Thursday, April 23, 2015

But God kept them

Revisiting the Easter story and the empty tomb.
When Peter saw the empty linen wrappings and then went home wondering 'what happened'.
Luke 24:13
That same day (the day Peter realized the tomb was empty) two of Jesus' followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.
As they walked along they were taking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things,
Jesus himself suddenly came and began to walk with them.
But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them,
"What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?"
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.
Then one of them, Cleopas, replied,
"You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn't heard about all the things that have happened there in the last few days."
"What things?" Jesus asked.
The conversation continues between Jesus and the men, and as it deepened more into their doubt, he rebukes them.
Then he brings the writings of Moses and the Scriptures to them and it was fascinating to them as they listened and walked together, and the day was turning into night.
He continued to walk with them and taught them the old prophecies and they didn't want it to end.
So they invited him to stay the night at their house as it was getting late and they needed to get home.
Luke 24:30
As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it.
Then he broke it and gave it to them.
Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
And at that moment, he disappeared!
(Can you IMAGINE?)
And they said to each other, "Didn't our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"
I think this is so important to note and remember.
First, they were not able to recognize him till God felt they were ready to receive that truth.
Second, even when their hearts were searching and grieving it still wasn't time for them.
Third, they had eyes that were open but not eyes that saw... spiritually.
HOW is it for us then?
Do we see, because we have the written word in front of us?
Or do we see 'because we believe' from our heart's perspective. 
I believe God can keep us from recognizing and believing in him until the moment is right.
Only HE knows the condition of our hearts and whether we are open to believe or receive. 
If given the opportunity, will we know him if he comes into our presence?
Just a few questions as we wrap up the Easter story. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A small break

Just a short note to tell you all I will be taking a short break from the 'Easter' story.
I do have a few more writings to finish it.
Please know I am resting as I am fighting pneumonia.
Went to the doctor and received three prescriptions.
So the plan is to rest, be lazy, rest more, and get well.
Pray that sleep comes easier as it has been broken almost hourly with me coughing.
Pray also that my hubby doesn't get it as tonight he was having a 'scratchy throat' as he was heading to bed.
It has been a rough few days.
For those who are faithful readers, thank you.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Blessed are those who have hope

So we have traveled through the days before the crucifixion.
The moments of denial and agony of heart.
The horrific death of Jesus... then the quiet of the Saturday before His resurrection.
One could say, Easter arrived and Hallelujah was the word of the day.
He is risen. He is gone.
Just as he said to them, then He met Mary Magdalene.
It is all in sequence of the story, as it continued to play out with all the characters.
The next time we see Jesus, He is meeting the disciples.
John 20:19
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.
Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them!
"Peace be with you," he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.
They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!
Again he said, "Peace, be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you."
Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 
If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus came.
They told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he replied, "I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them and place my hand into the wound on his side."
Eight days later the disciples were together again, this time Thomas was with them.
The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them.
"Peace be with you," he said. Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at my hands. 
Put your hand in the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!"
"My Lord and my God!" Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me."
There are a few interesting parts of this I want to share.
First of all, As far as we know Jesus didn't hear what Thomas had said to the disciples.
Yet he came right into the room and approached Thomas with his doubt allowing him to visually SEE and FEEL the wounds.'
Isn't that a God who hears even before we ask?
Because He was God He knew Thomas heart condition.
The second part I want to challenge us with is the last line he said, "Blessed are those who believe without seeing me."
That would mean us.
Those who were not there, and did not see or experience him in a tangible or real way.
I hope as we traveled through the story, it begins to make sense and feel more sure for us
He is risen, He is all power and all gentle, He is hope that we have needed for a very long time.

Monday, April 6, 2015

He calls our name

In the quiet of the morning Mary Magdalene waited.
Her heart broken in bits and pieces, sorrow swelled so heavy in her spirit she wasn't sure if she could breathe as she was remembering him and all the times they had spent together.
We are never prepared to let a loved one go.
She wept with a deep hallowed out sorrow.
She came to the tomb and realized that the stone was rolled away and the body was gone.
One can only imagine her fears, desperation and questions.
Have you ever lost a good friend?
It is a shocking that is so deep and your pain is so intense you want to numb it away.
I have never watched anyone die a horrific death.
We have sat beside hospice patients who quietly passed away in the final moments.
It was mostly the process of letting go... as each breath leaves and it was peaceful.
This death, the death on a cross was far from peaceful.
In John 20:11
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.
She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. "Dear woman, why are you crying?" the angels asked her.
"Because they have taken away my Lord," she replied, "and I don't know where they have put him."
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there.
It was Jesus, but she didn't recognize him.
"Dear woman, why are you crying? Jesus asked her. 
"Who are you looking for?"
She thought he was the gardener. "Sir" she said,"if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him."
"Mary!" Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, "Raboni"(which is Hebrew for "Teacher")
"Don't cling to me," Jesus said, "for I haven't yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them. 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them,
"I have seen the Lord!"
Then she gave them his message.
It gives me GREAT hope to know he calls us by our name.
That is intimate and personal. 
When he said "Mary" she immediately clung to a new found HOPE.
Our God is a God of Hope as the resurrection story continues.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Then he bowed his head

I realize I am writing on the day of Easter.
The resurrected day, the day of Hope and the day of Salvation.
But can we go back for a short time to look at a few things?
We read in Luke about the last words of Jesus.
Forgiving those who stood below him and mocked him.
As they were placing him on the cross in the most horrific way.
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."
They fulfilled prophecy, when they cast lots and rolled dice.
It was all a part of the master plan.
Then as he was dying he gave Mary to John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
"Dear woman, here is your son." And he said to this disciple, 
"Here is your mother," From then on this disciple took her into his home.
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said,
"I am thirsty." 
A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it to his lips. When Jesus tasted it, he said, "It is finished!"
Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
Several thoughts come to my mind when reading this.
First... in the midst of dying and the process of releasing his body and spirit,
He thought of others. 
He still ministered and thought beyond himself, beyond his pain, beyond his suffering.
Second... I was drawn to the verse, "I'm thirsty," 
when I think of what it is like to be thirsty, it is uncomfortable and hydration is needed.
Almost every night in the middle of the night, I wake up thirsty.
My mouth is parched. I need cool wet 'water' to refresh me.
He was in shock. Traumatized. Suffering.
And they gave him what some have said, vinegar.
How cruel. How horrible. The last thing to touch his lips
was something bitter with no form of release.
It makes me sad to think the last thing Jesus said, was 
"I am thirsty". Then he released his spirit and let go.
He wasn't asking for much, just a quenching of the palate.
A small bit of relief from those who stood under the cross where he hung to die a horrible death.
I might be wrong, but perhaps can we think, that this might have been the first time he ever asked for something for himself? 
The human side of him being vulnerable, remember he could have stopped all of it. 
He had the power to release himself and to change the story.
But he didn't choose to use it, because we needed a Savior. 
Then he bowed his head and let go.  
But we know hope is not lost, hope is not gone.
The God of hope, the God who gives hope... will over power death and  
Jesus will return to those who he loved.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

There was silence

I don't think we should be too hard on Peter.
He was just as we would be. So excited to do ministry and so sure we would not fail.
Yeah. how long did that last?
Have you ever lost someone you loved?
Do you remember the next day? the following 24-48 hours after you realize, they are gone?
There is an intense emptiness as thick air follows your every move.
You feel hallow and alone as you relive the last few hours.
You wish it was a bad dream and you would snap out of the fog and it would all be fine.
You begin to realize, you won't ever see them sit in that favorite chair again, or enjoy a cup of tea with them or watch them as they talk to you as they had done so many times.
You struggle to remember their voice, the way they walk, the way they say 'good morning' or good night.
How was their face, their hair, the inflection of their voice?
You ask yourself, will I remember as time passes?
After Jesus death on the cross the disciples had no idea where he went, some of them ran and hid for fear of their own lives.
I would imagine a few watched the whole thing, we aren't really told.
Some could have been watching from a distance, crying as they witnessed him being brutally tortured and beaten.  
Where was Peter? Was he off in the distance watching with deeply rooted guilt?
And Judas?
Matthew 27:3-5 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 
"I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." 
"What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. 
Then he went away and hanged himself.
How sad. His own guilt so heavy laden across his heart.
He didn't receive forgiveness. He didn't receive kindness.
And as we are thinking about all of these people who walked with Jesus, I often wonder about Mary.
Her heart was broken as she watched, her son, carrying his cross.
I have seen movies where she was weeping and crying.
I can't begin to imagine her sorrow.
Her love was deep, and anointed and chosen and broken.
These are just some thoughts on this day that heaven was quiet.
There was silence and a deep sense of sorrow.
The day after Jesus died.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The power of darkness

The players had to be in alignment for the Crucifixion to take place.
The Roman Soldiers in the garden after Jesus prayed were a part of the plan that was already written.
Judas betrayed him with a kiss because he had to, that was the plan.
It was an intimate betrayal, for to be close enough to give someone a kiss it would be tender and also full of mixed messages.
Luke 22:47 b [Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?"]
The soldiers took hold of him and the disciples didn't like their attitude towards Jesus.
One of them (some say it was Peter) cut off the ear of the high priests slave, Jesus rebuked him and said "no more" then healed the ear back to wholeness.
It was all a part of the plan.
Jesus had to be arrested, he had to be put on trial.
Chapter 22: 52
Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him.
"Am I some dangerous revolutionary," he asked, "that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 
Why didn't you arrest me in the Temple? 
I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of the darkness reigns."
In all the years of reading my bible and the Easter story I have never seen this line before.
when the power of darkness reigns. 
Light and dark. Healing and death. Powerful words spoken from a Savior.
The story continues with his 'arrest' and the reactions of the disciples.
Beginning with the story of Peter.
I believe this was included to show us how we are as people.
When the bottom drops and it is our life or some one else's would we deny him too?
We can be as faithful as we hope to be but, when the pressure comes on us, can we really be faithful to the end?
Jesus prepared Peter when he asked him at one point in time, Peter do you love me?
He was testing his heart. He was challenging his zeal and his promise.
Jesus knew the answer, but he wanted Peter to think about the answer before saying "yes".
Three times Peter said, "Yes Lord" and three times he denied him in the garden, when the mood of the evening became frightening to him.
I don't think we should judge Peter.
We can sing in church and raise our hands, preach the word and teach the word but when the pressure arrives and we are facing a life or death decision.
Would we say 'yes Lord, I love you,' or would we be like Peter.
Who crumbled under pressure and said, "I never knew the man." vs 61 The rooster crowed.
At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter, suddenly the Lord's words flashed through Peter's mind. "Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me."
vs 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.