Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Morning of Joy

The women rose early that Sunday morning—those who could sleep at all. Yesterday, they’d gathered together to mourn the terrible loss. They’d embraced, holding each other in desperate grief.

It was beyond comprehension. Jesus was dead.

Mary Magdalene, who owed her very life to the Master, assembled the various herbs and oils they’d need to anoint the body. The body of Jesus …

Salome, who’d followed Jesus for months, folded clean linens that would replace Friday evening’s hastily applied wrappings.

Mary, the mother of James, assured Jesus’ own mother they’d take great care of her Son. “Just rest today, Mary. We will come back to you as soon as we can. Just rest.”

They met outside Salome’s home, and quietly made their way to the tomb. Speaking softly. Weeping quietly. Mary Magdalene wondered out loud, “Who will move the stone? Certainly the guards will not help us.”

Around the last bend to the burial site. Bracing themselves to view the body of their Master.

What was this? The stone already rolled away? Who had already been to the grave so early this Sunday morning?

Mary Magdalene stooped to look, and then wailed, “He is gone! Someone has stolen His body.”

Salome and Mary joined in her sobbing.

Then a voice: "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you” (Mark 16:6-7).

The women fled, trembling, and rushed back to where Christ’s intimates had gathered. They told Peter and the others what they had been told. Peter and John ran to the tomb, followed closely by Mary Magdalene. As the two men entered the tomb, Mary stood outside weeping. Even with the words she’d heard, she still didn’t understand.

Then a voice just behind her asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She assumed it was the gardener and cried, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him … if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away" (John 20:15).

Then a miracle. The voice, one she finally recognized, said just one word, “Mary!”

She turned. It was the Master! Alive! Just as He’d said.

A night of sorrow and a day of silence, immediately became a morning of joy! The Master lived!

And the world would never be the same.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Day of Silence

Saturday morning. Those who had followed Jesus woke to silence.

John remembered standing at the foot of the cross, his arm around Mary. Jesus had asked him to look after her as a son would. In silence, he wept as Jesus took His last breath. In silence, he watched as they lowered His broken body. In silence, he followed Joseph of Arimathea, who took Jesus’ body to a tomb. In silence, he watched them roll the stone. In silence, he led the grieving mother back to his own home. And this morning, in silence, he grieved.

Peter remembered Jesus’ prophecy. He would deny his master. How prideful he’d been as he boasted, “Never, Lord! Never will I deny you.” In silence, he now wept bitter tears. In silence, he prayed to Yahweh, begging for forgiveness. In silence, he wished for another chance to unashamedly claim allegiance to Jesus. And this morning, in silence, he grieved.

Thomas remembered Jesus' telling them He was going to prepare a place for them, but he didn’t understand what He meant. He thought Jesus would be setting up a kingdom on earth. Now He was dead. In silence, Thomas wondered what would become of him. In silence, he listened for the gait of soldiers coming to arrest him as well. In silence, he questioned all he’d learned. And this morning, in silence, he grieved.

The others—Philip, James, Nathanael, Andrew, Matthew, Bartholomew, Judas [son of James], Simon—each remembered the words of Jesus. In silence, they recalled His miracles. In silence, they feared for their own lives. And this morning, in silence, they grieved.

The hours between Jesus’ death on Friday and Sunday morning are silent for us as well. The Bible doesn’t give even a hint of where His followers went, what they said, what they thought. But we can imagine. We can imagine their thoughts, their fears, their confusion. But the one thing we don’t have to imagine?

In silence, that Saturday, they grieved. Because they didn’t know Sunday morning was coming.

[Part two of my annual Easter devotionals.]

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Night of Sorrow ...

Today is Good Friday, the day we Christians solemnly recognize the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior, and I just want to spend a few moments reflecting on what Jesus did for us. I’ve been thinking a lot of the unbelievable suffering and pain our Lord experienced—and not just physically. I’ve been thinking a lot about His last twenty-four hours …

In twenty-four hours …

Jesus washed the feet of His disciples … and then felt the agony of a spike through His own.

He celebrated Passover with twelve men who promised to follow Him no matter what … and then watched as every one of them deserted Him.

He sipped wine with His closest friends … and then vinegar from a sponge.

He reclined with the disciple He loved at His side … and then had a spear through that same side.

He prayed in the garden for deliverance from separation from His Father … and then agonized through that very separation.

Our Lord and Savior felt joy and sorrow, friendship and betrayal, comfort and suffering … all within twenty-four hours.

Just for us.

Each of us is given a certain number of twenty-four hours. Only God knows how many twenty-four hours we have. The question is, what are we going to do with each of our twenty-four hours?

He did so much for us. What are we going to do for Him?

[Part one of my annual Easter devotionals.]

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Testify of the Light (John 1:6-8)

Today's scripture: John 1:6-8

Each of us has a testimony. Each of us has a story to tell. We have histories, events that make up the sum-total of our earthly lives. And each story is unique, with its own purpose.

For some of us, our stories are filled with abundance and blessings. For others, those stories are rife with tragedy and sorrow.

But for those of us who follow Jesus Christ, our stories have one thing in common: He changed our lives. So we should be eager to tell others about this Christ, this Savior who shown light into a dark world.

John the Baptist was the first to witness to Jesus' earthly ministry. John was called from God to "testify about the Light," to tell the Jewish people that the Messiah they had so longed for had finally come.

I imagine he may have told his own story. How his mother had been barren, yet at an age where childbearing should have been impossible, God miraculously gave her a child. How an angel appeared to his father, saying:

Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born. John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah had.
(Luke 1:13-17, CEV)

John's own story testifies to a God of miracles and points to a Savior. The Light.

Does your story testify to the Light? Can you tell others how God has used you? Can you witness to a changed life?

Tell your story so that others "might believe" through you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Light and Life (John 1:1-5)

Today's scripture: John 1:1-5

I decided to try something different for the next several weeks. I'm going to spend some time journeying through the book of John. I've meditated on epistles and psalms, but I've yet to really focus on one of the gospels. I pray for God's leading as He writes through me.

John starts beautifully with a reminder that Jesus is the very Word of truth who is part of what we Christians call the trinity. God—Father, Son, and Spirit—created the heavens and the earth.  As one of my favorite commentators writes,

The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word, seems to be, that as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father's mind to the world. What the evangelist says of Christ proves that he is God. He asserts, His existence in the beginning; His coexistence with the Father. The Word was with God. All things were made by him, and not as an instrument. Without him was not anything made that was made, from the highest angel to the meanest worm. This shows how well qualified he was for the work of our redemption and salvation. (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Bible)
Jesus is our God and Savior.

Jesus is also Life and Light. Without Him, we are eternally dead to our sins. Without Him, we would not be able to see in this very, very dark world. In fact, those without Him cannot see the truth because all they can see is darkness. When I think of how much sin is readily acceptable in our world, it's very clear how nonbelievers are blind to the Light.

My prayer for each of us as we learn from John is that we understand the words God wants us to, that we see the Light of Jesus, and that we experience the richness of a life in Him.