Tag Archives: resurrection

Today’s Scripture – January 16, 2019

John 20:19-23 (NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

This first appearance of Jesus to the gathered disciples was a watershed moment for all of them. It was when the news of Jesus’ resurrection moved from second-hand information through Mary Magdalene to first-hand, personal experience.

They were still laying low, locked into the upper room out of fear that the Jewish leaders would come and arrest them now that they had disposed of Jesus. The news of Jesus’ resurrection brought them more confusion than comfort at this point.

Suddenly, Jesus was right there with them. Bypassing the locked door, He just seemed to “appear” in the room. All of them jumped with fright, crying out from the sheer suddenness of His appearance. And they all pulled back from where He stood.

But Jesus simply smiled and gave them a hearty “Shalom!” (“Peace be with you!”) It took a little encouraging, but He drew His followers closer to Him. He held out His hands and showed them the holes pierced through his wrists. He pulled aside His robe and showed them the spear wound in His side. All of this proved to them that He was no ghost; it was really Him in the flesh!

The disciples were thrilled. Everyone was talking at the same time, asking questions and exclaiming their pleasure at His being there. Jesus raised a hand to silence them. They still had much to learn, and much to relearn in this new context that would make a whole lot of things they had only dimly understood before a lot clearer.

John squeezed a whole evening’s worth of teaching into one short paragraph. But he hit all the essentials. Jesus commissioned the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” These men, “apostles,” or “sent ones,” would now fully live up to that title. Before, Jesus had sent them on a couple of what we might call “short-term mission trips.” But now the mission would occupy the entire rest of their lives. As long as there was someone who had not heard the good news of the kingdom, as long as there was a single captive remaining in satan’s grip, they were to consider themselves on duty.

Jesus breathed on them to confer on them the Holy Spirit. This was a precursor to the complete filling that they would receive on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) but was necessary so that they could more fully understand all that He needed to teach them.

Finally, Jesus gave them great authority. This authority to pronounce forgiveness of sins ties in closely with His words to Peter (Matthew 16:19): “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” He also said essentially the same thing to all of the disciples a little later in Matthew 18:18 in the context of forgiving the brother who sins against them. The upshot is that, as the people of the kingdom, they would have the authority to forgive sins committed against them, and those sins would be forgiven by God. Conversely, they could withhold forgiveness, and that person would have to deal with God to have their sins forgiven.

A really good example of this in action (an example which shows that this promise is not just for the original apostles, but for all the people of the kingdom) is seen in Acts 7:60, where Stephen, dying from being stoned by the Sanhedrin, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” In that moment, based on his prayer and Jesus’ promise, that sin was not recorded against them in God’s record.

Father…WOW! I had never thought of it that way before. What an amazing thing we can do, just like Jesus did on the cross, praying for those who had hung Him up there, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Of course, it is clear that we can only forgive as Your representatives those sins committed against us, not simply issue a blanket forgiveness for the whole world. But still, that is a mind-boggling thing – a great privilege and a great responsibility. Help me to be more forgiving of others on the spot, realizing as I do now the power that that forgiveness can hold. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – January 15, 2019

John 20:17-18 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

When Mary Magdalene looked up and discovered that the man she was talking to outside the empty tomb was Jesus, alive again after being crucified, dead, and buried, she was completely overwhelmed with joy. She embraced Him in a tight hug that threatened to smother Him.

Jesus let her hold onto Him for just a moment, but then pulled Himself away. There was much to do now that He had risen, and of first importance was letting the disciples know that His body hadn’t simply vanished, but that He was really alive again, just as He had foretold.

So, He cautioned Mary that, joyful as she was, she needed to not stand there hugging Him. She needed to go and tell the disciples that He had risen, and that she had seen Him in person.

Jesus’ statement about returning to His Father seems confusing, especially the way that Jesus worded it. Even though people usually think of the Father living “up” somewhere beyond earth’s atmosphere, God’s presence is everywhere. So, Jesus wasn’t talking here about the ascension, which would come later. Jesus had risen from the dead, not simply like Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son, or even Lazarus, whose spirits were enabled to reanimate their current, albeit healed, bodies. Instead, He had risen and experienced the transformation of His physical body into the form that everyone will receive at the general resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42-55).

In that new form, His body itself was able make a smooth transition to standing in God’s presence. And He would be doing that right away, not permanently, as He would after the ascension, but for a time, in order to receive His marching orders for the next forty days. Then He would be back to speak with His followers.

In the meantime, He gave Mary the task of immediately going and delivering the good news to Peter, John and the rest that Jesus had truly risen!

Father, it would have been very easy for Mary, in her joy, to try to move Jesus into her agenda now that He was back. But even then, Jesus was only focused on doing Your will completely. Help each of us to have that same intensity of focus, that same dedication to your will that Jesus had, every moment, regardless of the circumstances. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – January 14, 2019

John 20:11b-16 (NIV)
As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Peter and John had left the tomb, shaking their heads in puzzlement over what had happened to Jesus’ body. Who would want to steal a body?! Nothing was making any sense.

Mary Magdalene stayed behind weeping at the tomb. Her heart had broken at Jesus’ arrest and execution, but this new development dismayed her beyond telling. She bent over and looked into the empty tomb again. She was so distraught that she wasn’t even shocked to see two glowing, white-clad men sitting on the slab, one at the head, the other at the foot. At some level it registered in her mind that these were more than just men, but that consideration found no place to stick in the middle of the haze that had taken over her mind.

The angels questioned her as to why she was crying. She should be rejoicing! The concrete fact of Jesus’ resurrection should have surged up in her mind in an unconquerable joy! They were more than a little puzzled when she responded with nearly the same words that she had used to deliver the news to the disciples: “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put Him.”

Without waiting for any additional input from the angels, Mary straightened up and turned away, nearly running into Jesus Himself, who was standing right behind her. Lowering her eyes in shame and confusion, her eyes so dimmed and blurred by her tears that she had no idea who the man was. But His presence in the garden at that time of the day caused her to figure that He was the gardener, who might know what had happened here.

Jesus was puzzled, and even slightly amused, that this woman who had known Him so well for more than two years didn’t recognize Him. So, He asked her straight out, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Mary’s answer was a heart-breaking plea for help: “If you have moved Him for some reason, show me where you have put Him, and I’ll go and get Him.” She had no idea what she would do with the body if this “gardener” did take her to Jesus, but she would figure it out.

All it took was one word, spoken softly and a bit teasingly, but in the voice that cut through the fog in her grief-addled brain and struck an instant note of recognition: “Mary.”

Mary couldn’t believe it! She quickly looked up into the smiling face that she knew on sight, even through her tears. It was Jesus! She gasped out her recognition: “Rabboni!” Then she threw her arms around Him, holding Him so tight that He could barely breathe.”

Father, it is interesting for me to consider the fact that the angels, and even Jesus Himself, were amazed, and even a little amused at the grief Mary was showing while standing in front of the proof of Jesus’ promised resurrection that was literally staring her in the face. She was so blinded by her grief that she was missing out on the sheer, mind-boggling joy that she should have been experiencing instead. But we humans tend to do that. We allow our fears, our frustrations, even our sadness, to dim our eyes and prevent us from seeing all that You are doing that could instead bring us great joy and strengthen our faith. Help me to see, Lord, past all the events of our day and my emotions about them, to what You are accomplishing, so that my heart can experience all the true joy that You have for me. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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Today’s Scripture – January 13, 2019

John 20:3-11a (NIV)
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.

Mary Magdalene had brought the news that Jesus’ body had been taken away, and after only a moment, both Peter and John had rushed off to the garden tomb outside the city wall to see for themselves. They were both running, but John, in a small point of pride, points out that he outran Peter and got to the tomb first.

To touch or enter a tomb or come into contact with a dead body would make a person ceremonially unclean for seven days. To become clean, they also had to undergo two ceremonial washings with the water of purification on days three and seven (Numbers 19:11-13). So, when John came to the tomb, he stood outside the door and just stooped down to look in, carful to not touch the rock face. Peter, on the other hand, arrived a few seconds after John and strode right into the tomb, determined to check things out for himself. And, with a shrug, John followed him in.

There was the slab with the grave clothes lying empty. In addition, the cloth that Joseph and Nicodemus had passed under Jesus’ chin and tied over His head to keep His mouth closed was folded up and laid on the slab apart from the rest of the pieces of linen. John indicates that the two disciples saw the empty cloths and believed. But all that they believed at that time was that the body was no longer in the tomb. John carefully notes that they did not yet grasp that Jesus had risen from the dead.

As they left the tomb to walk back to town to tell the others, they passed Mary Magdalene, who had followed them back there. There was nothing they could say by way of explanation. They simply nodded their heads solemnly to confirm the absence of the body, shrugged their shoulders helplessly, and walked past her, leaving her weeping at the empty tomb.

Father, knowing “the rest of the story,” it is tragic that Peter and John left so soon. If they had stayed just a few moments longer, they would have seen the risen Jesus Himself when he came back to the tomb and talked to Mary. But they had news that they believed couldn’t wait, so they left. How often do we behave similarly and, in our lack of patience, miss out on what You are doing where we had been just moments before! Give us patience, Lord, so that we don’t move away from where You are working before You are done, so that we can see the whole scope of what Your hand has accomplished. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – January 11, 2019

John 20:1-2 (NIV)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

The other gospel writers make it clear that Mary Magdalene (along with Mary, Salome, and some other women – Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1) went to the tomb very early that Sunday morning with a distinct purpose in mind. They had watched Joseph and Nicodemus prepare Jesus’ body for the hasty burial on Friday afternoon, but were dissatisfied with what had been done. Because of the haste caused by the speedily approaching sundown which would begin the Sabbath, Jesus’ body hadn’t been properly washed or anointed with oil. It had simply been wrapped in linen and spices and sealed into the tomb.

Immediately after the tomb had been sealed, the women went into town and bought some oils and spices before the markets closed and prepared their supplies before the Sabbath began. Their intention was to go to the tomb at first light on Sunday, after the Sabbath was over (Luke 23:56), and to redo the job more properly.

As they walked to the tomb on Sunday morning, they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to get in, because the stone that they had seen rolled in front of the door was huge, very heavy (Mark 16:3). But when they got there, they found the stone moved to the side, and the tomb wide open; not a good sign!

They looked into the tomb (they knew that they had the right one, because they had watched the burial standing right across from it – Luke 23:55), but the tomb was empty. Only the burial cloths were laying on the slab, flat and empty (John 20:5).

Mary took off right away, leaving the other women in the dust. She ran to the upper room where the disciples were staying and gasped out the news: someone had broken into the tomb and had stolen Jesus’ body. And she had no idea where the body had been taken!

Nobody moved or said anything for a few moments while the incomprehensible news sank in. Then everyone started talking and moving at once.

Father, the actions of the women and the disciples at what should have been good news and solid confirmation of what Jesus had told them shows that they never really understood or believed Jesus when He told them that He would rise from the dead. How sad! They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised King, the Savior of the world, but they wouldn’t believe what He had promised. It struck me just now how similar we are today. We believe all those things about Jesus, but we discount or reinterpret promises He made to His followers because we don’t really believe that they can be true for us. Forgive us, Lord! Help us to look at those promises again, and to receive them in the simple faith that Jesus never promised anything that He is not able to literally fulfill. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – November 28, 2018

John 16:16-22 (NIV)
“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Jesus wasn’t being trying to be enigmatic or mysterious by saying, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,” although the clear meaning of His words didn’t make sense to His disciples. They were still so focused on His sad statements about His upcoming departure that they couldn’t see past that.

Jesus knew that His arrest, trial, and execution were going to be devastating to His followers, so He was trying to show them a reason for hope and joy in the events that would happen on the other side of all that. Jesus’ crucifixion would happen in less than twelve hours, His death in less than eighteen. But His resurrection was less than sixty hours away and would last forever.

After Jesus’ arrest, death and burial, the disciples were going to be without him for a time. But Jesus was trying to help them understand that that short period of darkness was not to be a period of despair, but one of hopeful, expectant waiting for the fulfillment of His prophecies.

Jesus used the image of a woman in labor to help His followers understand that their pain, understandable though it would be, was not only NOT going to be the last word on the issue but would soon be forgotten in the joy that they would experience afterwards. And that joy in seeing the resurrected Jesus would never be taken from them; it would become a permanent reality that was going to transform the world.

The reality of the resurrection should still inform every event in a Christian’s life today. That reality lies behind Jesus’ statement: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV) And it lies behind Paul’s statement that “our light and momentary troubles (which, in Paul’s case included such things as persecution, beatings, and imprisonments) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV) When we experience the reality of the resurrected Jesus, everything else in our lives, all our trials and even persecution and suffering, lose their sharp edges and become far less significant in the light of His glory.

Father, this is a really good reminder. So often the events in our lives can overwhelm us and drive us to despair, pushing aside the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and our sure salvation because of it. Help us to always keep Jesus front and center in our lives, so that, despite the problems that we will surely face, our joy in that reality will be our assurance, a solid place to stand, and our guiding star. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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Today’s Scripture – October 11, 2018

John 12:23-26 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Jesus was very aware that, despite the wave of popularity that He was riding, despite the kudos He had received, and even despite the rapt attention that was being paid to Him by this crowd that was currently hanging on His every word, this was not a public relations tour that He was on. Even the word that the Greek-speaking Jews who had come from so far away wanted to meet with Him could not sway Him from the reality of what He was there to do.

The glorification that many of His followers were looking for would come, but it was on the far side of a dark, pain-filled chasm, and could not be accessed without descending into that chasm and ascending on the far side. Jesus had come to Jerusalem this time specifically to be arrested, beaten, killed and buried. Yes, he would rise again as He knew very well, but not until after He had willingly gone through the other things first.

The words that Jesus spoke here would have struck the people who were listening to Him as odd, inscrutable. And they would have struck His disicples the same way, because they could not hear them in the context in which Jesus spoke them.

Jesus knew that new and expanded life could only come through death and transformation. If a person tries to keep a kernel of wheat, it will ultimately rot away. The things of the earth are not built to last forever. It is only as the kernel is buried in the ground and transformed that it will sprout and grow new kernels, many times more than what was planted.

Jesus knew that for God’s plan to go forward, He had to lay His life down, be willing to die, to be buried and, in the process, allow His body to be transformed into one that would be able to ascend into heaven and last forever. By grasping life and the fame He was experiencing right then, He could continue to gather a crowd, maybe even rise to temporary power in the hierarchy of the world, a rise that would ultimately be snuffed out by His eventual death. But if He followed God’s plan, laying His life down deliberately so that He could take it up later, His influence and the reach of the kingdom would extend to the ends of the earth and last forever.

The same was true of those who intend to follow Jesus. Those who play it safe in order to hold on to their earthly lives will ultimately lose their lives anyway, and will also lose any chance of powerfully impacting the world for the kingdom of God. But those who follow Jesus, who walk boldly forward in obedience to God’s commands and leading, even into the very jaws of death, will find abundant life on the other side of the chasm, and will have an influence for the kingdom beyond anything they could ever imagine.

Father, this is an amazing promise that we, as Your people, really need to understand and take hold of. But, at the same time, we must realize that the way to receiving the fulfillment of this promise is the way of the cross, the way of total surrender, the way of death. Yet it is also the way of glory, the way of victory, and the way to transformation and eternal life. I choose that way! Amen.

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