Steve Macchia Blog

Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Four, Saturday

sign-for-lent-with-integrated-cross

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 John 20: 24-31

Tomorrow is the beginning of Holy Week. Even with all that will transpire there will be those among us who remain doubtful that all of this ever transpired in the first place. The historical record of Jesus, including the biblical accounts by eyewitnesses whose writing would be protected for thousands of years, won’t be enough for the doubters and the skeptics among us. In every generation, and sometimes even among our existing generation, there will always be doubters who raise objections to the Gospel.

This is nothing new. Thomas, one of Jesus’ original disciples, missed the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples as they gathered together behind locked doors, when he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord, and Jesus blessed them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

So when the disciples tell Thomas about this encounter, he responds, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later Jesus returns to be with them and standing among them says, “Peace be with you!” and immediately turns to Thomas. He invites him to put his finger into his nail scarred hand and his hand into his pierced side. Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God!” and believes.

Unflappable Jesus isn’t thrown off by Thomas’ doubts. In fact, with outstretched arms of love he invites Thomas’ doubts to be released by faith in the truth of his nail-scarred sacrifice in his behalf. Thomas’ doubts were welcomed by Jesus and addressed openly without any threat to his ultimate belief. By embracing Thomas and his doubts, Jesus speaks directly and forthrightly the Truth that sets him free.

What do you do with doubters who surround you or doubts that simmer within you? They are there with a purpose: to be proven real or wrong. Otherwise, they remain unattended and eat away the lining of the soul and like a cancer will keep fracturing our heart from our mind. By addressing doubts and exposing them, one can accompany each doubt with facts or affect, space or time, with mystery or faith.  When a person’s uncertainty is embraced and dealt with one question at a time, each doubt is respected for what it truly has become. Doubt is not the opposite or the enemy of our faith.  It takes holy and courageous boldness to face our doubts, whether or not they will ever be replaced with faith.

Behold Jesus initiating toward Thomas and his doubts; believe in the gospel amidst your ponderings; belong to those who ask hard and clarifying questions; become a believer who isn’t afraid to doubt nor is shattered to consider others who doubt.  And now we proceed to the greatest story ever revealed…Holy Week: the road paved with faith to Calvary, the empty tomb, and beyond.



Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Three, Friday

sign-for-lent-with-integrated-cross

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.



Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Two, Thursday