Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

Rainy-Day-HD-ImagesI woke up this Saturday to a bright, sunny spring world—horribly incongruous to the reality of what happened on Friday.  If this were a movie—which it is not—Saturday would be overcast with a weepy downpour, not the crashing thunder of Friday evening, but the low rumble of distant disruption.  The creation would be mourning the death of its Creator.

The disciples were huddled together behind closed doors on Saturday.  A few were so weary with fear from Friday that they had slept. They had slept while Jesus prayed in Gethsemane—the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Some perhaps wandered in early Saturday morning after a sleepless night of hiding, lest they too be crucified.

Only John had actually been at the cross. Had he and Mary the Mother cried together all night? He was now responsible for her and he didn’t know what that meant.  Over and over he had had to tell the others what he had witnessed: the nails, the jeering, the darkness, the Words, the End. He told of the surprise that Nicodemus and Joseph had shown up to bury the Body.

The women disciples were with the men—all the Marys, Joanna, the others—they had wanted to finish annointing the Body, but they had not been prepared on Friday evening to finish before the sun set, so they would get it all together on Saturday, then go early Sunday morning and finish.

Peter—Jesus had called him a Rock, but it turns out he was just dust! He had been so brave when Judas and the others had shown up among the olive trees, but Jesus had healed the very one he had slashed.  How was he supposed to feel about that? It really took the wind out of his sails. He did follow as they led Jesus away, but he couldn’t—didn’t—follow as far as John had gone—and that had been when it happened.  He hadn’t meant to curse—it just came out of his fear!  When the rooster crowed, his heart broke.  He was no Rock.  He was as bad as Judas.

For three years this small group had been with Jesus.  For three years they had seen him do the unexplainable! He turned water to wine, walked on water, healed the lame and the blind—even raised the dead. They believed in him. He was the Messiah they had hoped for—though different from what they expected.  He had promised to be with them—but he had lived very dangerously, even talked about going away—about dying—as  if he expected this!  They  had tried to protect him, but when he headed toward Jerusalem—they knew it was trouble!

Now here they sat. He was dead, his lifeless body lying shrouded in a tomb, sealed with a stone and guarded by the Romans so that no one could steal him away and fabricate hope. They were alone—and afraid.  The Jews and the Romans could have saved the expense of guarding the tomb.  These disciples were not leaving the room! Saturday was a bad, bad day!

And what about Jesus?

On Friday afternoon, His Spirit had left His Body and gone into the Hands of God the Father. Peter would later write about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison and there are several references to his descension, so perhaps He spent Saturday harrowing hell and bringing Good News to those who had longed for His coming, but died before the fullness of time.  Much we don’t really know, but this we know:

His body was in the tomb, but His Spirit lived. He knew He would be reclothed—the temple would be rebuilt—in three days, so He was obediently waiting for the plan of God to unfold and Resurrection power to be released.  Where He was on Saturday was not dark and hopeless, rather the Light was brighter than ever, just waiting to explode and blow away the stone and the darkness!

Now the brilliant sunshine of this Saturday morning is starting to make sense to me.

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Tomorrow is the day of crucifixion. Today, as I write, is a beautiful sunny morning, just cool enough to refresh everything living!  But tonight comes the darkness of betrayal, and whippings, and thorns, and curses, and lies.

And tomorrow will end in total darkness, utter depravity, the death of innocence, separation from God! We call it Good Friday!  I don’t think so!

Perhaps my atheist friend can find some good in martyrdom and be satisfied that Friday accomplished all that needed to be done. Many people’s deaths have changed history—maybe everyone’s death changes history.  But Jesus was not about changing history.

And why was the tomb sealed with victory on Saturday?  Was it to prove death to the superstitious and the unbelievers? Was it to prove death to the believers? Was it because Jesus had souls to preach to in the spiritual world (1 Peter 3:19)?

Perhaps so we could mourn for what we did on Friday!

But Jesus was not surprised by Sunday morning! The women were; the disciples were; but Jesus never doubted.  The earliest chronicler says, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

Surprise, however, is not a prerequisite to joy!  He had told his disciples on Thursday, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). When his followers wept, Jesus wept, so I’m quite sure that bringing eternal joy to his disciples brought Jesus himself great joy!

And what about Easter bunnies and eggs and little girls in frilly dresses and white shoes?

 Well, what about Spring? Does the cycle of seasons with death yielding to new life every Spring sound familiar?  Who do you think created the seasons in order to proclaim the Victory over Death?

On his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas gave the first century pagans the same answer that we who doubt the source of our joy should hear: Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:26).

So I’m pretty sure Jesus would smile at baby chicks and bunnies and little boys with their hair spiked and in their first bow ties, and  say, “Don’t forget that life began on Easter Sunday! Don’t forget that there would be no beautiful Spring days without Easter Sunday! Don’t forget that there would be no joy and no empty tombs—ever—without Easter Sunday!

Would Jesus celebrate Easter?  He did, He does, and He will—until the very last Easter—Resurrection Day!

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MondayDid you know that many ministers/priests take the week after Easter off because they have had such an intensive preparation and celebration time, that they need some well-deserved rest and renewal?  Easter Sunday is Day One of the rest of our lives.

Sunday morning changed the history of the world. Without Sunday morning, the story that Christians would tell would be like the story in many great movements: an extraordinary teacher/leader, misunderstanding/persecution by those conserving the status quo, and eventual martyrdom.

Christians have a different story because Jesus died, was buried, but then rose by the power of the very Creator of Life itself. Jesus is not dead. Sunday morning changed the world—and the life of everyone who believes in the risen Lord.

Sunday morning was God’s part of the story. Monday begins our part!

Look at how the earliest disciples spent the time after the resurrection:

  • Two of them decided to go home to Emmaus, so disappointed—stunned—by the events of the weekend.  “We had hoped that he was the one . . . .” (Luke 24)
  • Some were sequestered in their room, trying to decide if they believed the story of the women.
  • Thomas was out, just trying to figure things out for himself—not with the others.
  • Even after Jesus appeared to them and breathed on them the Holy Spirit, some of them decided to do some fishing while they waited in Galilee (John 21)
  • The disciples went to Galilee (home for many of them), but then returned to Jerusalem to wait for further instructions. That’s a lot of walking in the 50 days between Passover and Pentecost.

What are you doing the day after Easter?

Of course you are putting away the Easter eggs and sending the Sunday clothes to the cleaners—just like the disciples going fishing.

But what are you really doing after Easter?

  • Are you waiting for Power?
  • Are you waiting for an assignment?
  • Are you waiting for instruction?
  • Are you waiting for an epiphany?
  • Are you waiting for the persecution to settle down?

Waiting is appropriate for a while!  We see that with the first disciples, but waiting was not the pattern for the rest of their lives?

The Easter story was the beginning for them, not the end of their ministry!  And so it should be for all of God’s people.  Sunday resurrection gives us a new life!  This new life is the same new life that Jesus received, or, as Paul said in Romans 6:13:

but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

To “offer” is not to passively wait. To offer may be to actively wait, but in anticipation of a certain assignment.

The four Gospels all end with Monday assignments for these Jesus’ disciples and beneficiaries of the Sunday resurrection:

Matthew: 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark: 14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Luke: 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

John:  21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 

What are you going to do on Monday?  Today?

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I began my last post by imagining that the giant sequoia that fell over three hundred years ago suddenly some Sunday it appeared upright and alive again. What would the world do?

1.            The story would be printed and broadcast all over the world. For about five years, the site would almost rival Disneyland for yearly visitors.

2.            In spite of all the pictures and reports, some would not believe that it was true! (We talked about this in the last post: Fallen Monarch and Faith.

3.            Some people would begin worshipping the tree! Every Sunday there would be a gathering of thousands to talk about life and death and trees. Even hundreds of years later, those who now dance at Stonehenge on the spring equinox would come to California to dance around the wondrous sequoia, now called the Phoenix!

4.            Some would explain it through extraterrestrial powers.

5.            Scientists would immediately start searching for a rational explanation. Investigations of the tree itself would commence immediately. Although the very act defies scientific explanation, prominent arborologists would offer a whole spectrum of speculative explanations for the phenomenon.

6.            And some century in the not-too-distant future, someone would challenge the old story that the tree had ever been dead, suggesting that the more primitive science of the 21st century could not really know if it were dead or not.

You are much too smart an audience to need me to connect the dots for you between the fantastical sequoia story and the resurrection of Jesus.  And we have already talked about why we believe that Jesus is alive, so now let’s talk about something much harder:  how has this historical event changed your life?

Try to finish this sentence: Because Jesus was raised from the dead and is now alive, I ______________.I’ll go first:

1.            I have confidence that his claim to be the Son of God is true. If the resurrection is not a lie, then I become more confident of all that He said.

2.            I believe that if he conquered death, he is powerful enough to do the miracles attributed to him. He can calm the storms, he can feed the multitudes, he can raise the dead.

3.            All the dead people he raised died again! That’s not enough. I once read a fictional account describing Lazarus after Jesus called him out of his tomb and it was not pretty. Lazarus suffered from all kinds of skin and health issues for having been dead for four days.  But to restore life never to be lost again, now that is something I long for. That’s what Jesus has promised, confirming his promise with his own resurrection!

4.            I can live my life now with less fear of death. I do sometimes fear dying—the process is often difficult—but  that is a different fear than one of death as annihilation.

5.            I can approach my own death without a horrible sense of loss—because the promise of resurrection means that everything good, every person I have ever known who has sought God will continue to be a part of my life—forever! All the beauty of God’s creation will be redeemed. Whatever wisdom and truth I have discovered in my life will not be lost, but will be confirmed as God’s own truth—meant to be discovered.

6.            Because Jesus was raised from the dead and is now alive, I have a purpose and a task worthy of spending one’s entire life doing, that is, doing good and telling the story so that it is easier for others to believe that Jesus is alive.  My own resurrection does not depend on any success quota or measurement of skill, rather my own resurrection was accomplished on that Sunday when Jesus rose.

Do not leave this page without having answered the question: What difference does the fact of the resurrection make in your life? 

That’s my gift to you today!

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Fallen Monarch in Mariposa Grove

After you park in Mariposa Grove in the southern part of Yosemite, you walk past a sequoia that probably fell over three hundred years ago, which today is called the Fallen Monarch. White people first saw it in 1857, but the tree was already on the ground. The bark contains chemicals that help it resist decay, not eternally but for much longer than average trees.

What if next Sunday, visitors to the park came, parked in the parking lot, reading their usual park material, walked to the edge of the parking lot and saw this huge tree standing upright, roots in the ground, leafed out completely, and apparently growing again!  If they ran to tell the park rangers, the rangers would think they were crazy! If they published pictures on Facebook, people who had seen the dead tree would think the pictures were forged.  What would it take to convince the world that this tree that had been dead for 300 hundred years was now alive????

What if over 500 people told you that they had seen the tree alive?  What if they wrote accounts about it and published them on the internet?  Would you believe it then?

I keep thinking about the people who don’t believe that men ever landed on the moon or that JFK is alive on the top floor of Parkland Hospital in Dallas—or that the president was not born in Hawaii. To believe that something is true requires more than evidence; it requires faith!

What happened the day after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?  I know that the priests and the elders paid off the guards to spread the story that the body was stolen, so whoever talked to them had their disbelief confirmed by “eyewitnesses.”

I don’t know how the high priest explained the ripped curtain in the temple, or how the people in Jerusalem who saw those bodies of the godly men and women who were raised and who had wandered into the city and “were seen by many.”

Even the remaining eleven of the inner circle had trouble believing.  Mark reports, probably as Peter reported to him, that Jesus “rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead” (16:14)!  And Thomas held out at least another eight days!

How much harder must it be 2000 years removed to believe that Jesus rose from the grave! But for those of us who do believe it to be true, it changes everything—absolutely everything!

So the question for today is why do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus? If you only give me “evidences,” then I think your faith is vulnerable to rational attack. If your belief, however, includes “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), then you need have no fear that you’ve been tricked!

God gave life to the tiny seed that fell to the ground 2000 years ago that became the giant sequoia. He was there when it fell over. God is not only the First Cause, He also creates the essential Effect of every cause.  I believe God caused the Virgin Mary to conceive and give birth; I believe that Jesus was killed on Friday, and I believe with all my heart that He not only was raised on Sunday but is just as alive today. It’s my choice to believe. But I can choose to believe because God gives life to tiny seeds!

Next: What does the resurrection on Sunday change about Monday for you?

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