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Grant Lovell & Bethel AME Churches, Moberly & Macon, Missouri

Lenten Season 2023 Reflection

Journey to the Cross: Jesus; a Man on a Special Mission for God

The challenges Jesus faced – The Footsteps of a Good Shepherd

Put Yourself in His Place
1. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights – Matthew 4:1-11.
2. Satan tempted him – St. Luke 4: 2-14.
3. The first people (Jews) he was sent to rescue rejected him – St. John 6:41-42.
4. His siblings initially refused to believe in him - St. John 7:5.
5. The religious leaders insulted his Father – St. John 8:37-44.

6. The same religious leaders conspired to put him to death - St. John 11:45-50.
7. His lead disciple discouraged him from God’s ordained mission - St. Matthew
8. An unfulfilled warrant was issued for his arrest – St. John 7:40-46.
9. His cousin (John the Baptist) – his best-man was arrested on trumped up charges
by a dictator (King – Herold)- St. Matthew 14:1-4.
10. Jesus’ same cousin was murdered in jail – beheaded because of the king’s
lustful desire – St. Matthew 14:6-12.

11. His treasurer (Judas) stole money from him – St. John 12:4-6.
12. The same treasurer betrayed him after receiving a bribe of 30 pieces of silver –
St. Matthew 26:14-16.
13. When he was arrested, his disciples deserted him – St. Mark 14:46-50.
14. He was accused of using demonic power to perform miracles – St. Matthew
15. He was homeless and penniless – St. Matthew 8:20.
16. They rejected his message of salvation. Jesus wept over Jerusalem – St. Luke

17. He had no private jet or an ordinary car, yet he rode triumphantly into
Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of
the world – St. Luke 19:28-40.

18. Jesus gave a powerful sermon and some of his members left his church – St.
John 6:47-66.
19. His lead disciples (Simon Peter) denied him three times – St. Luke 22:54-62.
20. When he made a prayer call in the Garden of Gethsemane his disciples fell
asleep. The people he trusted disappointed him – St. Matthew 26:36-46.

21. He was stripped naked and ridiculed – St. Luke 22:63-65.
22. His precious garment and clothes; his only precious possession was ripped and
stolen from him by the same people who tortured him to death – St. John 19:23-24
23. In Jesus’ three trials before; the Sanhedrin – King Herod – Pontius Pilate; he
was falsely accused of many things because they refused to accept his claim as the
Son of God – St. Matthew 26:57-68; St. Luke 23:6-12; St. Matthew 27:11-26.
24. His trial before Pontius Pilate was the greatest miscarriage of justice in the
history of mankind – St. Luke 23:1-25.

25. The prosecuting attorneys (the chief Priests and the High Priest) presented a lie,
and nobody could challenge their falsehood – St. Matthew 26:59; St. Luke 23:1-4
26. Jesus was deprived of a defense attorney, and the only person (Nicodemus)
who spoke on his behalf was ignored – St. John 7:50-52.
27. The lying witnesses at his trials had no shame – St. Matthew 26:59.
28. They lied that Jesus told the people not to pay taxes to the IRS (Caesar) of his
time – St. Luke 23:2.

29. The Chief Justice (Pontius Pilate) knew he was innocent, he declared Jesus was
innocent yet he sentenced him to death – St. John 19:1-16.
30. Jesus was an innocent man found guilty because of the prejudice and racism of
his time. Simon of Cyrene was the man compelled by the Romans
to carry the cross of Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus was taken to his crucifixion- St.
Matthew 27:32; St. John 19:12-16.

31. He was beaten beyond recognition for a crime he did not commit – St. John
32. They spit on him and planted the crown on thorns on his head to make a
mockery of him – John 19:2-3.
33. Mary his mother watched her Son tortured to death – St. John 19:25-27.
34. His disciples disobeyed him and went fishing – St. John 21:1-4.
35. On the Via Dolorosa - - along the way of suffering, the climatic scene of his
final assignment before the Almighty God played out as Jesus carried the cross on
the way to crucifixion – St. Luke 23:26-30.

36. A man of sorrow acquainted with grief - Isaiah 53:3-6.
37. For the sake of completion, which group sympathized with Jesus? Was the
group shouting Hosanna on Palm Sunday on Jesus’ triumphant entry into
Jerusalem different from the group bewailing Jesus and weeping after him as he
carried the cross? “A Great multitude of the people that followed him, weeping.”
St. 23:27-28. For the sake of scriptural correction, refer to these verses – St. Luke
23:48-49; St. Mark 15:38-41.

The Resolution
Despite all the challenges Jesus faced on his journey to accomplish the God-
ordained assignments the Father placed before him, he did not give up nor did he
In John 17:4 during his final report to the Father, Jesus declared, “I have finished
the work which you have given to me.”
In today’s terms, we say, “Mission Accomplished!”
“If God has given you a purpose, he will give you the courage to endure,” Coretta
Scott King; the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King.

The Question
Do you still have excuses not to faithfully serve the Lord, or to go to church on
Sunday? Put your complaints against the challenges Jesus faced on the way to the
cross – Via Dolorosa. He was mugged on the way, attacked by robbers who stole
all his only belongings, stripped naked and whipped, and ridiculed and tortured.
And the people he went to rescue not only rejected his message but also executed
him. Wow! That’s the footsteps of a Good Shepherd!

Years ago, I was amused when some church members in St. Louis complained
about cold chicken wings served for lunch in the church, even when the church had
a microwave oven. Evidently, they forgot that Jesus served cold fish sandwiches in
the wilderness to over 5,000 people – St. Matthew 14:13-21. After Jesus has been
preaching for three days, they ate the cold fish sandwiches (without tartar sauce)
with joy, and not a single person complained. Lord have mercy!
When we face challenges in life and we want to quit, think about the sufferings
Jesus went through to bring us the greatest gift God offered to humanity because,
“God was in Jesus reconciling the world to himself,” II Corinthians 5:19.

Jesus is the bread of life – St. John 6:35.
Jesus is the true tabernacle – Hebrew 8:2.
Jesus is the brightest and the best – Psalm 118:22.

Question: What is your purpose in his kingdom – the Lord’s Earthly Vineyard?

The journey is not meant to be easy. There are challenges along the way. There is a
cost to your discipleship. Each pothole along the pathway brings us closer and
closer to victory.

Good News: Regardless of how much you want to torture yourself due to the
challenges you face on the journey, you were chosen for a special and divine
assignment, and the Victory is already won in Jesus - - the Good Shepherd.
If you’re troubled pray with these Psalms; 27, 34, 46, 57, 91, 121, and St. John
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light
,” said Jesus; Our High Priest – St. Matthew 11:28-29; Hebrew 4:14-16.

Regardless of the lie of the enemy. Jesus Rose Again and death could not hold him
captive, he therefore, set all believers free! To God be the glory!

Prepared by Rev. Victor Vidal, Pastor Grant Lovell, and Bethel AME Churches, Moberly and
Macon, Missouri –

Year 2022 Lenten Season

Are You a Faithful Lover?

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”

So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.  And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.” Hosea 3:1-3.

God asked Prophet Hosea to marry Gomer and bring her back home after she had been having extramarital affairs with other men. At the time, she was already sold into slavery and her husband had to go to the slave market where his wife was tied naked to the pole waiting for somebody to purchase her.

So, I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.  

Analogously, God sent Prophet Hosea to the children of Israel to warn them about their spiritual affairs with idols. Like some other prophets, God wanted prophet Hosea to wear the message by experiencing the emotional pain of betrayal and the hurt of an adulterous woman with her lovers.

A husband who has been cheated on by his wife with her lovers knows the emotional anguish of such betrayal and humiliation. A wife who finds out her husband has a mistress will experience the crushing blows of the emotional pain of her husband’s unfaithfulness. Feeling betrayed is an understatement when many people knew about what was going on and were afraid to tell. They knew your lover was sharing the celebration of your sacred union with another lover. You feel deeply hurt, violated, and emotionally shattered! This is the agony of physical extramarital affairs. But, the spiritual affair is more painful.

In this story, God wanted to parallel the emotional pain of romantic extramarital affairs in the physical, with the emotional pain God experienced in the spirit when we betray Him by going after other gods like the children of Israel did.

Perhaps, some people may be wondering if God hurts when we deliberately commit sins by giving what belongs to God to the idols we created, or we decided to go to ball games on Sunday when we are supposed to be in church worshipping God. These verses make it very clear how God feels when we commit spiritual adultery with modern-day idols like money, power, fame, illicit pleasures, and spending God’s money and time with other lovers.

My people are bent on backsliding from me. Though ]they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within me; my sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; and I will not [j]come with terror. Hosea 11:7-9

There is no doubt God the Creator of heaven and earth expressed his emotional anguish over the children of Israel’s affair with idols.

God pleaded with the children of Israel to come back to him and stop these spiritual affairs with idols saying, “Return, O backsliding children," says the Lord; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give your shepherds according to my heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 Then it shall come to pass when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days," says the Lord, Jeremiah 3:14-15.

God did what a husband will do today when a wife remains unfaithful.

She saw that I divorced faithless Israel because of her adultery. But that treacherous sister Judah had no fear, and now she, too, has left me and given herself to prostitution. 9 Israel treated it all so lightly—she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So now the land has been polluted. 10 But despite all this, her faithless sister Judah has never sincerely returned to me. She has only pretended to be sorry. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 3:8-10.

In retrospect, what happened to Prophet Hosea marrying an adulterous woman is exactly what God asked Jesus to do for sinners today. God asked Jesus to leave the mansion of Heaven, arrive on earth and rescue the prodigal sons and daughters, and bring them back home to God the Father.

God asked Jesus to marry a prostitute! That was why Jesus referred to the people of his time as, “an adulterous generation” – St. Matthew 16:4.

With Jesus, God went further by telling him to marry the repented sinners called the Church. But before Jesus marries the church, he has to die for his bride-to-be to pay the debt owed to God because of sins. The same way Prophet Hosea bought and brought his adulterous wife home with fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley, similarly Jesus purchased believers with his precious blood. This is why the groom’s father (God) issued this declaration.  

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Rev. 19:9.

Jesus himself declared, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” St. John 15:13.

The spiritual love of Christ for us is far greater than anything we experience in romantic love with others on a physical level.

How faithful are you to Christ? What people do on Sunday, especially at the hour of worship exposes the strength of their faithfulness to Christ. Instead of going to church on Sunday, they will rather go to a ball game, take their children to ball game practice on Sunday morning, wash cars, or take their spouse out to a special breakfast on Sunday morning instead of going to church first. Then on Monday, the same Christians who skipped Sunday morning service are praying for job promotion, healing, protection, and the list continues. We want God to be faithful to us, but we play him for a fool by ignoring the sacred hour of worship and prayer on Sunday. The scenario happens every Sunday across the nation. It’s like an adulterous wife who is going on a secret trip with her lover and wants her unsuspecting husband to pay for the trip. Lord have mercy!

As we Christians observe the Lenten period of 2022, and far beyond, we should always be reminded of the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ for us. Perhaps, we have routinized the celebration of the Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month. This is the moment to revisit the great sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus for us to reconcile us back to God.

We spend so much time with earthly things of no eternal value. The size of the church, the money in the bank, or the church programs designed to remind us about our faith in God do not matter. In the end, what matters is our faithfulness to Christ. Have you offered your heart totally to Christ, or you are still struggling with fleshly desires? Lenten season is a time of repentance and personal reflection.

Rev. Victor Vidal, Pastor Grant Lovell and Bethel AME Churches, Moberly, & Macon, MO.

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