Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Three, Friday

In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Luke 23: 1-25 and John 19: 1-16

Even among his most defiant enemies, Jesus extends his outstretched arms of love.

Imagine standing among the throngs who were demanding that a criminal previously thrown in prison for insurrection and murder be set free and instead replaced by Jesus, the One who previously  restored life and miraculously freed those who were shackled by disease, poverty, injustice, and demon possession.  The crowds were filled with enemies of Jesus who stirred up the chant to “Crucify him!” and all forms of godly reason and fair rationale were gone with the shouts of hatred scattered by the wind.

Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus? This made no sense whatsoever, first to Herod, then to Pilate, but among the enemy crowd it was the best alternative replacement they could demand. So the leaders surrendered Jesus to the will of the crowd. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” is the best response of all, spoken freely, generously, and open-heartedly by Jesus.

Enemies are such because of perceptions or misperceptions held firmly and one-sidedly. Active opposition or blatant hostility doesn’t just come out of nowhere…it originates from deeply held convictions about why a person or philosophy would be hated or despised. To have an enemy is to create a tall barrier which is impenetrable and impossible to navigate unilaterally. Only in relationship can an enemy be won (back) to allegiance and alliance without creating further damage.

Those who kept shouting “Crucify him!” had no justification for their demand, except prejudice. They didn’t like what they saw in Jesus of Nazareth, and the accumulation of their pent up frustration reached a boiling point unsustainable by the leaders. The ground swell of opposition had gained such strong momentum, that the entrance into that first Holy Week was cascading upon the disciples and all other devoted but now depleted followers of Jesus. They were grossly outnumbered by the haters in the pack of wolves now descending on the humble Lamb of God, to flog, beat, and crown him with thorns.

There is little anyone can do to fight defiant hostility and unreasonable predisposition. So, as the leaders surrendered to the crowds, Jesus simultaneously surrenders to the Father. Instead of putting up a fight, he willingly accepts the way of suffering, beginning with the physical carrying of his designated, splinter-filled, heavy-burdened cross up the hill to the place called The Skull. There would be his final breath of life, brought on because of the words of the enemies who called for his crucifixion.

Behold the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; believe in the Gospel which was hated by the enemies of God; belong to those who were in the crowd and stood up for Jesus; become defiant for Truth and Love without hatred, prejudice, hostility or damnation ever on your lips or in your heart toward any other.

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.