Archive for April, 2015

Tell Me the Story (Conclusion)

Just as the women returned to the garden on the first day of the week, we gathered in the darkness. The women discovered the stone had been rolled way from the sepulcher; we gathered in celebration of our risen Lord.

Christ the Lord is risen to day, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

With hymns and Bible readings, the sunrise service focused our minds on the resurrection of Jesus. An angel had rolled the stone away. Jesus had been called forth from the grave, the napkin that had been around his head in one place and the linen clothes in another. Mary Magdalene stood at the mouth of the sepulcher weeping, assuming someone had removed the body. Jesus appeared and spoke to her, asking why she was crying. At first she answers Him as she would a gardener, but when Jesus called her name, she recognized His voice. She wanted to embrace Him, but he prevented her.

Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God (John 20:17).

Mary experienced two blessings that morning. She had the privilege of being the first person to see Jesus before He ascended to heaven to present Himself to His Father. She had the privilege of bringing the message of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples.

Yet the resurrection story is a blessing to all who believe and confess the name of Jesus.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2-3).

We watched the brilliance of the sunrise in the distance and after the closing prayer, we filtered away from the park where we had enjoyed the sweet spirit of the Easter service. Let’s not forget the sacrifice that was made for our salvation or the promise of eternal life that Jesus offers.

Categories: Faith, Spirituality

Tell Me the Story (Part Four)

Why is there a break in the crucifixion story? We observe Good Friday and celebrate the triumph over the grave on Easter Sunday. What happened in the middle?

The fierce drama of the religious leaders’ pursuit of Jesus and their desire to silence Him moves at a steady tempo. Arrested at Gethsemane, accused before Pilate, questioned by Herod before being sent back to Pilate. When Pilate announced to the crowd that he had found no fault in him and gave them the choice between Jesus and the criminal Barabbas, they chose to free Barabbas over Jesus. They led Him to Calvary and there, between two thieves, nailed Him to the cross for Him to die.

Dying by crucifixion was a slow, agonizing death, taking hours or possibly days for the person to succumb to asphyxia, cardiac rupture, or other factors. But as the start of the Sabbath was drawing near, the priests were anxious to finish the crucifixion. One way to hasten the death of the victims was to break their legs.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and they might be taken away.

Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and to the other which was crucified with him.

But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs. (John 19:31-33)

The Matthew account records that Joseph of Arimathaea was given permission to take the body of Jesus which he moved to a new tomb in a garden, wrapped it in a linen cloth, rolled a stone across the sepulcher (tomb), and departed. Outside the tomb a guard was set at the entrance to ensure the disciples did not sneak back to the tomb and remove the body of Jesus and claim He is risen from the dead, as the chief priests feared.

Luke provided other details. In the midst of their grief, the women came also to see where Jesus would be laid. They prepared spices and ointments for the immediate care of the body of their Lord. They would return, after the Sabbath, to finish the burial ritual of the body. The women rested on the Sabbath day according to the commandment. Jesus “rested” in the tomb over the Sabbath. The break in the Easter story is not so much of a break as it is a holy Sabbath rest.

Categories: Faith, Spirituality

Tell Me the Story (Part Three)

In countless locations around the world, reenactments of the last hours of Christ’s life will be performed today. Mock trials, journeys by actors carrying prop crosses and then a crucifixion scene. Viewing such reenactments—seeing a depiction of the suffering and sacrifice that Jesus endured—draws crowds, each observer’s faith being challenged or strengthened. Good Friday services are common in churches where believers gather to read the account of the crucifixion in the Bible or to listen to readings of the last sayings of Christ:

Station 5 in Jerusalem - Simon of Cyrene carries the cross

Station 5 in Jerusalem – Simon of Cyrene carries the cross

1. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34) – Even on the cross, Jesus acted as mediator between creation and the Creator.

Statue of Jesus

Statue of Jesus

2. I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43) – When the thief on the cross confessed his sin to Jesus, the loving Savior assured him that salvation was available, even as he repented in his last hour.

3. Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother. (John 19:26-27) – Jesus cares for his mother’s earthly needs.

4. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? (Matthew 27:46) – Jesus cries out to his Father, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It is believed this is the point when Jesus felt the separation from His Father as he bore the full weight of our sins upon Him.

5. I thirst. (John 19:28) – They offered him vinegar, gall and myrrh which Jesus refused.

6. It is finished. (John 19:30) – At these words, Jesus completed His earthly mission, and with his next words, His life ended. DSC_6790

7. Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit. (Luke 23:46). Jesus gave up His life. The veil in the temple was split from top to the bottom marking the end of the need to sacrifice lambs for the remission of sins. Jesus was the Lamb, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God.

Crucifixion scene

Crucifixion scene

For you.

For me.

Jesus paid the penalty of sin, so that we, through Him, might be saved.

Many men have died, so what was so different about Jesus’ crucifixion from the others that the Roman conducted so many times before and since? How can we be saved through His death? Hold on—the resurrection on the first day of the week is coming.

But first, we rest for the Sabbath, just as Jesus did as He lay in the grave.

Categories: Faith, Spirituality

Tell Me the Story (Part Two)

This year, the Passover and Easter coincide. In Matthew chapter 26, Jesus and his disciples prepare for the Passover (Matthew 26: 17-19). Christians refer to this meal as the Last Supper. During this meal, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him (Matthew 26:21). This declaration stirs an uproar of questions among the disciples, “Is it I, Lord? Is it I?” Even Judas asks the question.

Overlooking Jerusalem (2012)

Overlooking Jerusalem (2012)

During this meal, Jesus lays the foundation for the communion service, a time when Christians participate in they symbolic representation of what happened on that night. Jesus took the bread, broke it and distributed it among the disciples. The bread represents His body. Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them, representing His own blood which was shed for the remission of sins. They ate and sang before going to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed.

In the Garden

Alone in the garden, except for the slumbering disciples, and away from the crowd, Jesus prayed.

“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)

In Jesus’ darkest hour, the disciples slept.

Could you not watch with me one hour?

Could you not watch with me one hour?

It had been foretold that the Savior would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

After willingly surrendering his will to the Father and knowing that he had been “betrayed into the hands of sinners”, the heart of the earth—His suffering for our redemption—opened up and Jesus was cast into the grip of the Enemy, an enemy of death He would defeat three days later.

The Returning Crowd DSC_6644 (800x531)

The prayerful stillness and agony of the garden transformed into the scene of Jesus’ arrest when Judas arrived with the crowd—a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. This time, the crowd is not shouting “Hosanna!” They are not worshipping Jesus. They are not laying palm leaves before him. This is the scene of betrayal, of scripture being fulfilled, and of desertion as the disciples fled. This is also a scene of authority. Only Jesus, Son of God, has the power to save us from our sins.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

Our salvation, indeed, came at a great price.

Categories: Faith, Spirituality