunday was coming when Jesus was resurrected that first Easter morning.
This is the completion of God's Salvation plan for sinful mankind. His love and Amazing Grace is made complete.
So now 2000 years later let's remember to worship and honor our God. Remember if you don't shout Hosanna, the Rocks may just do it for you.
<-- this poor donkey laments turning down being Jesus Palm Sunday donkey. He could'a been somebody.. instead of a dumb donkey!
NEWS FLASH: Their are no original ideas. Despicable Me was a 2010 animated film featuring super villain Gru and his minions.. that through the lives of three orphan girls Gru's heart grows much like the Grinch to where he finds love and turns from being.. Despicable. So Gru was despicable until love changed him forever. Well, I am very Gru-like. Let me try to explain.
I often share as a qualifier of my life.. I AM A PRETTY GOOD GUY. No murders, bank robberies, I do not belong to any gang, and .. I have not been featured on Dateline in a double murder mystery where my wife and dog mysteriously disappeared.. and foul play is suspected of ME. In fact my wife Mary and my dog Cooper are upstairs as I type. BUT..
Looking back over my life there are times God's Spirit reveals my life long sin nature and it disturbs me. So many secret sins, compromises big & small, and selfish actions that looking back I ponder 'was I ever really saved?'
And looking forward why do I believe I will go to Heaven? Daily I seek the Lord but am burdened by selfish, lazy, and anxious thoughts. How can this existence of mine assure me I receive God's Grace?
But this is the answer.. GOD'S AMAZING GRACE covers all my known and secret sins. To be WASHED IN THE BLOOD, and forgiven through the RESSURECTION of Jesus 2000 years ago. Yes while earthly thinking so underserved, but this is how AMAZING His Grace & Forgiveness is.
note: washed in Jesus blood is more than church speak.. there is true power in the shedding of His blood.
"Lord forgive them for they know not what they do!" were the words of Jesus while hanging on the cross after hours of beatings and as the crowd mocks Him. This was God's Amazing Grace and forgiveness for sinful men that day and a promise for despicable men like me.
So with this promise I daily turn to Him repenting of my sins while seeking His will be done. My despicable sins big & small with attitudes compromised by self and ignorance are forgiven. By this despicable Jeff receives God's Amazing Grace and the burden of my fallen ways is lifted from me.
This is the promise for any of you who feel despicable. My prayer is for each of us to daily pursue this relationship with our creator, and realize the greatness of His love.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson