Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Morning After

33 A.D., the morning after the crucifixion. How are they feeling: 
  • Peter and Andrew and the rest of the apostles? Jesus' closest allies on this earth--the ones privy to His explanation of parables, the ones who had witnessed His miracles and observed His responses to the poor and the powerful--they had all abandoned Him in His darkest hours? How are they feeling? How would you be feeling?
  • John the Apostle? Mary the mother of Jesus? Did they linger at the cross long after others had left, unable to tear themselves away from their beloved? Did John take Mary home with him that very night to care for her as Jesus had requested? Did they keep each other awake all night crying? Did they pray together?
  • Mary Magdalene? Did she weep through the night? Did she wonder what her life would be like now that her deliverer had been killed and was no more? Did she contemplate falling back into her old ways now that her protector was gone? Or did she busy herself rounding up spices to anoint His body as soon as the sabbath was past?
  • Mary and Martha of Bethany? Were they deep in thought, Mary pondering the things she had learned at His feet and Martha wishing she'd spent more time listening? Were they remembering how He had raised their brother Lazarus from the dead and hoping, beyond hope, that He might pull off another such miracle--this time for Himself?
Oh, the depths of their despair!  

Last night's Good Friday service was funereal. The room was dark.  Soft music played. Appropriate somber words were spoken. Hymns were sung. Everyone tacked messages of contrition or resolution on a wooden cross in the front. We left in silence, pondering the cross and the One who had hung there.

Yet, we did not sorrow as those who have no hope. Why? Because, unlike Peter and Andrew and the rest of the apostles, unlike John the beloved and Mary the mother of Jesus, unlike Mary Magdalene and Mary and Martha of Bethany, unlike all of Jesus' contemporaries, we know this: Jesus died and rose again.

Because of Christ's death on Good Friday and His resurrection three days later, we have every reason to hope and rejoice in the Lord now and ever after. Think what this means!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Cross of Jesus Christ

How fitting that God should have chosen a cross as the means of His own execution! Pointing N, S, E, W, all are included in the call to come and worship the Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world.

Pointing North, the cross acknowledged the heavens--the home of the God-Man who came to earth. In Heaven where He reigns as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the angels gasped and the Father wept bitter tears. As the Father forced Himself to turn away from His beloved Son, the skies turned black with mourning.

Pointing South, the cross shook the depths of the earth. Death and Hell were put on warning that the victory they thought was theirs was not a victory at all. Rather Christ's death was the culmination of the Godhead's own plan to redeem all of mankind from death in Adam into the grace of Jesus Christ.

Pointing East and West, the cross is a continual reminder to all generations that, for those who come to embrace Jesus as their Savior and Lord, they are welcomed into the beloved. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).

How grateful we can all be, whether we've known these things from our youth or whether we learned them after many bitter experiences. The cross of Jesus Christ, standing on a hill and pointing in all directions, is the pivotal point in life and in history. All else pales in comparison.

Let's take a moment and praise God together for His wonderful plan of salvation!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday

On this day in 33 A.D., Jesus met in the upper room with his disciples for the final time. His heart was heavy as:

  • He broke bread with them, the bread representing His body that would soon be broken and twisted and bruised for the sins of the world. 
  • He washed their feet, showing them how they should live when He was no longer with them--as clean vessels, ministering to the needs of others. 
  • He asked them the hard questions, giving them the chance to accept, if not embrace, their future without Him.
  • He predicted the future, sharing the sorry news that His disciples would all desert Him for a time.
  • He comforted them, promising to send the Holy Spirit of Truth to lead them along.
  • He later prayed for them and for those who would follow them even to this present day--that we all would be one even as He and the Father were One.
Jesus knew that a tortuous future awaited Him on earth. Yet, as always, His concern was for others. 

Even as we glimpse what was critically important to Him in His last hours on earth, may we accept, and even embrace, our circumstances, knowing that this is what He would have wanted. Could Jesus ever ask too much from those He was willing to die for?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Going Back to the Cross

Many a criminal has been caught because he couldn't stay away from the scene of his crime. On the other hand, those of us who have been freed from our crimes do well to return to the scene of our delivery--the blessed cross of Jesus the Christ who stretched His arms over a dying world and interceded for us before the Father. 

"Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing."
~ Luke 23:34

On this side of forgiveness, I see how true it is. I did not know what I was doing when I denied the Lord, when I derided others for needing the "crutch" of faith. I did not know what I was doing when I refused the lifeline that He extended over and over in the swirling waters of unbelief.

I do know that I will be forever and eternally grateful that He persisted until I was too weak to resist His saving Hand of grace. He is my GOD and I weep at the foot of His cross this Holy Week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Who's a Dumb Sheep?

The "dumb sheep" followers of Jesus' on Good Friday could be duplicated in our day. Take a minute and let that sink in.

What made them "dumb sheep" anyway? Their expectations were not met. They believed Messiah would come as a conquering King. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He seemed to be "on the right track." A few days later, when He stood before Pontius Pilate, bruised and beaten, they felt betrayed.

Did you ever think you might become a dumb sheep if your expectations were not met? 

Suppose you believe prophecy is going to unfold in one way. You're sure that that Jesus will come in the clouds and take believers away before the antichrist will be revealed. At the very least, you've believed that the Church will be taken out before there will be any suffering involved, before the antichrist releases his wrath on Israel and her supporters.

That's what we'd all like to believe. Right? I'm all for pain-free living. But suppose it doesn't happen that way. Suppose God has a better plan. Will we bolt like "dumb sheep" and crucify Christ anew. May it never be!

When we are tempted to leave the paths of righteousness, may we respond like Simon Peter who, in a moment of supernatural clarity, said,

"Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We believe and know that 
you are the Holy One of God."
~ John 6:68

Monday, March 29, 2010

Such Dumb Sheep!

Each Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Riding on a colt, the Son of God, the very Messiah, was welcomed by throngs of people waving palm fronds, singing songs of acclamation. "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Less than a week later, many of the same people shouted "Crucify Him." What had happened in the meantime to cause them to turn from their Messiah?

Disappointment . . . disillusionment? Jesus wasn't acting like they thought He would? He wasn't revered by those in power? He let them down? Such dumb sheep!

How quickly we, too, can forget the relief and joy that flooded our souls on the day Jesus entered our Jerusalem's and washed our sins away. How quickly we, too, can abandon the Lord because of our unmet expectations.

"All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him 
the iniquity of us all."
~Isaiah 53:6

Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, is just a few days away. Unlike Christ's followers in Bible times, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know that in just three days, He rose again and reigns in Heaven where He will greet us one day. 

Let's not let anything rob our souls of the joy we find in Jesus! Let's cling to the Good Shepherd and follow Him wherever He leads.