John 19:16-42; 2 Chronicles 30; Psalm 86
When Israel and Judah split the dissension became more than a political issue. The Kings of Israel were concerned that if their subjects returned to Jerusalem to worship God they would want to find ways to reunite the kingdom. So the Kings of Israel maintained an idolatrous worship system that became part of the reason that Judah and Israel didn’t get along.
When Hezekiah came to power in Judah he actually sought to end that divide while Israel was in her death throes. He sent messengers to travel throughout Israel to proclaim that they were welcome to enjoy the Passover Feast that was being reinstituted as he spurred the people to return to God. The messengers met with little success and lots of scorn. Nevertheless some came and participated in the feast. The problem? “Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God–the LORD, the God of his fathers–even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.’ And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” Grace at Passover. In fact, the whole Passover story is one of God’s grace to His children. There was another Passover that Jewish leaders were anxious to eat. The only problem was this crucifixion going on. Jesus and two thieves were hanging on the cross and they had to die more quickly than a normal crucifixion. The leaders asked the Romans to break the legs of those on the crosses so that they would die more quickly and bodies wouldn’t be left on the crosses during their feast. Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb, had already died. The Jewish leaders, wanting everything to be ceremonially clean ate the Passover but received no grace that day. A world of Jews who would never be considered clean by Pharisaical standards received grace as all who set their hearts on seeking God were cleansed not only on that day but also throughout the ages even up to today.
Hezekiah invited his political enemies who were spiritual outcasts. Jesus died for the spiritual outcasts. How often do I, once a spiritual outcast, but now – supposedly – on the inside track with God forget about other spiritual outcasts. Would I send messengers into hostile areas with the message of Jesus? Would I be willing to be one of the messengers in those hostile areas? Or would I stay safe and comfortable in my own surroundings smugly congratulating myself on being right with God. If God accepted me as an unclean, unworthy outcast He will surely accept all who come to Him. Today, Lord, may my life, my words and my deeds invite and draw others to you.