Unreservedly

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

John 20:22-23 NKJV

Jesus walks into the room where the disciples are locked in for fear of the Jews. ‘Shalom’, He greets them as if He had just returned from one of his evening strolls.

Photo credit: Pintrest

One of the things He does is to breathe on the disciples so they receive the Holy Spirit. Why?
The room was filled with failure and its attendant emotions. The disciples were filled with fear, uncertainty and confusion. The air is filled with silent accusations and dashed hopes.They had run away from Jesus, fallen asleep instead of praying, they felt lost and sad. They missed Jesus and His leadership. They were angry- with the Romans, with Judas, with the teachers of the Law- mostly with themselves. They could not wholly blame Judas, they too run away.  They had given up everything to follow Him and He was gone. It is a dejected lot He finds in that room.

How does Jesus respond? He breathes on them like He did in the beginning. In the beginning, when the earth was formless and empty. When the earth was dark, no birds tweeting, no lions roaring, no flowers, no mighty ocean waves, nothing. In the beginning when Adam had a form but no breath in his nostrils. Life.

The Breath of the Holy Spirit proclaims liberty and releases them from darkness. In that instant, they are empowered to forgive. Rescued from the darkness, they can rescue others. They are able to forgive. Able to forgive themselves first, because they recognize how sinful they are. Able to forgive each other because they recognize how they hurt each other. Able to forgive other sinful men who crucified their Rabbi.

saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’

Luke 24:7 NKJV

In a season, where we have experienced immense loss and failure,  we swirl in similar emotions. Some days are better than others. Most of us remain physically locked in, uncertain, fearful, angry, disappointed. For those of us, easing out, the shadow of loss hangs in the air, it is in the distance, in the hand washing, in the facial masks. Jesus still comes and stands among us to Rescue us like He did with the disciples..

For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV


Jesus has unreservedly freed and rescued us from all this brokeness. Receive the Holy Spirit and forgive the sins of those who have offended you. Those whom you have been offended by. Forgive yourself for offending others. Jesus breaks the fetters, chink by chink, of offence off of you today. Walk free.

The hand you are dealt

It all started with my brother’s status. He posted a picture of the val d’orcia ,Tuscany and suddenly , I was hearing theme songs from Gladiator.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

What a short and very poignant summary of the movie. Maximus a Roman General , a victim of greedy and wanton Commodus. Victorious from battle one minute poised to be the next Emperor, next he is nothing but the scum of the Roman Empire. Despondent, despairing.

Lately, Christmas season has been a series of disappointments. Reflectively, I have not lost as much as Maximus, incomparable even. His was the true meaning of How the Mighty have fallen. Nevertheless, the Christmas season has always been poised as a happy one, glad tidings, great joy and all that. The first thing to go was Santa, there is no 🎅. So naughty or nice, that doesn’t matter, he is not real. As a working adult, there were no holidays. So this ‘happy holidays!’, that was not real either. Lately though it has been a reminder of loved ones not present at the dinner table, their jokes no longer ring in their air. When their favorite carols are played, they are not present to sing along. Sigh, sigh. This year as I reread the Nativity story, it slowly dawned on my already fragile belief system that the Magi were not numbered, they did not visit Baby Jesus in the manger. They followed a star, the people who do that now are called astrologers. Hmm. Then there was neither stable nor inn. The Jews had an upper room like the One the disciples prepared for the Last Supper. That was the ‘inn’. So the upper room of their hosts was full, they slept downstairs with the animals. So many Christmas carols, nativity plays went with this one.

As I watched Maximus, grieve over his murdered wife and son, I wondered how does one go through the motions of life when all has been taken away? Or when you realize that the Empire whose values you upheld has destroyed it in one swift moment and you are completely undone? What happens when all your achievements are weighed and deemed irrelevant because you will not bow to the whims of wickedness? And all your dreams and aspirations are crushed because you will not believe in a lie?

The crucible.

Paul writes to the Galatians and tells me that if he were to please men, he would not be a bondservant of Christ.

In the crucible, you answer the question, whose bondservant am I ? Maximus remained the loyal servant of Marcus Aurelius. He would not bow to Commodus. He chose slavery. The drudgery, the angst over the whims of an unstable lunatic Commodus.

Christmas reminded me of the One, in whom all things consist, the One who is before all things. He chose me, He chose to love me in close proximity. We have beheld His glory, full of grace and truth. He chose pain and death so I wouldn’t die. I found myself singing Easter hymns at Christmas:

when I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died My richest gain, I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.

With the angels, I worship and sing Gloria in Excelis Deo. With the shepherds, I sing what child is this?

Hope floats

Proximo, the most unlikely person sees him for who he is. He picks him out and Maximus remembers who he is. I am Maximus Decimus Meridus, General of the Felix legions. He may not be advancing Rome but by winning the games for Proximo, he will be free. Free to dream again in Rome. He becomes the best gladiator. he leads the best team. He meets Commodus.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

Now we are free (you need to listen to the sound track👌 as played by the 2 Cellos)

Paul also writes to the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made them free and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Proximo dangles freedom to men born free. Commodus takes away freedom, chains it and throws away the key. Maximus has one thing left, vengeance. He sets himself to avenge the deaths of his beloved Marcus Aurelius, his wife and his son. Everyone rallies behind him, Cicero, Lucilla, the gladiators, his army, Proximo, the crowd. He gets vengeance. He is free.

When are we truly free? When we have all we ever wanted? When we die?

I agree with Paul. When you meet Jesus, you are free indeed. He is the resurrection and the life, though you die yet you live. All earthly freedoms are valuable, they can be traded against each other and for other trinkets. Not so the freedom in Christ, it is sealed and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. God Himself is the guarantor of my freedom.Christmas has become a symbol of a never ending freedom.

Like Maximus, Now I am free.

I stand fast in the liberty by which the babe in the manger, the lamb of God has set me free.

Blindsided?

Well laid out plans crumble within seconds. Our carefully crafted facade melts in minutes. Everything we have spent our lives building is taken away in our hours. Our friends stab us in the back, intimate discussions splashed all over media, dirty linen washed on Oxford street.

God, where were you? You had this all wrapped up to a t! How did this happen on your watch? Everything is spinning out of control. Emotions, negative and ugly emotions, overwhelm you, suck you into deep dark days as you realize, you were an object of a power play. You were left open at the flanks. You were blindsided.

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 NKJV.

The prophets had foretold the birth, Isaiah actually foretold it in amazing detail. Hundreds of years before He was born. And so far, everything had gone according to plan. Even Micah’s prophecy about Bethlehem, by Augustus’ decree, they were no longer home in Nazareth but home in Bethlehem. How did they find themselves with only a manger as a crib? Yet it had been planned with meticulous detail? The three Kings were on their way, following a star. For two years. Is it possible that God could miss out such an important detail? Mary needed a room at the inn to give birth to her baby or a room at grandmas? Surely, someone should be kind to the expecting mother.

Or was it the beginning of rejection? Of insignificance? Isaiah prophesies that there is nothing attractive about Him. He is so ordinary, we shall miss Him. Micah calls out Bethlehem as the least of the cities. Isn’t He the son of David, the shepherd forgotten in the fields when the Prophet Samuel came to visit? Simeon tells Mary a sword will pierce her heart, is this the sword being positioned? Isaiah describes Him as A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, has the journey to being that man already started?

Paul encourages the Corinthians as he himself was encouraged, when you are weak, God’s strength and power is perfected and complete in you. He reminds the Romans, it is while you were ungodly, without strength that Christ died for you. John describes Jesus as the light that darkness cannot comprehend. When we are blindsided, we are God shielded; God wrapped; In the manger is where we find that light cannot be hidden.

Glory to God in the Highest and peace to all on earth.