We are going to CA tomorrow. I am so excited because I will get to hug my son, daughter-in-love and grandsons for the first time since December 2019! We are going to be able to celebrate our youngest grandson’s 12th birthday and see his older brother play football in his last season before he graduates and goes off to college in Arizona.
I am so excited about being there and everything we will experience with our family. I am not so excited about driving the 1290-mile round trip. While there are parts of the trip where the driving is easy, even a bit boring, there are also several sections of the route that are nerve-wracking. Bob is 81, I am 74. Even though we have made this same trip many times since moving to Idaho in 1993, it has become harder as we age.
Kind of like life ain’t it!
We look forward to our final destination. (2 Corinthians 5:8: We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.)
We have many miles to travel. (Philippians 3:14: One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.)
Some of those miles are difficult and nerve wracking before we arrive. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17: Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.)
Still, no matter the miles, no matter whether the journey is easy or difficult, we do not quit – we keep our eyes on what lies at the end of that journey. (2 Corinthians 4:18: So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.)
It is Easter Sunday morning as I write this, and my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I spent Good Friday and Silent Saturday watching a replay of Christian movies, “Fireproof,” “Heaven is For Real,” “Courageous,” “Facing the Giants,” to name a few.
Bob was fishing with a friend all day Friday from early in the morning until dinner time and was in and out Saturday busy with errands. I sat in the big lounge chair in the living room enjoying the sunshine coming through the window as I watched, prayed, meditated, and listened.
I started crying sometime around mid-day Friday. It was not really tied to anything I was watching; it was just a sorrow that began to fill my soul. Saturday, around mid-day, I as I watched “Facing the Giants” and that great “death crawl scene,” I started to weep (loudly).
I think I would have cried most of the afternoon, but my son came to pick up some things and I had to get my emotions under control. I did, however, discover the source of my tears.
If you have never seen the “death crawl scene” in “Facing the Giants,” there is a link to the video below. As I watched that scene, I was overwhelmed … I have prayed and prayed and fought for many years to see revival in our church, our city, our state, our nation. I was stunned by thoughts that retiring at the end of the year seems like I am quitting on the 50-yard line – without reaching the end zone.
I have many reasons to retire, age, health, energy … the main reason is that I am sure I heard God’s direction correctly that the Middleton church needs a younger person to take over, my work there is done. I was also aware that somewhere along the way I would have second thoughts. What I never expected was the intensity of those second thoughts and the shocking truth that I have only reached the 50-yard line ….
I am not writing this because I plan on changing my mind or want others to encourage me to change my mind. I am not seeking sympathy. I guess I put these thoughts into words as a reminder that life can be difficult even when we are directly within the will of God.
Matthew 6:10: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
“On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” [John 20:1 HCSB]
“In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’” [John 20:19 HCSB]
Yesterday we celebrated Resurrection Sunday, remembering our LORD Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. I have heard it said that the stone could not keep Him in, and the locked door could not keep Him out.
Today, one day after Easter 2021, we celebrate the fact that nothing has changed. Jesus is (still) Risen, He is Risen Indeed(!) and His resurrection life has marvelous ramifications for those of us who have placed our faith in Him.
“…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” [Hebrews 7:24-25 NIV]
That wonderful word that describes our salvation as “completely” is translated in the NKJV as “to the uttermost.”
It is “panteles” and means completely, entirely, perfectly, through all time.
Just as there was nothing on earth, in heaven or hell strong enough to hold Jesus that first Resurrection Sunday, there is nothing on earth, in heaven or hell strong enough to keep Him from saving His own! We live forevermore in “Jesus is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!” Hallelujah!
Job asked a question for which everyone seeks an answer. “If a man dies, shall he live again?” [Job 14:14 NIV]
John gave us the answer when he reported the events of Sunday following the crucifixion.
“In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” [John 20:19-20 HCSB]
“So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”
The One who was dead and buried, now was alive in their midst, still bearing the evidence of His crucifixion on His hands and side.
Later, Paul would tell the church at Corinth just what seeing the LORD Jesus that first Resurrection Sunday means for all of us.
“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” [1 Cor 15:20-22 HCSB]
“So in Christ, all will be made alive.”
Because He lives, I live. Because He lives, you live. Jesus our Christ took back the keys of death and the grave and set free all those who place their faith in Him.
It matters not how many times I have read or said or written … there are seven words that still thrill my soul!
Jesus is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!
I always think of the Saturday of Holy Week as a day of mourning. The followers of Jesus saw Him die on a Roman cross. They knew he was buried in a tomb, a great stone was rolled across the entrance, and a guard stationed to make sure Jesus stayed buried. Now they were hiding behind locked doors. They were fearful that the same ones who took their Master would now come for them.
There was more than just fear as they sat behind those locked doors. They shared a common guilt … most had deserted Him in his final hours. How could they go on after what they had done.
On this day they also shared a common grief. Not only with each other but also with God.
Long ago, in the days of Noah, God expressed His grief in mankind’s rebellion and wickedness.
“When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” [Genesis 6:5-6 HCSB]
It was that rebellion and wickedness which brought God’s Son to earth to fulfill the Father’s plan to bring His children back to Him. God’s Son, “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
“He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.” [Isaiah 53:3-4 NKJV]
Now as Jesus’ body was in the tomb, the followers of Christ got a small glimpse of the result of man’s wickedness and evil. Their friend, their leader was dead, and, on this day, their hope is crushed.
But as it has been said many times before … Sunday is Coming!
The Friday of Holy Week is the most intense day of all. On that Friday long ago, Jesus was tried before Pilate, tortured, crucified, died, and was buried. [You can read the events beginning in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 18]
It is tough for me to read through the Gospel accounts of that time between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. I know how it turns out … still reading about what my Savior and LORD endured is difficult.
Why do I find it so hard? Because of two little words found in the letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
“He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” [2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB]
Do you see those two little words right in the middle of that verse? Jesus suffered all “for us.”
When I read that verse, I often substitute “for me” in the place of “for us.”
“For me” makes it personal. It reaches into the depths of my heart and pierces any arrogance or pride that resides there. It makes me stop and wonder why Jesus would do that, why He would suffer that way, for “such a worm as I.”
I may never be able to answer that question, but I embrace His sacrifice and find peace in my soul.
So many events in the life of Jesus on the Thursday of Holy Week. They begin in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18. We see the Last Supper, the Agony in Gethsemane, the Betrayal and Arrest, and Jesus’ first trial before the Jewish Authorities.
For me, the significance is always Gethsemane. It was there Jesus saw and experienced in His Spirit the things that were about to unfold. They were so horrifying that He could have died right there in the garden.
He expressed His pain in Matthew 26:38: He said to his disciples when He asked them to pray and watch with Him, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” [HCSB]
Luke confirms the agony Jesus endured. “Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” [vs 43-44 HCSB]
It was at Gethsemane He asked the Father if there could be any other way. And, it was there that He fully surrendered His will to the Father’s.
From the moment Jesus surrendered His will to the Father’s, He never wavered. Through the betrayal, trials, torture, rejection, and crucifixion He was completely in control. He could have called angels to deliver Him from all of it, but He did not.
Jesus willingly fulfilled what the Father asked of Him. Because He did, we now have entry into the very Presence of God.
Thank you, sweet Jesus, for your obedience. Amen.
Not much is known about Wednesday of Holy Week and the activities of the LORD and His disciples. Perhaps since Tuesday was so busy, and the Passover (betrayal, trials, crucifixion) was just ahead, it was a day of rest in Bethany for Jesus and His friends. The only people who seem to be busy are those conspiring to arrest and kill Jesus.
“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus in a treacherous way and kill Him. ‘Not during the festival,” they said, “so there won’t be rioting among the people.’” [Matthew 26:3-5 HCSB]
Where does the hatred come from that causes people to seek the harm of others? The chief priests and elders did not like what Jesus said. They did not like what he did. They did not like that the people were attracted to Jesus more than they regarded them. So, their solution was to destroy him.
Not that much has changed, has it? We still seek to silence those who do not think like us or speak like us or act like us. We still regard as an enemy anyone who is different or whose political, social, or religious beliefs differ.
We can look back on Silent Wednesday and see the evil resident in men’s hearts and think we have become too civilized to respond in like manner. We may think we are too enlightened to hang people on a cross, or too sophisticated to act like those in the past.
But are we? We may not crucify literally, but how many people have we seen destroyed by the media, or public opinion (many of whom were later found to be innocent of what they were accused). How many times have we seen someone ruined because someone else put a target on their back simply out of spite? How many times have we seen the church “kill her wounded?”
No, the hearts of mankind are still deceitfully wicked … that is why Jesus came, that is why He willingly died on that cross, that is why He gave Himself for us … gave Himself even for those who conspired against Him that Silent Wednesday.
Something to think about this Silent Wednesday.
In the events of Holy Week, today is often labeled “Busy Tuesday.” Jesus was out in public with His disciples. He gave the “Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree,” had His authority challenged by and debated with the Jewish leaders, gave some warning parables, and talked about last things. You can find those events beginning in Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 20.
Perhaps the one that intrigues us most is His discourse on the things that will happen at the end of the age, found in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21. I think those things intrigue us because we see so many of them at least partially fulfilling in our time.
As we read those chapters, especially the two in Matthew, we often focus on the wars, earthquakes, famines, and such. But Jesus did not just tell us about the things going on around us, He warned us of how we are to act amid those things.
He gave the Parable of the 10 Virgins … “Therefore, be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.” [Matthew 25:1-13 HCSB]
He gave the Parable of the Talents … “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” [Matthew 25:14-30 HCSB]
He told about the Sheep and the Goats … “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” [Matthew 25:31-46 HCSB]
It is not enough to just be aware of the things that will happen at the End of the Age. In the midst of all the upheaval of the End Times, Jesus’ followers are to be alert, faithful, compassionate, and giving.