Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Ten, Resurrection

We know how the story ends. After three days in the grave, Jesus rose and lived again. But that isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning. Because God came to earth as a man, because He died on the cross for our sins, and because He rose from the grave, everything changed.

The resurrection of Jesus’ body wasn’t the only miracle. Because of the resurrection, we will live forever with God. But we don’t have to wait for that resurrection, for more is promised. We can experience resurrection now. I Corinthians 5:15-17 says, So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

When we allow the resurrected Jesus live in us, we become “new creations.”  Just as a caterpillar changes to a beautiful butterfly, so the spirit of Jesus resurrects us to new life.

Father, wrap us in the cocoon of your love and wisdom and make us butterflies.  Work the miracle of change in our lives.  Create us anew as beautiful new creatures flying on the wings of your spirit.

Food for thought: In what ways will others see the evidence of your spiritual resurrection?

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Eight, Arrest and Punishment, a Disciple's Perspective

After I woke up in the garden everything happened so fast it nearly made my head swim. The light from torches bobbed up the hill. Men’s angry voices broke the night’s silence. Judas approached, followed by a crowd of armed men. Judas kissed Jesus, and immediately the mob seized him. Drawn swords glinted in the moonlight. It all happened so fast, and, I’m ashamed to admit, I was so frightened I fled. Through the olive grove, down the hillside and into the crowded city, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me.

I ran into my house and bolted the door, shaking in the darkened room. At any moment I expected a heavy pounding on the door. I was sure Roman soldiers or an angry mob would come to arrest me. The next night some of the others came in the dark. They all had heard rumors of what had happened to Jesus. All we knew for sure was that he’d been arrested.

How could this be happening? I wondered. I was so sure Jesus was our promised Messiah. Surely there had been a mistake. I wept. I prayed. I was afraid to go out on the streets for fear I’d be arrested too. After one of the women came with news that Jesus had been sentenced to death, I conquered my fear and decided I’d have to see for myself.

I donned a cloak with a hood pulled low over my forehead and ventured out to the crowded city streets. Before long I heard loud voices and saw a crowd along the road. Elbowing my way toward the front, I was finally able to see who was on the road ahead. What I saw appalled me. A troop of Roman soldiers escorted three prisoners, each carrying a cross to his own execution.

I hardly recognized Him at first. A crown of thorns encircled his head, and blood dripped down his face. His knees buckled as He struggled to carry the heavy wooden cross. His face was contorted with pain. As He stumbled with His burden, soldiers and people in the crowd spit on Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews.” Others, some of whom I recognized, wept quietly.

As He staggered past, I gasped when I saw His torn back. The Roman whip had ripped the flesh from His back, leaving nothing but raw flesh. I’m not ashamed to admit that tears filled my eyes. It hurt so to see my friend suffer. I pushed away from the crowd in a daze, not knowing what the future might hold. All I knew for sure was that Jesus was headed for the hill of Golgotha and execution. I feared the same for myself.

Matthew 27: 28-30 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

Food for thought: Are you able to trust in Jesus even when times are difficult? When circumstances seem insurmountable? Can you accept how Jesus suffered for your sins?


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Seven, In the Garden, a Disciple

If only I had known. If only I had known what would happen next, I would have stayed awake. But the night was dark and cool and the wind blew softly on my face. Before Jesus walked past the nearby olive trees to pray alone, He even said to us, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death….Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). He walked a few yards away and knelt on the ground to pray. Did I stay awake and pray with Him? Did I keep watch for my good friend? No, I’m ashamed to say, no. I stretched out on the cool, soft grass and laid my head down. I closed my eyes, just for a minute, I said to myself. And I went to sleep. The next thing I knew, Jesus was at my side, looking so sad.

Again He asked us to stay awake, watch, and pray. He walked a short distance away and fell to the ground, praying, beseeching God to take a cup away from Him. I didn’t understand what He meant, but He sounded so distressed that I tried desperately to stay awake for my friend. But my eyes were so heavy that I just couldn’t keep them open. Once again, I failed Him. I slept while Jesus prayed alone.

After He awakened us again, He asked us once more to watch and pray. I tried so hard; I really did. I blinked my heavy eyelids and thought about my Jesus praying nearby. Alone, He struggled with something, praying out loud, calling to God. And what did I do? I deserted Him. I put my head down and once more fell fast asleep.

He again returned to find us sleeping. When I awakened I could hardly believe how Jesus looked. In the moonlight on this cool spring night, I saw his brow beaded with sweat. But when He came closer I realized His brow was not covered in sweat, but instead it was covered in drops of blood. How Jesus must have struggled with His prayers while I slept. I closed my eyes again, this time in shame. Tears of regret ran down my cheeks as I realized I had deserted my Jesus in an hour of great need.

Mark 14:41, 42 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Food for thought: Consider how difficult this night must have been for Jesus. Like the disciple, how often have you “slept” when you could have prayed or helped someone with your actions? Jesus forgave his disciples for sleeping through His hour of need. Have you asked Him to forgive you for inactions? Have you forgiven yourself?


Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Six, The Last Supper, a Disciple

On Maundy Thursday you celebrate by eating the bread and drinking the wine, calling it “the Last Supper.” Strange, isn’t it? To us it was just another supper. True, Jesus taught us many things at that table, but we really didn’t understand their significance. We didn’t truly understand who He was until after…but I get ahead of myself. That night Jesus drank from the cup and said He wouldn’t drink again until the “kingdom of God comes.” I caught the looks on some of the other disciples’ faces when he said that. Some looked eager, for they longed for a confrontation with their conquerors. They wanted their king to take His rightful place and overthrow the hated Romans. Others just looked confused.

All of us were confused when he broke the bread and said it was his body. We looked at each other and wondered what he was talking about. Had he been out in the sun too long that day? He really wasn’t making any sense.

But we often didn’t understand the things he told us. We shrugged it off and ate the meal while reclining by the table and talking among ourselves. If we had only listened more carefully, we would have understood, for Jesus had prepared us for the future. Instead of appreciating what we had, we chose to argue among ourselves.

“I’m greater because I followed Him first!”

“No, I’m greater because He spends more time with me!”

“No, me! I’m greater.” We argued with puffed up chests just like adolescent boys trying to impress. If we had only known, we’d have spent that last supper together differently.

I Corinthians 11: 27-29 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Food for thought: How do you approach communion? In your heart, are you comparing yourself to others? Do you hold grudges against your neighbor? Are you listening to His still, small voice? If this would be your last supper, would you have regrets?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Five, the Last Supper: Judas

You may have heard of me: my name is Judas. Yes, I attended the “last supper.” But my mind was elsewhere. Three years before I’d been drawn to Jesus. I was so tired of the Roman rule I was ready to do anything to foster rebellion. How desperately I wanted our land back! Jesus seemed such a great candidate for rebellion. Everywhere He went people followed Him. They listened to His every word, ready to follow wherever He might go.

But He didn’t go where I wanted Him to go. I didn’t hear anti-Rome speeches. I didn’t hear calls to arms and action. I wondered if I had followed the wrong man. But He trusted me, putting me in charge of the groups’ treasure. Dutifully I gathered all the coins donated for His cause. I bought the food and other necessities for the group.

But as I carried the money bags, something changed. With every step I took that money jingled. It called to me. “Jingle…jingle…jingle. Judas, just think what you could do with all this money!” No longer would I waste my time watching Jesus heal the mobs of people who followed him wherever he went. The longer I managed the money, the more it called to me. I began stealing from the group treasury, just a few coins at a time. A few coins here, a few coins there, and suddenly I had acquired a great amount of money.

No longer did I hang on every word Jesus spoke. All I heard was the jingling call of the coins. “Judas, Judas, take me. Take me! Think of all you can do with just a little more money.” Before long I had gone to the high priest and offered to betray Jesus. In exchange, he would give me thirty beautiful, jingly silver coins! I couldn’t wait.

During that “last supper” I had trouble concentrating. My mind kept wandering to the clink of the 30 pieces of silver dropping into my money bag. I knew just the place and time to betray Him, when no crowds would surround and protect him. Oh I could almost hear the clink of that money falling into my hands.

Jesus’ voice pulled me from my reverie. He was saying something about betrayal. All the other men started babbling at once. “Is it me?” “Not me, Lord?”

He looked at me and I quickly said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

He answered, “Yes, it is you.”

Clearly, Jesus knew. I gathered my money bag and left the room, hurrying toward my silver and my future.

Matthew 26:21 & 25 And while they were eating he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?

Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

Food for thought: In what ways do I betray Jesus by my actions or lack of action?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Four, Washing the Disciples' Feet

It was a job reserved for servants.  Not just any servants, either. Only the lowliest of servants washed the guests’ feet. Any man wealthy enough to have servants could expect to have one wash the dust from his feet on a daily basis.

Imagine this: You come home after a hard day’s work and collapse in your favorite chair. Almost immediately, a man kneels before you, setting a basin of water on the floor next to your tired, dirty feet. You look down, expecting to see your servant. Instead, you see the son of God kneeling before you. The One who created the heavens and the earth loosens your shoes. His strong, pierced hands hold your bare foot—your grimy, smelly foot!

Gently He dips your feet into the warm water and scrubs away all the dirt of the day. Then He takes a towel from around His waist and blots your clean feet dry. You feel ashamed that the God who created you has done a servant’s task. When you protest, He responds, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13: 14 & 15).

Food for thought: Following Jesus example, in what ways can you “wash other’s feet”? How do you humble yourself before God? Before others?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Three, Jesus is Annointed, the Story of the Woman with the Alabaster Jar

I’m not a wealthy woman. I’m not an educated woman. I’m not looked upon favorably by those in upper society. But when a man speaks the truth, I understand. This man Jesus speaks the truth. The first time I heard him teach, I knew he was special. Whenever He opened His mouth, it seemed the words of our Fathers came alive. Surely this man was the fulfillment of the Holy Scriptures. At long last, our Messiah had arrived.

In my heart I longed to bestow a very special gift on Him. But what gift could I give such a man? I was willing to sacrifice anything to give a special gift to the Master. I prayed to the Almighty and waited for an answer. As soon as I had my answer, I gathered all my worldly goods and hurried to market to sell them. Each item I sold brought the top price. Soon my purse held more money than I’d ever seen. Willingly, gladly, I gave the shopkeeper every denarius. In return, he handed me a beautiful alabaster flask. I ran my hands over its curves, knowing I would soon break it open, releasing the oil and fragrance inside. This would be my gift for the Messiah.

Carefully I hid the flask in the folds of my cloak, lest any thief might spy it and take it from me. I rushed down the crowded, dusty streets, hurrying to the house where Jesus and his disciples ate.  It wasn’t my place to interrupt their meal, but the urgency in my heart made me bold. When I entered the house, the men were at the table. Before I could lose my courage, I went straight to Jesus’ side. I broke open the lovely vase and poured the most fragrant oil on his head. Surely, I was most privileged to be allowed to anoint the Master.

Some of the men grumbled, as I knew they would, but God had allowed me to anoint our Messiah. No matter what those men might have said or done, I received such a special gift when I was allowed to anoint my King.

Food for thought: What treasures have you stored in your alabaster jar? Are you willing to break it open as a gift to pour out for Jesus? Would you be willing to sell all you own to honor Jesus?
Matthew 26: 12 "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial."

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: Two, Jesus Clears the Temple: a Disciple's Perspective

That day in the temple I saw a different side of Jesus. Never had I seen such anger flash in His eyes. Oh, I’d seen some of it before, particularly when some of the Pharisees acted pompously, but this anger was intense. I can’t believe how quickly he fashioned a whip out of those cords and how quickly men fled when he strode their way! I have to admit I found it a little humorous, watching those money grubbers grab every coin they could as they fled the sting of the whip.

People and animals scattered in every direction while he thundered at them. He chastised them for making his Father’s house a place of merchandise. As I watched, powerless to stop him, I remembered the scripture, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” All the money-making and cheating in the temple was certainly eating Jesus up with anger. I shuddered to think how the religious authorities would react to this scene of chaos in the temple.

When the Master yelled at the religious leaders about destroying the temple and raising it up again in three days, I was totally mystified. I hoped he would explain what he meant by this later after we left the temple, but he did not. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what he meant.
Later, after witnessing his death and seeing him alive again I finally understood. That’s when it dawned on me. For three days he lay in that tomb. For three days we mourned and worried. We wondered what would become of us. The temple he had referred to was his own body. Only after he was crucified and raised again did we begin to understand. He himself, his body, is God’s temple. Yes, they destroyed it. Yes, he raised it again in three days. I remember that day in the temple so vividly. Even more than that, I remember the day when the truth of it slowly dawned on me.

Food for Thought:  How do you strive to keep God’s house a house of prayer? How have you allowed the truth of Jesus’ resurrection to live in your life?
Mark 11:17 Is it not written,  "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?" But you have made it a "den of robbers."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Road to Resurrection: One, the Triumphal Entry

One sleepless night not too long ago, I lay awake, imagining what it must have been like to watch a king enter the ancient city of Jerusalem.

I can still see it vividly in my mind’s eye.  Before I can even glimpse the king, trumpets herald his arrival.  Soon 40 soldiers enter the crowded city, each proudly straddling a high-stepping stallion.  Eyes staring at the road ahead, the men ride ramrod straight, armor and weapons glinting in the sun.  Between the two groups of mounted soldiers rolls an ornate carriage, resplendent with gold leaf.  Four perfectly matched black stallions, crimson ribbons braided into their manes and tails, pull the carriage effortlessly.  In that carriage sits the perfectly tailored king, his brocade coat trimmed in ermine.  Rubies and emeralds adorn his fingers.  The golden crown, encrusted with precious stones, reflects the bright sunlight.  As he passes, the cheering throng bows low, each man hoping the king will scatter some coins his way.

How different was our King’s triumphal entry!  No trumpets heralded his arrival.  No soldiers or horses came before Him.  Instead of an elaborate entourage, He was accompanied by a few simple men, broad shouldered and tanned from hard, outdoor work. They walked alongside Him, wearing roughly woven clothes.  Jesus sat astride a young donkey.  He wore no gold nor gems, but only a simple cloak and sandals.  Although Jesus had no coins to throw to the people, His intangible gifts were far more costly than gold.  A slight smile played at the corners of His mouth, but the dark brown eyes filled with sorrow.  In spite of His poverty and ordinary appearance, the people sensed something special about this man.  They loudly cheered, “Hosanna, King of Kings!” and lay palm branches at His feet.

How quickly the cries of the crowd changed!  A few short days later the cheers of “Hosanna” changed to jeers and shouts of “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  Many of those who had proclaimed Him king now clamored for his death.  Even his closest friends ran away and denied they even knew him.

How, I wonder, could these people change so quickly?  How could they proclaim him king one day, and not even acknowledge his existence the next?  As I sit quietly and think, I realize, with humility and shame, that I have done the very same thing.  How many times have I gone on my merry way, never acknowledging Christ as the king of my life, never seeking His divine guidance?  How many times do I denying His existence by failing to speak out against injustice or not sharing His good news with another?  If He is truly king of my life, why do I not get down on my knees every day and praise my spiritual king?

Jesus, king of my life, help me to bow in humble obedience and recognition of your lordship in my life.

John 12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”


Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Potter

Have you ever watched the potter at work?  He centers a lump of clay on the wheel, creates a small indention in the middle, then pours water over the clay.  As the wheel spins, his hands deftly shape the clay until he has created his pot in the exact shape he wants.

In scripture God is compared to a potter.  Can you see Him at work, creating with clay, molding and shaping each vessel until it is the perfect shape and size?  Each of us is carefully, lovingly, uniquely formed by our Lord’s hands.

Unfortunately, in our human perceptions, we view ourselves, the vessels He is shaping, and wish we were different.  “Perhaps a different shape or size would be better,” we think, or we wish to use this pot for a different purpose.  We constantly resist His hands, molding us to His will.  But God, in His wisdom, knows what He is doing, and our wishes to change illustrate how we doubt His wisdom.  Still, we constantly try to “correct” what God has made.

At times we look at others, too, and wish to change them.  “If this pot were just a little wider,” we mistakenly think, “it could be used for a different purpose.  If this pot had a slightly different shape, it would be beautiful.”  And we try to form that vessel into the image we have for it.  When we do that, we doubt God’s handiwork.  The clay never dictates to the potter what shape it should be; neither does it tell the potter how to shape other pots.

 God created the world in seven days, yet He constantly refines and perfects each of us.  Can you see Him at His wheel?  He pauses a moment at His work, steps back, looks, and says, “It is good.”

Father, make us aware of your hand in our lives, shaping and molding each of us into your image.  Help us to yield to Your hand and to Your judgment of the size, shape, and purpose for each of your precious vessels.

 Isaiah 64:8: (NKJ): “Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, You are the potter we are all the work of are Your hand.”


Monday, March 4, 2013

A Child's Walk with His Father

“Let’s go,” the father called to his four-year-old son.

Jimmy scampered over and reached his small hand up for his dad’s firm grasp.  Eagerly he tugged on the strong arm, “Let’s go, let’s go,” he sang.

Small hand wrapped firmly in the larger hand, out the door they walked, down the sidewalk.  Jimmy hopped and skipped and gleefully noticed everything.  “Wow!  Look at that bird.  Look, look, an airplane.”  He paused momentarily to point and stare skyward.

Soon a large German shepherd barked noisily at them.  Jimmy jumped, edging closer to his dad.  “Daddy, I’m scared, carry me,” he pleaded.

“Don’t worry; I won’t let that dog hurt you.” Dad scooped Jimmy up and swung him onto his broad shoulders.

Soon they came to an intersection.  “Stop!” called Jimmy.  “Look left.  Look right.  Any cars?  No?  Okay, go,” just as his father had taught him.  Together they safely crossed the street.

“Daddy, I want down.”  Once again, strong arms lifted Jimmy off his dad’s shoulders and set him safely on the sidewalk.

Jimmy, like most young children, loves to spend time with his dad.  With childlike faith, he puts his hand in the strong hand of his father, trusting him completely.  Together, they walk wherever the father chooses, knowing their time together is more important than the path they choose.  Even though they utter few words, they communicate.  In times of difficulties or danger, the son instinctively draws closer to his father, who carries him.

In the same way the small child trusts his father on his walk, so we trust our heavenly Father on our life’s walk.  Trustingly, we place our hand in His.  We talk to Him, expressing our delight in what we encounter, and our fears of what lies ahead. No matter what, we confidently walk with Him on whatever path He chooses.  If we listen to His words and follow His advice, we know we will avoid danger, just like the child who learned to look both ways before crossing the street. 

Will our walk always be pleasant?  No.  Will we ever become fatigued or frightened?  Yes.  Will there be times of great difficulties?  Of course.  But like a small child, we confidently look up and say, “Daddy, I need help, carry me.”  Whatever difficulties we face, our Father, who listens to our pleas, picks us up with his strong hands, swings us up on His broad shoulders, and carries us safely though life’s journey.

Father God, teach me to have child-like trust in You.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV) “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”