Tag Archives: resurrection

Today’s Scripture – July 3, 2018

Luke 24:44-49 (NIV)

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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.”

The disciples had calmed down enough that Jesus was able to help them start to understand some of what was going on. They shock of seeing Him alive was starting to fade, and in its place was a sense of awe at what they were experiencing.

But Jesus wasn’t going to waste a lot of time on niceties and chitchat. Luke actually compresses the teachings that Jesus gave to His followers over the 40-day span between His resurrection and His ascension into heaven (Acts 11:3) into the last ten verses of his gospel, hitting all of the high points, and leaving the details to be illustrated by the lives and the sermons of the post-Pentecost apostles as shown in the book of Acts.

The first point Jesus made is that the events of the past several days were not happenstance. Instead, they were all part of the divine plan progressively revealed clear back in Genesis (beginning with verse 3:15), extending through the prophets, and even laced throughout the poetry of the Psalms. And the plan was still working itself out; it wasn’t completed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Over every encounter that Jesus had with the disicples during the 40-day span before His departure, He retaught them what the Scriptures revealed of God’s plan. The sacrifice of the Messiah for sins and His resurrection were the central points to which everything prior pointed, and from which everything after derived its direction and meaning. The outflow of this plan would come when the walls of the Israelite people of God would be kicked out, making room for an expansion of God’s kingdom into all people groups (Revelation 7:9). This expansion of the kingdom through the message of repentance and forgiveness would start in Jerusalem, and then expand throughout Judea and Samaria, and from there to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8), becoming a mighty mountain that would grow to fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45a).

The disciples would be the ones through whom the message would go out and spread; they would be the initiators, the spark that would catch and spread far beyond the places that they themselves could go. But before they could accomplish that, they would have to be set on fire themselves. Excitement and joy would not be enough to see them through the challenges that they would face. So, God would be providing them divine power to move them forward. It would come to them in Jerusalem, and it would come soon.

Father, sometimes it is hard for us “New Testament Christians” to remember that there is no change of direction, no break in theology or philosophy between the Old Testament and the New. It is one story straight through. The New Testament is merely the ultimate revelation of who you are, the ultimate accomplishment of Your plan to redeem rebellious mankind that was set in motion during the first days of humanity’s existence. Every sermon that the disciples preached, and every letter that they wrote was chock-full of Scripture, Old Testament Scripture, and indeed, those are the Scriptures that Jesus opened the minds of the His followers to understand. Help us, as your people, to receive ALL that You have revealed to us of Your person and Your plan, so that we can help others to know about You as well. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 2, 2018

Luke 24:36-43 (NIV)

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Those who had heard the news that Jesus had risen from the dead from reliable witnesses (Mary Magdalene, Peter, Cleopas, and his companion) believed their testimony, believed that Jesus really had risen from the dead. But they believed it in the abstract. But when Jesus suddenly appeared in the room with them, despite the fact that the doors were locked (John 20:19), they abandoned their new-found belief, and thought that they were seeing a ghost!

Jesus was troubled by this lack of acceptance of the truth of His resurrection. After all, He had told them several times exactly how all of this would play out, in enough detail that they should have simply received Him with joy when He showed up very much alive.

But Jesus was also patient and loving with these followers whom He had chosen to bear witness to the reality of the things that they were now seeing. Despite the fact that He had suddenly appeared in the locked room with them (after He had suddenly vanished in Emmaus!), He invited the whole assembly to not just see Him and hear Him, but to actually touch Him so that they would know that His body was not a phantom, but real flesh and bones.

He even showed them the nail holes in His wrists and ankles in an effort to prove that it really was Him in the flesh. But when they were still keeping their distance, joyful at the possibility that this was all true, but at the same time terrified at the sheer miraculousness of it all, He asked for something to eat. They gave Him some broiled fish left over from their supper, and He ate it in front of them, final proof that He was not just a ghost, but had actually risen from the dead.

Father, sometimes we are very much like these disciples. Sometimes we pray for a mighty miracle, but we are filled with a terrified awe when You actually answer and work in the situation in ways that we can’t explain. But still You are patient with us, helping us to receive the miracle and deepen our faith in You and in what You are capable of doing. Thank You for Your power, and thank You just as much for Your love and grace that continue to draw us forward to You. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 29, 2018

Luke 24:28-35 (NIV)

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Cleopas and his companion, both disicples of Jesus, although they were both prevented from recognizing Him as He walked with them and taught them on the road to Emmaus, were completely fascinated with what He was teaching about the Messiah directly from the Scriptures. So, when they reached their house in Emmaus, and when Jesus simply said good-bye and started to continue down the road, the two disciples begged Him to stay with them for the night. Such hospitality was common in Israel, and He agreed to stay.

The first order of business was a simple evening meal, bread and vegetables, with maybe a small portion of meat or a cup of soup. They put the food out, then all gathered on cushions around the low table to eat. Before they started, Jesus picked up the bread, lifted it high, and chanted the prayer of thanksgiving. Then He broke the bread in half and gave it Cleopas and his friend.

As he chanted the prayer, the two disciples could feel goosebumps start to rise on their skin. The sound of His voice and the rhythm of the chant were eerily familiar. And when He broke the bread and leaned forward to hand it to them, He looked each directly in the eye for the briefest moment.

Suddenly they both recognized who it was that they had been walking with and talking with. It was like scales had fallen off their eyes so that they could see. They both leaped to their feet while shouting in unison, “Jesus!” And, at that moment, He simply vanished, leaving only a dent in the cushions where He had been sitting.

The room was as silent as a tomb for several seconds as their minds spun rapidly, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Then they looked at each other, each seeing their own dumb-struck wonder reflected in the other’s face. And then, finally, the words came, spilling out all at once: “That was Jesus! It had to be Him! That was why His words had such a powerful effect on us! He really has risen from the dead!”

In seconds they had grabbed their walking sticks and thrown their cloaks across their shoulders. But their sticks never touched the ground as they set off at a dead run in the fading daylight back toward Jerusalem. The others had to know about this!

When they arrived breathless in the city, they headed straight to the upper room, where they found the whole place already abuzz with excitement. Not only had Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18), He had appeared to Simon as well! They listened closely as the stories were told, their excitement steadily growing as the ramifications of all this sunk in. Then they shared their own experience with the risen Jesus while the rest of the people in the room sat in silent wonder.

Father, it strikes me as I witness these scenes that none of these men and women had taken an evangelism class, and I’m pretty sure none of them had had advanced theological training either. But when it came to sharing about Jesus, none of that slowed them down a bit! All they did was to share their own experience with the risen Jesus. And, in a very real sense, that’s all that You have called us to do as well. Lord, forgive us for allowing a lack of “credentials” to keep us silent. Our only necessary credential is experience with You. And forgive us for allowing ourselves to be intimidated by the idea of being a witness. We don’t need memorized presentations, lists of verses, and answers to commonly asked questions. All we really need is a life-transforming experience with You that we can share. Help us to just rely on that, and on Your loving presence, to help us. Amen.

 

For those of you who enjoy my meditations on the Scriptures, I have compiled, updated, and reformatted the meditations on the entire book of Mark in a single volume. Entitled “When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on Mark,” it is available on Amazon.com (Search for William S. Robertson When We Listen) or on eagerpress.com (no search necessary – it comes up on the front page of the site!).

God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – June 26, 2018

Luke 24:9-12 (NIV)

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

The women ran from the tomb in fear, and went straight to the disicples, who were lying low in the upper room. Hurriedly, with their words spilling over each other, they shared what had just happened: the rolled-away stone, the empty grave clothes, the light, the angels, and their message of resurrection and fulfilled prophesies. But the disciples discounted their words completely – not because they were women, but because what they were saying was so far outside normal experience. Things just didn’t work that way in the real world!

But Peter, after a moment’s hesitation, got up and decided to check things out for himself. Even if you discounted the story about the angels, something was clearly not right at the tomb and needed to be checked out. (John makes a point of telling us in John 20:3-9 that he went along with Peter to the tomb, even outrunning him!) Jesus had told them all several times that He would be killed by the gentiles and then rise from the dead. On one of those occasions, Peter had rebuked Him, and had been strongly rebuked himself (Mark 8:31-33). But Peter now realized that the first part of Jesus’ prophecy had been fulfilled in spades. Could the other part be fulfilled as well?

When Peter got to the tomb, he walked straight in, and saw exactly what the women had reported: the wrappings were still there, but the body was clearly gone.

As Peter left the tomb, a thousand possibilities flooded his brain. The body could have been stolen, but by whom? And for what purpose? He double-checked the area to make sure that he had the right tomb, but there was no mistake there. So, he simply left the garden, scratching his head in bewilderment.

The only theory that Peter was unwilling to consider at this point was the one that both the empty tomb and the women clearly attested to: that Jesus, true to His word, had indeed risen from the dead, and was now walking around somewhere alive again. Even when that idea popped briefly to the surface of his mind, he swatted it away. It was inconceivable! Things just didn’t happen that way.

Father, Jesus was right when He chided the disicples when He appeared to them later that day: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25) Even after all that they had seen Jesus do, none of His followers were even willing to consider that He could rise from the dead. They allowed their knowledge of the “real world” to dictate what they would consider possible for You to accomplish. They even discounted the wonders You had done in the past, under the rubric of “God doesn’t work that way anymore.” And, unfortunately, I hear that same rubric today in the Church, hear people putting the same limitations on what even Christians are willing to believe that You can do. Forgive us, Lord, and show us Your power in ways that will open us up to new possibilities. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 25, 2018

Luke 24:1-8 (NIV) On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” Then they remembered his words.

The Easter story has become so well-known among Christians that, for many, it has lost its wonder. But the events of that morning mark a profound break with “the way things always happen,” and have never allowed them to go back to the old way again.

Several of the women who had come to Jerusalem with Jesus had worked until sunset on Friday, the start of the Sabbath, in preparing herbs and spices, and then finalized their preparations as soon as the sun went down on Saturday, ending the day of rest. Their intent was to be back at Josephs tomb in the garden at first light on Sunday, somehow roll the immense stone away from the tomb’s opening, and then unwrap Jesus’ body, bathe it, anoint it properly with the scented oils that they had assembled, then rewrap it more carefully than the short time span had allowed for before the Sabbath had started. It was a final act of respect and devotion for the man that they had believed was the Messiah.

But imagine their surprise when they arrived and found the stone already rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. And imagine their dismay when they went in and found that Jesus’ body was gone. The grave clothes were still there (John 20:6-7), but they were collapsed, lying flat. They ran their hands quickly over them, but all they could feel was the cold stone slab beneath. The body was completely gone!

While they were still wondering, before they had even had time to do more than to cry out in dismay, the tomb was suddenly filled with a brilliant light that threw their shadows onto the wall in stark outline. They turned and saw two men behind them whose faces and clothes shone like the sun, and instantly they recognized them as angels, and fell with their faces to the ground in terror.

But the angels were not there as agents of God’s judgment; they were there as messengers of good news: Jesus was not there because He had risen from the dead, just as He had told them that He would. The fact that they were stunned and troubled by this, the fact that their minds had gone everywhere EXCEPT resurrection when they found the tomb empty, actually caused God Himself to be a little bemused. They so honored and respected Jesus, so honored His teachings, but they completely dismissed His prophecy that He would rise on the third day. God’s messengers accurately communicated that divine bemusement by their question and announcement: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

Father, unfortunately, I can absolutely understand exactly where those women were in their thinking, because we are still there today. We believe Your word right up to the point where we cease to see how Your promises can be fulfilled in our own strength, or by our own technology or modern science. But we rarely believe You beyond that. We believe that You can heal people from the things that we can treat medically. We believe You can help us to be successful in our calling if we work and strive at it. We believe You can transform lives through education and good Christian counseling. And we believe that You can raise the dead if EMTs are on the scene with defibrillators and it hasn’t been too long. But Your abilities are neither defined nor limited by our knowledge, our skills, or our technology. If You make a promise or tell us that You want to do something, the only thing that can stop it is our unwillingness to believe and act on Your direction (cf. Matthew 17:19-21). Forgive us, Lord, for our small faith. Help us, help me, to believe Your word completely, and to follow Your lead wherever You send us, so that Your supernatural power can work all around and through us. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 25, 2018

Luke 20:27-40 (NIV) Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The Pharisees had fallen before Jesus, as had those who had planned to trick Him into saying something that could be used to accuse Him before the Roman governor. Now came the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were the Jewish party from which all of the priests came, and from which the high priests were selected. They accepted only the five books of the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy) as authoritative, so their theological perspective was very narrow, and they were unwilling to include later revelations of God, His character, and His plans as revealed through the prophets and the Psalms.

Their agenda was different than the others who had approached Jesus recently, in that it was more theological. Jesus regularly preached on the future resurrection from the dead, which the Sadducees did not accept. In fact, since the Law did not specifically talk about an “afterlife,” they taught that this life was all that there was, and so any blessings or penalties that God wanted to bestow on someone would be given in this life.

They presented to Jesus what they considered the best logical argument against the resurrection. (They had no theological argument, since you can’t really argue theologically from the silence of Scripture.) Their argument was based on the biblical practice of levirate marriage, found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. If a man died without leaving any children to inherit his property and to carry on his name, the man’s brother was obligated to marry the woman, and the first child that she had would be considered the child of her first husband for the purpose of inheritance and for carrying on the man’s name in Israel.

The Sadducees presented the case where seven successive brothers had married the same childless woman. Their point was that, if there really was a future resurrection, it would cause all kinds of logistical problems, because all seven men had been legitimate husbands of the woman. So in the resurrection, there would be a terrible tug-of-war for marital rights that could even become bloody – unthinkable in God’s kingdom!

Jesus answer focused on two points. First, the future state of the resurrection is qualitatively different from the present world, and institutions like marriage will not be a part of it. And people themselves will be different, more akin to angels than what we now think of a the human state. They will no longer be subject to death and aging, so they won’t have to have children to support, and eventually replace them. Thus human logic can’t accurately judge or predict the future state of resurrection life.

The second point is that the Sadducees weren’t as familiar with even the Scriptures that they accepted as they believed they were. He directed them to Exodus 3:6 and 15, where Moses encountered God at the burning bush. In those verses God stated, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” As always, God chose His words carefully. He did not say that He WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that He IS their God, clearly indicating that these men were currently alive in His presence, though they had died in the world. Thus their own Scriptures supported Jesus’ theological position, and spoke clearly against their own.

Father, it is no great surprise that Jesus was the ultimate authority on the afterlife, since He came from Your presence to become incarnate on earth. And it is no surprise that He knew the Scriptures better than the Sadducees and all of the scholars of His day, since He had a hand in writing them. Help me to never rely on my own human reasoning or on human logic in spiritual matters or in interpretation of the Scriptures, but to rely solely on You and on the insights that You give through Your Spirit. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 23, 2018

Luke 16:27-31 (NIV) “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“’No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

The reality of his situation is finally starting to dawn on the rich man. He can receive no comfort or help from Abraham or Lazarus. His punishment is eternal, all because he was consumed by enjoyment of his possessions while he was alive, to the exclusion of being generous and loving to those around him who were in need.

So his mind turned from is own sad fate to his brothers, who were just as consumed by their stuff as he had been by his. If only there was some way to warn them so that they could repent and turn away from this dead-end track before it was too late.

In an instant the solution struck him: if Abraham would send Lazarus to his brothers, surely they would repent. After all, who wouldn’t listen to someone risen from the dead with an eye-witness account of the afterlife!?

But Abraham wouldn’t consider his request for three very good reasons. First, he had no authority to send someone back from the dead. That is God’s sole purview. Second, Lazarus is not the rich man’s servant, that he should run to do his bidding. But third, and most significantly, the rich man’s brothers, like he himself, had free access to the teachings of the law of Moses and the prophets that clearly showed them how they must live in order to avoid an eternity of suffering.

But the rich man was un-swayed. He knew that he himself had not paid attention to what the law taught about how to live as one of God’s people; he was too busy planning his investments and his feasts. And his brothers were cut from the same cloth. Even if the knew the law inside out, they were not likely to allow it to change their hearts. But if someone like Lazarus rose from the dead, that would catch their attention and open their hearts to change!

But Abraham saw clearly that if the brothers were willfully deaf and wouldn’t listen to the law and the prophets, even someone rising from the dead would not open up their hardened hearts to see how they were supposed to live, genuinely loving God, and loving others as well. In this, Jesus was taking a clear shot directly at the hearts of the Pharisees to whom He was speaking. They knew the law and the prophets inside out. In fact, most of them could quote large portions of the Scriptures. But many of them studied the law as a mechanism to win God’s favor so that He would increase their wealth. Their hard hearts had nothing of mercy about them. They despised those of their own people who were not as legalistically “righteous” as themselves, refusing to touch them, eat with them, or be near them for fear of contamination. And Jesus knew that even the reality of someone rising from the dead would have no impact on their hard hearts. Unfortunately, in just a short time, He would be proved right when these same leaders refused to have faith in Him after He Himself rose from the dead. Indeed, they tried to cover up His resurrection instead, and persecuted His followers who insisted on talking about it.

Father, Jesus was spot on about the hearts of the Pharisees. But we, even today, can fall into the same trap: following Your word because of the blessings we believe will come our way if we do, but not allowing our hearts to be filled with love, love for You, love for the lost, and love for those of the faith who are struggling. Change our hearts where You need to, Lord, so that we serve You out of unconditional love for You, and so that we love all of those around us with that same unconditional love. Amen,.

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