He Is Risen!!

“He is not here;

He has risen, just as He said…”
Matthew 28:6a

Sabbath was over and the women just had one thing on their minds. They must prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They left quietly as the men had finally fallen asleep after hours of discussion, debate and devastating sadness over the loss of their leader and friend. The women were also mourning but right now they had to set their grief aside for this important task.

They left before dawn carrying spices and discussing how they would gain access to the body. A huge stone had been rolled in front of the entrance and sealed with the Roman seal. Even if they could get past the stone, breaking that seal would mean certain death for the women.

As dawn broke and they reached the tomb they stopped in amazement. The tomb stood wide open, seal broken and stone rolled away. Frightened and concerned that someone had taken Jesus’ body the women rushed ahead and found an astonishing sight inside the tomb.

Jesus body was gone!

Before the women could process the thought they noticed there was someone there.

 Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’  Then they remembered his words.       Luke 24:4-8

And they believed!!

The women didn’t stop to ask questions or wonder where Jesus was. They ran back, woke the men and told them the good news!!

Jesus is Alive!!  Jesus is Alive!!

jesus_hands

The men followed the women back to the tomb and saw for themselves that Jesus’ body was gone, but the cloths He had been wrapped in for burial remained.

Their sadness turned to wonder and hope that Jesus was truly alive!

I pray that this Easter you will find Jesus in your heart. I pray you will know the hope of His gift for us on the cross and allow Him to bring you the joy of His resurrection every day of the year.

Sabbath: Would I Have Believed?

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:29

“It is finished.”

They were the final words Jesus spoke on the cross.

Then He died.

Jesus was gone.

All those years spent with His disciples teaching, healing, loving, and helping them to know God in a way they never had before were just a memory now.

jesus-sealed-tomb

Jesus was dead and the Sabbath came so quickly they couldn’t give Him a proper burial. Today was supposed to be a day of rest and worship but all the disciples could do was cling to each other and try to understand what had just taken place.

Together they wept and mourned for the One who was their teacher, their Leader…and their friend. For years Jesus had talked about Heaven and His Father, and even about being betrayed and dying but the disciples never quite understood. He even said He would defeat death and would give eternal life to all who believed in Him and His Father.

Still, it never quite made sense.

Now some of it was sinking in but the sadness was so strong that hope was elusive. What did Jesus say about defeating death? He did talk about dying and being raised to life. (Matthew 16:21) In fact, just the other day before they entered Jerusalem He took the disciples aside and said it again:

“The son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Mark 10:33-34

Still it was confusing. Did Jesus mean he would come back to earth or that he would rise again in Heaven with His Father? How could they know for sure?

It must have been almost too much to process.

And I have to ask myself, “Would I Have Believed?”

Would I have expected Jesus to come back from the dead?

It’s so easy to be critical of the disciples and their disbelief when we read about the events of Holy Week. After all through the years  they had spent with Jesus He kept telling them these things! Why did they mourn instead of standing strong and telling others to wait & see, Jesus would not stay dead?

Honestly I’m not so sure my Sabbath would have been any different. The reality of what I had seen would probably have overridden any truth I had heard from Jesus. The emotions would have been strong and sadness oppressive.

The truth is that even today with all the knowledge I have about Jesus and the power available to me through the Holy Spirit still I often don’t believe. Sometimes I weep and mourn over what I believe has been lost without allowing God the opportunity to resurrect it in His time.

Would you have believed? When you face losses do you week and mourn or anticipate a resurrection to come?

God can do anything, if we only believe.

“Good” Friday

“Surely He was the Son of God”

                                                 Matthew 27:54b

We call it Good Friday, but there was very little good that happened that day. Jesus started His week entering Jerusalem to shouts of praise and “Hosanna to the King!”. Now he stood bruised and beaten before a judge, awaiting His sentence of death.

None of this was a surprise to Jesus as it was the ultimate purpose in coming to earth. But knowing the purpose didn’t make it easy or less painful. Remember Jesus was fully & completely man. He was as human as you and me.

He felt every time the whip hit His skin and broke it open. The air stung his wounds but they didn’t stop. Over and over he was lashed. Jesus felt the thorns press into His scalp, burying themselves into His skin for the duration of the day. He felt each fist that struck His face but He never showed anger towards His enemies. He stood there and took it.

The mocking of the soldiers hurt too. While Jesus had the love of God and knew that the words weren’t true they still had an impact. Perhaps the worst pain of all was watching each of His disciples flee from those who arrested Him, fearing the same fate for themselves. And then Peter. The one who just the day before had declared his allegiance to Jesus had denied that he knew Him three times.

 

nail hand

When I think of the physical pain Jesus went through I am so grateful He went through with it all. He didn’t have to, you know.

Think of the pictures and films you’ve seen of Jesus carrying, or perhaps dragging the cross to Golgotha. That cross likely weighing over 100 pounds pressed down on an already weakened Christ as He moved toward His last hours. Then He allowed nails to be driven into Him and He hung on that tree.

For you, and for me.

At any time Jesus could have called an end to all of this. He was taunted and teased to save Himself and come down off the cross.  What His mockers didn’t realize that Jesus could have. At any moment He could have shown that He is God and didn’t have to hang there.

But He didn’t.

When Jesus Christ called out from the cross “It is finished!” He was speaking of death’s curse over the earth. The curse of death came when Adam and Eve chose to sin. From that moment on we were separated from God’s perfection by sin. Jesus came and lived without sin, then allowed Himself to be killed as the final sacrifice for each of us.

This is the GOOD that came from Good Friday!! Any man, woman or child who believes Jesus is the Christ and accepts Him as Leader of his or her life will also conquer death and will live forever in a perfect Heaven.

I am so grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made for you and for me.

I pray that if you don’t understand this sacrifice and the free gift of Salvation you will seek out someone who can answer your questions and help you receive it for yourself. It will be the greatest Easter you’ve ever experienced!

 

Betrayed, Arrested, Disowned

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
John 21:15

 

In amongst the blessings of life we all have times when things don’t go our way. We face sickness, pain, loss of jobs, days when dreams don’t come true or someone didn’t come through the way you thought they would.

All of this is part of living in a sinful world filled with imperfect people. And we learn to cope with it. But have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? Have you ever had a time when someone you thought would stick by you pretended they didn’t know you? This goes beyond disappointment. It’s enough to plunge someone into despair.

When Jesus finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He was confronted by a group of His enemies…and one of His closest friends. The kiss Judas greeted Jesus with was not a kiss of affection. It was a kiss of betrayal intended to identify Jesus to those who wanted to take His life.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden and led off to be judged. His friends followed at a distance or I imagine some of them slipped away as not to be taken captive themselves. Either way they didn’t stand at Jesus’ side to plead His case to the man who would judge Him.

30_pieces_of_silver

 We don’t know why Judas agreed to betray Jesus, but we do know that he did it for a few pieces of silver. And we know Judas was so ashamed of what he did, sure he could never be forgiven that he took his own life.

As Jesus was taken into the temple to be judged Peter followed. I believe Peter wanted to protect Jesus and wanted to defend Him but I think he was scared. Whatever his reason, when asked if he knew Jesus he denied that he did. He was pressed by someone who saw him with Jesus and still he denied that he did. Three times Peter denied that he had anything to do with Jesus and he never had a chance to make it right before Jesus died.

Have you ever said something and then wished you could take it back? Perhaps you have treated a friend badly or had a fight with your family, then parted before being able to make it right. It is a terrible feeling.

The good news for Peter was that after Jesus rose from the dead he gave Peter an opportunity to redeem himself. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus. Three times Peter said that he did. And all three times Jesus told Peter to go and take care of others, helping them to know Jesus as Peter himself did. Peter didn’t let Jesus down again.

This same opportunity is available to you and me. No matter what we do, when we genuinely confess and repent to Jesus we will be forgiven. It may take time to repair the damage done to earthly relationships but there is hope for those as well.

The same gift of forgiveness and restoration offered and granted to Peter is there for us too. We only need to ask.

Gethsemane ~ A Lesson in Perseverance

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what he has promised.

                                               Hebrews 10:36

As we draw closer to Easter weekend we remember the time Jesus spent preparing for the last meal He would eat with His disciples before His death. Throughout the day Jesus tried to explain to them what was to come – of His imminent betrayal and eventual death. His disciples didn’t get it. Jesus washed their feet, explained to them about serving others, and asked them to join Him as He prayed in the garden. He never gave up trying to teach them of God’s love for them.

When evening came Jesus gave us such a beautiful yet heart wrenching picture of perseverance. Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed and executed. He had lived a perfect life. In all His interactions with those who opposed Him Jesus never sinned. Yet He would be ridiculed and hung on a cross to die the most painful death for all people who believe that He is Lord and Savior.

His heart must have been so heavy, yet He persevered.

Jesus Gethsemane

Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane that evening to pray for God’s will. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He didn’t receive an answer so He prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Jesus prayed a third time in the same manner, persevering for an answer from His Father for what He was facing.

The outcome of Jesus’ perseverance was not His deliverance from the coming ridicule and death. It was not what He desired but for Him it was more important for God to be glorified than for Him to be comfortable. Because Jesus persevered and completed the purpose for which His Father sent him to earth we reap countless blessings. Every year as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us we are reminded that if He had not persevered through His times of tribulation we would not have the gift of eternity in Heaven with Him.

Each one of us has challenges to work through and overcome. While yours may not seem significant to the world it is significant to you, therefore it also matters to God. Whatever you are facing as you read this I pray for your perseverance. Don’t give up – on yourself, a solution, and especially your faith that God will bring good out of your circumstances. And as you persevere remember that through Jesus’ gift of salvation we can have the blessing of peace that passes all understanding.

Servanthood

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humble,

and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”            Luke 18:14b

Jesus was a King. He was God living on earth yet He walked everywhere He went. He had no fancy carriage and no palace in which to sleep. Jesus and His disciples slept under the stars and ate whatever they could find. Yet they never went without. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate God’s love for all people by meeting them where they were.

Jesus welcomed children, fed the hungry, healed the sick and lame and loved everyone, no matter their occupation or the sins they had committed. He expected them (and us) to follow His example.

Perhaps one of the greatest acts of servanthood Jesus showed was at their Passover supper the night He was betrayed.

In John 13 we read that as the meal was being served Jesus got up from the meal and removed His outer clothing. He picked up a towel, tied it around His waist and poured water into a basin. Jesus then began to wash the feet of His disciples, drying them with the towel tied around his waist.

Jesus wash feet

There is great significance in this.

First – We just discussed that Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere they went. If they wore shoes at all they were likely only a form of sandals designed to protect the bottom of their feet from rocks and other debris. They were held on by cloth or leather strips, barely covering the tops of their feet as they walked along the dusty roads. Their feet were constantly filthy. Only an individual or their servant would wash their feet.

Second – A king was dressed in robes and splendor. Jesus never did wear the kingly robes he deserved, and He removed the only robe He was wearing and replaced it with a towel tied around His waist just as a servant would have worn.

Third – Jesus did the unthinkable. He bent down to His disciples, kneeling before them to wash their feet. This posture of kneeling before someone was again what a servant would do to a master. Not a posture fit for a King.

Some of Jesus’s disciples argued with Him. Imagine if you had spent the day walking through a muddy field or down a dusty dirt road wearing open sandals. You arrive home to find someone famous whom you really admire waiting for you with a bowl of water and a towel ready to wash your feet.

Would you be excited, or embarrassed? Most of us would want to run around to the back entrance, hop in the shower and clean up before this person could see us. It was the same way with the disciples.

The lesson Jesus was trying to teach His closest friends is that it doesn’t matter what position you hold or how much money is in your bank account. It’s irrelevant how many Facebook friends you have or if you rub shoulders with influential people. The only thing that matters to God is how far you are willing to go to show love to others.

Jesus knelt before them and washed their feet.

Jesus allowed His enemies to mock Him, beat Him and whip Him until He could barely stand.

Then Jesus gave His life for His friends.

That includes you and me.

If the creator of the world did all of this for us, is it too much for Him to ask us to humble ourselves before others?

I’m going to ponder this today…and hopefully put it into action. How ’bout you?

Are You Prepared?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

 

How do you spend the days before a holiday or special event? Mine are usually filled with lists, shopping, decorating and baking. I want to make sure everything is just right for the special day.

Passover was a time of preparation as well. There was cleansing, choosing a lamb and preparing food for the feasts. I imagine there were plenty of lists and worries over everything being just right.

This year Jesus was trying to prepare His disciples for what they were about to experience. This Passover would be different but they didn’t realize it yet. Jesus told them parables but they didn’t understand what He was trying to say. He even told them that one of them would betray Him and send their Savior and friend to His death but still they were unclear.

jesus-teaching-in-temple

Maybe the disciples were not truly listening to Jesus closely enough to figure out the intent of His parables. Perhaps they believed He would explain them later when all the other people had gone.

Or possibly some of them did begin to understand what Jesus was preparing them for but were too afraid to believe it really could happen. There could have been a sense of denial as well. They may have said to themselves, “Maybe this one time Jesus could be wrong.”

When all that Jesus was trying to prepare them for did come to pass the disciples found themselves unprepared and unable to process it all. They weren’t ready to move on and see what God had for them next.

What about us? Have you ever found yourself at a place of uncertainty, unprepared for what comes next? I know I have and sometimes I look back and see how God had been trying to prepare me only I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t want to hear what He had to say.

Thankfully, while the circumstances the disciples found themselves in left them without Jesus for a time that never has to happen to us.

Jesus and His Holy Spirit are always with us to guide and direct us, giving us wisdom beyond our own. He will take our fear and turn it to confidence and joy.

We need only ask.

If you’re facing uncertainty today and it’s unclear what your next step should be I encourage you to take some time to sit quietly and seek God’s guidance. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you, and be open to His leading. Prepare your heart to be ready to hear from Him.

I guarantee you will.