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Podcast: 27 November 2020
Hello and welcome to this week’s final Foundations podcast. My name is Sarah & I am part of the student church here at STC. I’m really excited to share with you so a big thanks to Abby for letting me be her guest.
Today we’re going to be reading through Matthew’s account of Jesus’s trial before Pilate. You can follow along in your Bible starting at Matthew chapter 27 verse 11.
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,”Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
These Jewish leaders felt threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity and his powerful teaching. They wanted to kill him but didn’t have the authority to impose the death sentence because the only charge they had against him, supposed blasphemy, wasn’t sufficient. In Luke’s gospel when the Jewish leaders bring Jesus before Pilate, they accuse him of misleading the nation, forbidding people to pay taxes, and claiming to be Christ the King. (Luke 23:1-2) Jesus calling himself the King of the Jews would be a direct challenge to Caesar’s rule. Pilate knows the Jewish leaders are not actually concerned about threats to Roman rule but are jealous of Jesus’ popularity and worried about a potential riot.
In the trial, Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews to which he replies, “You have said so.” Pilate presses on wondering if Jesus has even heard the accusations against him – but Jesus says nothing. Jesus was innocent and yet he was silent in front of his accusers. At first this baffled me.
His response to Pilate seems filled with passivity and indifference. When people accuse me of doing things I haven’t done, I feel indignant, I often respond with anger and will try to justify and explain myself. Jesus’ response is so calm though – he is trusting his Father in this moment and doesn’t react hastily. His quiet confidence in God means that he doesn’t need to explain who he is or justify his actions to Pilate. I wish I had this solid identity in God and certainty in him. Like me, Pilate was amazed at Jesus’ refusal to defend himself. But part of the answer why Jesus says nothing is in the prayer he prayed at the garden of Gethsemane: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Jesus prays for a way out but ultimately trusts God’s sovereignty and puts his identity in him. Where in our lives can we respond in love instead of reacting with anger? Where do we need to prioritise God’s will above our own?
This passage fulfils the prophecy that Isaiah made in the old testament (chapter 53): “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth… for the transgression of my people, he was punished.”
Another thing to consider is how much of a role reversal this situation is: the eternal Son of God and creator of heaven is standing before a human judge who is flawed, finite and unjust. It should be humanity being judged by God but Jesus takes our place. This leaves me in awe… Would you take time today to consider again how radical and sacrificial that is? That God takes our place on the judgement seat.
God, thank you that you took our place on the cross; although you were innocent, you were judged guilty and died instead of us. We are so grateful. Would you help us to find our identity in you and trust your will above ours? Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 27:11-26
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him,
Podcast: 26 November 2020
Hello and welcome to Thursday’s podcast! My name’s Abby, a big thank you again to Clarissa for her podcast yesterday and to Sarah ahead of her podcast tomorrow.
Today’s passage is Matthew 26:57-75. To give a bit of context, Jesus has been arrested and he now gets taken to the high priest, where the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, was also assembled. The chief priests and the council have had enough and are looking for a reason to be able to sentence Jesus to death. They start to make accusations against Jesus and the verse that’s really stood out to me from this passage is verse 63, ‘but Jesus remained silent’. In a moment where Jesus had every right to defend himself, he remained silent. I think it’s human nature to want to justify our actions and to defend ourselves, but when Jesus’s life depended on it, he ‘remained silent’.
If you need a reminder today of just how much God loves you, know this, that when Jesus had the chance to save his life, he remained silent, in order that you and I could be saved instead – totally and completely forgiven and set free from everything we’ve ever done wrong, through Jesus’ death on the cross. The world is crying out for a saviour at the moment, and it can be very easy to rest our hopes on the good news of progress made with a vaccine, of the change that a new president the other side of the ocean might bring, there was even talk of Strictly Come Dancing saving 2020 at one point (now I’m a fan of Strictly, but I’m not sure it’s that good!), however in Jesus we have the ultimate saviour – the only saviour who will bring true freedom and fulness of life – and I’m so sothankful today that Jesus remained silent before the chief priests and didn’t protest his innocence.
We know this wasn’t easy for Jesus, earlier in the chapter he’s been crying out in anguish, asking God to intervene and to take away the painful journey to the cross, yet he still surrendered to God’s will. This is in stark contrast to the human nature we see in Peter a few verses later, whensome people in the courtyard where he was waiting around, challenge him for being seen with Jesus, and Peter strongly denies that he knows him.
So what can we take away from this? There are three things that I want to briefly mention:
Firstly, I think that Jesus was able to remain silent because he won the battle earlier on while he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane – as Jesus cried out to God in prayer and surrendered to his will, he had the strength to go through with his mission and remain silent in the face of accusation, because he knew what he had to do, and that God would give him the strength to do it – if there are things that feel impossible today, let’s not underestimate the power of prayer and the battles we can win when we choose to surrender to God’s will.
Secondly, Jesus demonstrates extraordinary humility in remaining silent, I think because he knew his identity was first and foremost in God – he didn’t need to prove or disprove who he was to other people. It’s made me wonder what it would look like for us to feel so secure in our identity in God, that we didn’t feel the need to prove to anyone who we are, or what we can do.
And finally, returning to Jesus as saviour –we have a real opportunity, in this crazy year, to point to Jesus as saviour, to not keep this good news to ourselves. I think it’s easy to bat around the phrase ‘the world needs Jesus more than ever’ – well, I think we’ve always needed Jesus really, but perhaps this year has got people asking questions about life in a different way than they’ve thought about before and I’m praying that, as we reflect again on how Jesus saved us on the cross, we’ll be bold to share that with other people, and to offer a different story. Over the summer, while it was warm enough to actually sit out in the garden, my housemates and I had some really good conversations with o
Podcast: 25 November 2020
Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. I’m Clarissa Finnemore, and I’m married to Tom. Todays passage is Matthew 26:36-56. I’m going to read verses 38-40, but I’d encourage you to read the whole passage.
‘Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.’
I don’t know about you but I have found 2020 a challenge. The constant unknowns, unable to plan, unable to see family and friends. It is challenged me physically with things like juggling home school, as a community nurse I’ve had to adapt to changing procedures like wearing PPE. We all this year have had to adapt in some way. I wonder if this year has revealed to you where your roots are? Or consider this; where do you get your strength when life is hard?
This year has also been a challenge emotionally for me, and so in an even more poignant way has revealed to me where I get my strength, what makes me strong and where my roots are. In December last year I had a miscarriage. Many of you may know Tom and I have journeyed for many years with infertility and now by the grace of God and the provision of medical science we have 3 beautiful children; even so this experience was still very painful. So as we came into 2020 I was already emotionally weary and then in March the pandemic hit. After a few weeks of home school, I realised that what made me look forward to the weekend – what kept me going – was the thought of that glass of wine or gin and tonic on a Thursday night. Now I don’t think alcohol is a bad thing! But I realised that I was watering my roots in the wrong place. So for a season I stopped drinking alcohol and I refocused on God’s truth in my life.
I wonder, when storms come in your life, what makes you strong? What do you rely on? Do you rely on others? Do you pour yourself another glass of wine? Do you stick your fingers in your ears and hope it will go away? Or do you reach for your Bible? If not, why not? Have you been hurt? Lost hope? Have you experienced loss or unanswered prayer and don’t feel God is there anymore? Have you become cynical? The thing about plant roots is they don’t grow overnight, they grow gradually; and they grow where they are watered the most.
Whatever reason we may not at times rely on God, todays passage I think reveals why we can trust him, and why its often in those times of unanswered prayers and pain and tiredness or whatever situation you are in today that we actually realise once we turn to him that we find he was there all along.
In this passage in Matthew today we see Jesus in Gethsemane. His friends are asleep, he is alone, betrayed, and his Father is asking him to give up his life and take on the sins of the world. What comes out? Faithfulness, trust in God and surrender. We see that Jesus is so rooted and guided by scripture that this gives him the strength to deal with: emotional pain, betrayal and abandonment and ultimately say “not as I will, but as you will” (v39). He says “Your way Lord”.
The other night I was watching a documentary and learnt about a women called Marianne Cohn. Marianne was born in 1922 in Germany into a Jewish family. In 1942 she began to smuggle Jewish children into Switzerland across the heavily guarded French border. In 1944 after smuggling nearly 200 children safely into Switzerland her truck containing her and 28 children were stopped by the German Police near the Swiss Border and were all arrested. Due to the bravery of a local Mayor the younger children were released. Marianne was interrogated, but never talked of what she had been doing. Her friends in the resistance movement wanted to plan a rescue attempt,
Podcast: 24 November 2020
Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s Daily Podcast, my name’s Abby and it’s so good to be opening the Bible with you again today, thank you for listening.
Today’s passage is Matthew 26:17-35 and I’m going to read the first three of those verses for us to focus on now:
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.”
The more I’ve thought about it, I love the significance of this event – when we read further on, this turns out to be Jesus’s last evening with the disciples before he is betrayed and arrested.
Passover in the Old Testament was a celebration of how God rescued the Israelites from slavery and oppression in Egypt and, as Daniel Groody says, it came to more widely reveal ‘God’s action in history on behalf of the most vulnerable, God’s commitment to human liberation, God’s expectation of right worship, God’s enduring fidelity, and ultimately God’s promise of a new kingdom and a new creation’. We see the ultimate expression of the Passover in Jesus on the cross, as he moved from death to life, and bought us true freedom and liberation. So the fact that Jesus chooses to mark this last evening by celebrating the Passover with his disciples is very symbolic.
I love the fact that the Passover celebration involved sitting down for a meal together – we see in the Bible so many significant times where food is shared over a table and community is built – I know that’s something that a lot of us will be missing at the moment as we can’t invite friends over for a meal – but we can still make the most of the opportunity to stop and be with those who are in our household and share food together. I know when I’m in the house on my own I can be very guilty of rushing lunch, or just taking it back to my desk, but virtual dinners over a video call are working well too!
I love the fact that Jesus chose to spend those last moments with his disciples – he had encountered so many people during the course of his ministry, yet he spent this last celebration with the people closest to him, who had seen all the ups and downs of the last three years.
And I love the fact that, despite Jesus knowing, and probably dreading what was to come when he would be handed over to be crucified, Jesus still chose to press in to celebration, he was present with his disciples, he was ‘reclining’ at the table! Jesus’ attitude in the build up to his death has really challenged me. I don’t know about you, but I often find the last few days before I know something is about to change almost worse than when the actual change happens – my mind starts whirring about what it might feel like, about what could happen and I can dread what is to come, which often leads me to missing, or even wasting, those precious last moments.
Now I’m not at all likening going into lockdown with Jesus’ death (!), don’t worry, this is a slightly tenuous link, but as I was reflecting on this passage I was thinking back to how I found the build up to this second lockdown really hard – it was strange having a few days of waiting, knowing lockdown had been announced and was coming, but it hadn’t officially started. Life at home is looking a bit different this time round to the first lockdown and so I started to worry if I might feel a lot more isolated this time, my family were all quarantining together after my brother arrived back from being away for most of this year and I was sad that I couldn’t see them and now won’t for a while and my one day of not working from home and being back in an office with people was about
Podcast: 23 November 2020
Hello, and welcome to a new week of the STC Daily Podcast! My name’s Abby, I’m part of the staff team at STC and it’s a real privilege to be reading the Bible with you and sharing some of my thoughts this week. You’ve got me today, tomorrow and Thursday and then I’m delighted to have snuck in two guests as well – Clarissa Finnemore will be on the podcast on Wednesday and then one of our students, Sarah Carroll will be finishing off the week on Friday, so do listen out for them, I’m really excited to hear what they are going to share!
It’s been quite a journey through the book of Matthew! It started off with a bang with Jesus’s teaching through the sermon on the mount, we’ve followed Jesus’s practical ministry of many miracles, healings and training the disciples up, we’ve worked our way through the parables and now we’ve reached chapter 26 and are into the last weeks before Jesus’ death and resurrection. The verses that I’m going to focus on today describe a beautiful moment where a woman offers everything she has, to worship Jesus. The passage is Matthew chapter 26, verses 6-13 which I’ll read for us now.
“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Now firstly, just on a very practical note, when I stopped and thought about this scene I did wonder whether having a bottle of perfume poured on your head would be quite as pleasant as it’s made to sound, but I think refreshing ointment is probably a more accurate description, if that just helps you to set the scene in your head!
I don’t know about you, but I really resonate with how indignant the disciples felt here, about what they perceived to be a real waste of precious resources that could maybe have been better used elsewhere, particularly as they suggest in this case, in helping the poor. I imagine they must have been wondering why Jesus wasn’t reacting like they were. But from what we’ve already seen in Matthew and do see in the rest of the gospels, there’s no doubt that Jesus has a heart for the poor and also teaches a lot about using our money and resources wisely – the very fact that he’s in the house of Simon the Leper while he’s being anointed demonstrates how Jesus reaches out to the oppressed and the marginalised and I would love to talk more about that another day, but that just isn’t the main point that I think Jesus wants to make here in this moment. Jesus isn’t saying at all that we shouldn’t be concerned for the poor, that’s kind of a given, instead what we are challenged about here is what is first in our heart.
I think this moment is about worship. In pouring an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, the woman is offering her ultimate worship – she recognises Jesus for who he is and the devotion that he deserves. She knows that Jesus deserves extravagant, sacrificial worship – in fact scholars think that the woman could have used all of her wealth to buy the perfume – there’s a challenge and a half!
The woman saw the opportunity here to be in the presence of Jesus and fully embraced it. As I’ve been thinking about this passage, I’ve been struck again that we have the opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus, all the time, through the Holy Spirit.
Podcast: 20 November 2020
Good morning and welcome to our final Foundations podcast this week. It’s been an absolute joy to bring some reflections from the scriptures over these past few days. Know that we love you all wonderful church family and are praying for you today.
Today’s passage is Matthew 25: 31-46. Let’s focus today on verse 40: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
All week we’ve been poring over this teaching Jesus offers his disciples here – it’s complex, challenging and in places difficult to read but what does this mean for us today, right now in Lockdown 2.0, here in this amazing city of Sheffield. Today’s powerful passage, which in a sense ties together everything we’ve reflected on already this week, reminds us that in midst of a broken and hurting world, we are to live as a people who are marked by grace.
What we have in today’s reading is perhaps some of Jesus’ clearest and most challenging teaching on how we are to seek after justice – giving people what they deserve… and why it matters so greatly to God. In today’s passage, Jesus compares final judgement to the, at that time, common task of shepherds who had to identify and remove the goats from their flock. Rather disturbingly, on that day Jesus teaches, there will be many who claim to have believed in Him who ultimately will be rejected, the goats. And that His true sheep will be identified as those who have a heart for those in need.
It’s an incredibly challenging passage to reflect on for a number of reasons. Firstly, what Jesus is depicting here is a picture of God’s kingdom and how its citizens are to live. Presented in today’s reading is a staggeringly comprehensive list of how we are to live as disciples. Giving food or drink to the hungry – we might see this as providing emergency relief to those affected by disaster or war. The stranger – effectively the immigrants and refugees of our society being welcomed into friendship and community. The naked, an example would be the homeless, being clothed and provided for. The sick being cared for and the prisoners visited. This is the kind of community Jesus says that his true disciples will establish.
On Sunday we heard our interim leader Tom speak from the book of Jeremiah and how we are to ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city’ God has called us to. If we ever needed a reminder of what this might look like…today’s passage paints a very compelling and beautiful picture of that. As I reflected on Jesus’ words here, I pictured one of my friends going into prisons to connect with young offenders. I pictured another member of our church family working with young people in crisis at an inclusion centre. I pictured countless members of our church community working for the NHS treating and caring for the sick. I pictured the Foodbank team providing generously gifted food for those who are hungry. One should never start a list! This is just a snapshot of the church and what’s happening. And then beyond us at STC there are other churches, other disciples – many of whom we don’t see or know about – who either through their work or through voluntary projects are seeking to care for those most in need. Today we thank God for them and we pray for them.
But perhaps, the most powerful reminder this passage brings us is that, yes, we are to be a people who look out but first we must look in. Why? In verse 40, Jesus tells us that ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ You did for me…that’s the key phrase. Jesus is saying here…our attitude towards people in need ultimately reflects our attitude towards God. Whatever we do for those who are struggling, we do it for Christ.
We could easily look at this passage and think… If I’m honest – I don’t feel like I stack up here ...
Excellent podcast. Well presented. Clear content. Highly recommended.
Brilliantly short, fantastically insightful
Great thoughts for the day, very encouraging.
Encouraging podcast on how to live out being a Christian in daily life. And it fits into a coffee break: bonus!