Church Health: Lessons from Timothy and Titus

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Have you ever noticed the relationship the apostle Paul had with his younger proteges? In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote like a father figure, calling Timothy, “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes more like a professor to a student: “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Timothy has journeyed around the Developing Others square with Paul, knowing what he teaches, and how he conducts himself in a range of circumstances related to church life. The relationship blossomed to the place that Paul calls Timothy “my fellow worker” (Romans 16:21). He was a colleague, or as Paul was famous for saying, “a yoke-fellow.”

Paul also had a close relationship with Titus, a Greek Christian whom Paul calls, “my loyal child in the faith” (Titus 1:4). Unlike Timothy, who had grown up in the faith through his mother and grandmother, Titus was a testimony to a changed life in Jesus and how Gentiles were being grafted into the church. Titus, who spent 15 years in missionary trips with Paul, was the one who carried the second letter to the church at Corinth (“the severe letter”). Paul identifies Titus as his partner and fellow worker (2 Corinthians 8:23). Paul knew that Titus would handle matters in Corinth in the same spirit and style as himself.

There was a lot of physical movement in Paul’s role as the apostle to the Gentiles, so frequently Paul sent Timothy as his ambassador. First Corinthians 4:17 tells us Timothy was sent to Corinth to remind the people there of Paul’s ways and teachings. Paul told the believers in Thessalonica he was sending Timothy to strengthen and encourage them in their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Correcting false teaching and establishing sound doctrine was always a priority (the young New Testament church had to be discipled). We also see Timothy appointing elders and establishing church administration. (Paul’s letters tell us Titus did similar work.)

In Ephesus, Paul left Timothy behind to oversee the church. Paul had given three years of attention to the church in Ephesus, and it is known as one of the healthiest of the New Testament churches.

Paul also empowered Titus, sending him to straighten out Crete. Crete was the wild frontier where the gospel had only recently arrived. Paul describes the Cretans as, “rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach. It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:10-12).

Paul gave Titus a ministry action plan, “I left you behind in Crete for this reason, that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you…” (Titus 1:5). In other words, “be a living example of what a Christian should be. Don’t just go there and teach what a Christian should be like, but show them what they can be, just as you were transformed in Christ.”

What a great compliment to both Timothy and Titus that they could be trusted lieutenants who could be assigned to a church and a region that allowed them to be the second generation of leaders in the New Testament church.

Summary

What do we learn about church health from the parallel stories of Timothy and Titus?

  • Pastors/leaders have different backgrounds and different personalities. Timothy appears to be more tender-hearted and prone to melancholy, and yet an able teacher for furthering and defending the gospel. Titus seems competent and trustworthy to carry out his assignments – even if he is working with brutes and liars. Paul invested heavily in both young men.
  • Churches are in different stages of development and can differ in the challenges they face. Even mature churches will face challenges when the glory isn’t channeled back to God. We have no other choice than to work out of our present reality.
  • Discipleship is the ongoing work of the church. Sound teaching is great, but it is only impactful when the fruit of the Spirit is evident in the lives of the leaders, and they are living their lives in community with the church and neighborhood.
  • Development of future leaders will always be the ongoing work of the church. True mentoring is a lot of work and takes a lot of time – Titus traveled with Paul for 15 years. Because of Paul’s skillful, intentional development of Timothy and Titus, I am certain these men took to heart the charge from 2 Timothy 2:1-2 to purposefully pass along the faith and ministry skills they learned to other reliable men and women. Timothy and Titus could mentor well because they had been mentored well.

Titus’ successor, Andreas Cretensis, eulogized him in the following way: “The first foundation-stone of the Cretan church; the pillar of the truth; the stay of the faith; the never silent trumpet of the evangelical message; the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice” (Philip Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians).

Titus and Timothy were excellent proteges who faithfully followed Paul as Paul walked in the footprints of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, isn’t this the same echo we want to resound in the young proteges who are under our care? May the faith go forward with the future Timothys and Tituses to come.

Dedicated to developing others,

Greg Williams

Tragic Mass Shootings and the Hope of Jesus

Grace Communion International is one of 40 members of the National Association of Evangelicals. Recently the NAE released this motion.

At a time when terror and violence are wreaking havoc in so many parts of our world, we remember that Jesus also endured persecution and violence on our behalf. Through his suffering, death and resurrection he opened the way to life for all humankind. May the faithful witness of the martyrs “of whom the world is not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38) draw many to put their faith in Christ, our only hope.

I don’t know how you may respond when you hear the back-to-back news of the shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. Shock and outrage are common as the news streams across television stations and the internet. And then social media overwhelms us with a wide range of views on what immediate actions are needed (most responses are not helpful).

As Christians we are reminded of how broken this world is, and with the escalation of such stories, it’s easy to become desensitized. As Christians we should mourn and grieve for the senseless loss of lives, while we pray for peace and hope for the families and friends of the victims. And we must not forget to pray for the families of the shooters as well.

As the NAE motion states, “May the faithful witness of the martyrs ‘of whom the world is not worthy’ draw many to put their faith in Christ, our only hope.” The only hope to resolve the broken, violent attribute of humanity is for people to become new creatures in Christ. I pray that the Christian communities in El Paso and Dayton will rise up as genuine representatives of Jesus and be loving peacemakers who can point their neighbors to the only real hope, Jesus. May the church be the church to their communities in crisis.

As we pray for the hurting people of El Paso and Dayton, and the churches that serve them, let’s remember that we are beseeching a living God who is not absent or aloof in these tragedies, but is present in the person of Jesus Christ. We lament for the families whose lives have been forever altered, we lament for the police and medical workers who will be impacted by the memories of these horrific episodes, and most of all we lament the hate that fueled this violence. In our reflection and lamentation let’s be reminded of how much our world still needs to hear about the redeeming work of Jesus, and to be changed from people of anger, hate and violence, to people of love, joy and peace. Let’s be those messengers who tell others about the life-changing Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man.

The news of these tragedies is not as surprising as it once may have been, and unfortunately, we will hear more such reports as time goes by, so how will we respond? The sense of deep pain and loss is natural; the wrongness and the senselessness are also natural, but for those who trust in Jesus, despair is not an option. Despair leads to hopelessness and demise. In tragedies like our country experienced over the first weekend of August, it drives believers to their knees before the throne of heaven, and to come away knowing that as strong and penetrating as our laments may be, they are framed in the hope and promises of a sovereign God who will make all things new in his time. Events that may shake our faith are surprisingly events that build our faith.

Praying for the peace of the world.

Greg Williams

Readiness

Greg and Susan Williams

What does it mean for a believer to be alert and prepared in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus? That question could get all kinds of different answers from many people, but what does scripture tell us?

The book of Revelation represents God’s people as the “bride” to be joined to Christ, the “bridegroom.” The apostle John wrote, “his bride has made herself ready” with “fine linen, bright and clean,” which is “the righteous acts of God’s holy people” (Rev. 19:7–8). So, we see that the bride—the church—continues to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus until his appearing. The bride is in a state of readiness.

In 1 John we see a further connection between eschatological hope and ongoing spiritual purification: “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). Peter also wrote about this in light of the world’s coming dissolution. He says, “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11–12). And Paul’s letter to Titus connects our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) with a summons “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). The New Testament paints a progressive picture of believers actively participating in the Spirit’s transforming work and growing up into the stature and fullness of Jesus. In other words, it shows believers being in a state of readiness.

From a pastoral standpoint, these passages suggest we evaluate eschatological teachings in terms of their practical effects. Do our lives reflect a state of readiness in our anticipation of Jesus’ return? I’d suggest it is exceedingly difficult to see how the biblical call to self-denial and godly living—being in a state of readiness—can flourish in the realm of universalist theology. Who would need to focus on cooperating with the Spirit’s work in their personal life, or be watchful and alert to the Lord’s second coming if a universalist outcome were already known in advance? Some Christian universalists, including Origen, acknowledged this problem and suggested that universalism should be kept secret from the masses and disseminated among only a select few. A novel approach, and I would add that the scripture clearly acknowledges that Jesus knows who belongs to him and none will be snatched from his sure hands (John 10:27-29). Thankfully, we don’t have to bridge the problem stated by Origen. We don’t judge the readiness of others; we point them to Jesus. We can let Jesus be the final judge of humanity and rest assured that he will sort it out perfectly.

In Matthew 24, Jesus answers the disciple’s questions about end-time events and what to expect in their future. While Jesus primarily responded to the pending destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., he also shared certain principles that apply to his followers throughout the ages. We are to watch and continue as faithful servants – in essence, to continue Living and Sharing the Gospel (GCI’s mission statement). “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing” (Matthew 24:46).

Readiness is not being hunkered down in a Y2K fashion. We aren’t in the drama “The Walking Dead” fighting for survival. We are in a state of readiness—continually fulfilling our God-given mission of Living and Sharing the Gospel; as we live peaceable lives, caring for our families, active in the ministry of our church, and sharing the love of Christ where and when we can. Always praying come, Lord Jesus, come.

In readiness for his return,
Greg Williams

Importance of a Name

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on Grace Communion International.
He shares the celebration of Grace Communion International’s name and the significance of why we are called GCI.

Vibrancy

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Throughout my letters and articles, you’ll notice I continually circle back around to the vision of Healthy Church. With Jesus as our chief cornerstone, Healthy Church is the clear path that the Holy Spirit is taking GCI. I am pleased there is enthusiastic support for this journey forward.

As I travel the globe building relationships and sharing a vision with pastors and churches in the 78 countries where GCI has a presence, I have my eyes open to Healthy Church sightings. I recently had multiple sightings on my trip to Accra, Ghana.

Under the leadership of African Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma and Regional Director of West Africa Emmanuel Okai, we held a wonderful three-day conference over the Easter weekend. During our leadership meetings, while sharing a story of one of the healthier churches in his region, Pastor Okai used the alluring word “vibrant.”

Vibrant means: energetic, bright and full of life. Energetic in the sense that there is passion and determination; bright refers to being brilliant, attractive and striking; full of life implies a life that is stimulating, dynamic, and life-giving. Vibrant is a powerful adjective to describe healthy church.

I quizzed Emmanuel on what factors fed into the vibrancy of the church he was praising, and he didn’t hesitate. He spoke freely about the following attributes:

  1. This church is not only multi-generational, but they also have active families with youth. Did you get that? Families where parents and children are actively participating and serving in the life of the church.
  2. There is outstanding worship with lively worship music. Not just a few songs that serve as an introduction for the sermon to come, but music where people are singing loudly, passionately and from their hearts. In Africa, the worship includes all ages dancing up the aisles to the front, waving their handkerchiefs, and worshipping with their entire being.
  3. Vibrancy hinges on the value of including all members in places where they best fit, with an eye on the younger emerging leaders. Emmanuel is keen about seeing the existence of “farm systems” where younger leaders are being groomed to take on significant roles in the church. This is more than a value or system; this is a culture that is formed over time.

I loved how Emmanuel shared these signs of health and vibrancy. He was passionate in wanting the other leaders to move in this direction, and I am fully on board with this goal. A great reminder he shared with the group is that many of our younger ones hold responsible positions in their workplace, and yet we tend to hold them back from greater responsibilities in the church. He asked the group “How old were you when you were ordained or asked to pastor your first church?” It gave me pause to think. I was 26 when I was ordained an elder, and I pastored my first church at age 30. I am grateful I was given the opportunity to participate in ministry at an early stage in my life.

I encourage you to thoughtfully consider these attributes of vibrancy. I invite you to join me in the quest to identify even more signs of good health as we live out a Christian life in this community called church.

Praying for a vibrant GCI,

Greg Williams

European Community of Practice

 

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Friends and Family,

During the last week of April, Susan and I had the pleasure of meeting several GCI leaders and spouses in Paris. We met with European Superintendent James Henderson (Shirley), National Ministry Leader of The Netherlands Frans Danenberg (Lamberta), National Ministry Team Leader of UK and Ireland Gavin Henderson (Sinead), and National Ministry Leader of France Marie-Angelique Alcindor Picard (Jean-Philippe). Husband and wife team, GCI Treasurer Mat Morgan and GCI Operations Coordinator Pam Morgan also participated in the meetings.

This was our first European Community of Practice meeting. A “Community of Practice” is a group of like-minded leaders who are working together to fulfill a shared vision, support one another, and share resources. These important gatherings are used to share news about our current status (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats); to share lessons we have learned, innovative ideas that may be of value to the group, and to consider ways we can bolster the ministry efforts across the region. We have six such groups in GCI.

This meeting took place in the Picards’ home, where we were given a taste of French life with many delightful foods in the comfortable environment of a private home. James started our time together with communion—always a good and appropriate way to acknowledge the presence of Jesus in our lives and ensuing discussions as we seek to follow him in caring for our churches.

Many gave reports about the status of our churches inclusive of challenges and opportunities. I dubbed 2019 my “Year of Discovery,” and during these meetings, I learned much about our churches spread across the European region (with more yet to learn). As much as growing in understanding of the state of our churches is part of my job, building relationships with the leaders is of equal importance.

Establishing relational chemistry is vital in establishing trust, and it takes trust to form meaningful working relationships that help us to collaborate and experience the synergistic energy of the team. Permit me to share a story that better describes relational chemistry (with permission from Marie-Angelique).

Shortly after James shared communion, the meeting moved to open discussion. Marie-Angelique, who is known for her honesty as much as for her gracious hospitality, openly stated, “We know Joseph Tkach, but you, we don’t know you.” I thought that was fair, and I decided to put my PowerPoint presentation aside. We spent time getting to know each other and I allowed the meeting to follow the course of topics most concerning to the group.

The day after our meetings, we attended the Paris church and celebrated with them in the new hall they were able to purchase. The hall is still being modified into a functioning church facility, but we are excited because it is in a wonderful part of the city. During the service, the members were provided headsets so the French-speakers would be able to hear an interpreter for my sermon message. However, the headsets were not working properly, and prior to my message, Marie-Angelique told me, “We will have to do this sequentially.” This meant I would speak a sentence or two in English and she would then translate in French. Though it seems awkward, the comments from many in attendance were overwhelmingly positive. It appeared to them that Marie-Angelique and I were giving the sermon as one voice and our rapport with one another was apparent. Chemistry and trust were being built.

I spent the final day with James recapping what we had heard and establishing provisional plans for work that he will attend to – though good, a supervisor’s work has no end. My work with our European brothers and sisters will continue as I plan to visit the UK in November. I will sit in as a guest at their Board meeting, and spend time with Gavin in their Home Office. I am also looking to returning to France in 2020 and spending more time in relationship building at their annual celebration in Evian.

I am discovering how wonderful our GCI leaders are, and I continually thank God that he has raised up such faithful men and women for such a time as this.

Praising God for faithful leaders,

Greg Williams

Celebrate Church

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

I recently had the opportunity to visit a church in the Carolinas and give the sermon. The main passage in the Revised Common Lectionary for that day was in Luke 15. This chapter has three stories about lost things.

Whether Jesus was talking about a lost sheep, a lost coin, or a lost son, he masterfully wove these stories together with the theme of rejoicing and celebrating by throwing a party.

After finding the lost sheep the Shepherd says:

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (Luke 15:6 ESV).

After the woman finds her lost coin, she follows the same pattern:

When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost” (Luke 15:9 ESV).

And it’s even a bigger deal when the prodigal returns home:

But the father said to his servants, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:22-24 ESV).

The object of celebration in these stories is abundantly clear—the joy of a rescued sinner whose heart is turned toward his or her heavenly Father. And the earthly celebration is augmented by the party that is happening in heaven of the angels before the presence of Father, Son and Spirit. This is a good place to pause with wonder. When a person comes to their senses and understands their belonging as a son or daughter to the divine Father, that they are already loved and accepted in Jesus, and they take hold of this reality, the only response is to celebrate and throw a party.

In 2019, the regional gatherings in the U.S. are being called Regional Celebrations. Though the past conferences have been good and informative, we want to go beyond conferring and sharing information; we want to join together in a spirit of joy and to have a festive spirit of a God-honoring party.

As believers, we have more to celebrate than any other people on earth. The sense of rejoicing over our salvation, over the relationships we share in the community of the church, and over our enduring focus is that we anticipate the hope of the lost sinner being rescued and participating in the party that happens on earth and in heaven.

A Healthy Church is a church that regularly celebrates and throws parties over people who were lost but now are found. Let’s continue to celebrate the Good News.

Party on, Church!

Greg Williams

Priesthood of All Believers

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Martin Luther promoted the idea that every Christian believer is a priest regardless of his or her full-time occupation. He likely based this on the writings of Peter and Jude and from which comes the phrase, the “priesthood of all believers.” Ministry is for all of us. Therefore, if you are a Christian you are a priest.

Notice Peter’s words, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NRSV).

We are all priests in that we join Jesus and participate with him in his active ministry to the world around us. As active participants with Jesus, we each play different roles as we are uniquely gifted. For example, not all Christians are called to preach or lead, yet we are all called to serve according to our giftedness. Notice what Paul says to the Christians in Rome.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8 NIV)

God calls you to use your gift diligently and cheerfully. There is incredible joy in Christian service, and it is even greater when we experience this together in community.

You have probably noticed that we in GCI have been teaching and practicing “team-based” ministry. We believe we are better together. I recently heard Scott Ridout, President of Converge, make the statement, “Team will out think, out produce, and out live the individual leader.” That statement is confirmation of what we’ve been up to in GCI.

Our Media Team has produced some outstanding tools to help us better understand the concepts of team-based ministry. In the Team-Based Pastor-Led Prezi presentation, there is a slide that provides a macro view. At first view it may look like the solar system, and with further examination you see how multiple ministries flow out from the foundational venues of Faith, Hope and Love. This slide is only a basic beginning of what ministries could exist within the life of the church, and we encourage the local church to expand the expressions of ministry based on the unique giftedness of their members and the opportunities their context makes possible.

Our Lord has made you with a unique mix of spiritual gifts. When you add those gifts to the gifts of others in your fellowship group or congregation, much can be done. We can always do more together than we can in isolation because this is how God planned it. In his first letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts and that Jesus is Lord over the church. The church is a body made up of many parts, and God has placed us within the body as he wills. All of this is for a common good, that the Triune God gets the glory and that the church is built up.

In our divine participation, we are also called to participate with one another. So, brothers and sisters, I encourage you to diligently and cheerfully take your place in the body and together, we can all take another step forward into Healthy Church.

Joining all GCI priests,

Greg Williams

Mother’s Love

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Can a parent ever forget their child? In the time of Isaiah, Israel’s literal complaint was that God had forgotten and forsaken them in their Babylonian captivity. “But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me’” (Isa. 49:14). I love God’s response: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15).

This most tender and affectionate picture that God gave, describing his love for his people, is one most of us can relate to—the picture of a mother’s love for her newborn child. After carrying a child in her womb for nine months, this new living creature, who is nourished and protected by her own body, is nursing at her breast. You can imagine the longing gaze shared between mother and baby. I can recall this very picture as I remember Susan with each of our three sons (doubly with twins Glenn and Garrett).

The wonder and sense of awe of mother to child are best expressed in the thoughts and response of Mary to her precious baby Jesus. The events of Luke chapter two are grander and greater than words can describe, but I shall give it a try.

At the birth of Jesus, in the humble setting of a stable, a visitation was made by shepherds who had been in the surrounding fields. They brought the tidings of good news—the Messiah had come. This was followed by a heavenly host of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

Can you imagine the conversation between the shepherds and Joseph and Mary as each of them recounted their encounters with angels? They confirmed that each of these angelic meetings and announcements was connected and pointed to the one truth—the incarnation of Jesus is real, and God truly is with us. Glory to God in the highest!

Then Luke 2:19 tells us: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” This became Mary’s private meditation and her treasured storehouse of memories for her son Jesus. Isn’t this what mothers do? Mothers relish the quiet moments with their dear babies; they remember all the details and intricacies, and they have an overflow of positive hope and promise for their dear child. This is the mother’s heart.

Mother’s Day is a special day that pays tribute to our mothers. Appropriately, it is celebrated in many countries around the world at different points during the year. In the United States and Canada, Mother’s Day is held on the second Sunday in May (May 12th for 2019). In some other countries, such as Argentina and Ethiopia, mothering is celebrated in the autumn. No matter what specific day or season, let me echo GCI’s deep love and appreciation for all mothers. We celebrate you for who you are and what you do to care for our precious children.

As beautiful a picture as a mother’s love paints, please know that the love that Father, Son, and Spirit have for every human being far surpasses even that. You are beloved by the majestic God of the universe, so on this Mother’s Day and every other day – “Be loved!”

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Greg and Susan Williams

When I recently toured the Holy Land nothing was more striking and mind-expanding than standing on the Mount of Olives and imagining the myriad of thoughts racing through the mind of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem in the final week of his earthly ministry.

He expressed this poignant lament – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 ESV).

Jesus expresses tremendous sorrow that Israel continually rejects God’s call for repentance and refuses to embrace the Kingdom of God. Even more personal is their rejection of him as their promised, true Messiah – even as he intermingled with them, displaying miraculous acts of incredible kindness, revealing to them the deep teachings of God, and sharing gracefully in all aspects of life.

The metaphor used by Matthew likens the Godhead to a mother hen (a rare biblical use of a feminine image for God). The image of a mother hen whose intent is to gather, nurture and protect her offspring. It fits well with Jesus’s words about his impending crucifixion – “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32 ESV). Uniting all people to himself – in a relationship of total forgiveness and pure love – was his purpose then and for all time.

What did Jesus see from the Mount of Olives that day? Perhaps the temple, the center of worship, with people scurrying about from court to court attending to daily sacrifices? Did he envision through his eyes of deity the days of old with Abraham bringing Isaac to the altar for slaughter? Or was he looking forward in time, to the scenes I saw of the crowds gathered at the Western Wall in a cacophony of prayer? I believe it was all of the above, and more.

From our vantage point on the Mount of Olives we located the movement of Jesus from the area of the Last Supper and upper room from the south of the city, down into the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley (the garden of “thy will be done”). It was in the garden where Jesus was arrested. He was then taken back to the south of the city to the house of Caiaphas the high priest, where he was tried by the Sanhedrin. There he was, beaten and spent part of the night in a cold, dark dungeon beneath the house. On Friday morning he was sent to Pontius Pilate at the Antonia Fortress on the north side of the temple mount; then he was bounced back to Herod at his palace in the city, and then back to Pilate before he was taken outside the city wall to hang on the cross from noon until 3:00 pm.

We could take in the geography of the events from the Last Supper, the kangaroo trial, the agony and eventual execution of Jesus from our vantage point on the Mount of Olives, and yet our view didn’t compare to what Jesus must have taken in from that same spot. The moment of his melting heart for Jerusalem signaled his passion and the salvific events that would unfold. Our moment at the mount was a restored heart that signaled our strong, uncontrollable emotion for acceptance – to embrace and worship the Jesus that has been drawing us all along.

May your Holy Week services and your celebration of Easter join your heart even closer to the one who conquered death and the grave, and who continues to draw all people to himself.