Thursday, April 17, 2014

4/18/14- Mary and Jesus

11Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They 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.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15He asked her, “Woman, 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.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
18Mary 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. (John 20:11-18)

Thoughts: This is the first recorded appearance of Jesus.  It is to a woman.  The women were the first to go to the disciples to spread the news that the tomb was empty.  But here it is also clear the women saw Jesus first.  Let us explore this a bit.
     Mary was brave and caring to come to the tomb at all.  She saw the stone rolled away and then saw two angels at the tomb with the body of Jesus gone.  She was convinced someone had stolen the body.  When Jesus approached her, she did not recognize Him. 
Maybe she did not recognize Him because of his flogging and wounds.  While Jesus was healed the scars in his hands, side, and marks on his face were still there.  Maybe her tears blinded her.  Maybe she was not expecting Jesus to be there so she did not recognize Him.  
When Jesus called her name, she recognized His voice, His call, His love and responded.  Mary who anointed Jesus' feet with oil, now hugged Jesus with all her might.  Jesus wanted her to know he would not stay on earth forever, but would ascend to heaven.  So holding on to Him would not keep Him here.
     Mary's response was to tell the disciples boldly.  She was not worried that they might think she had lost her mind.  Instead she was concerned that they hear the good news.  Our attitude should be the same.  We need to tell others the good news no matter what they might think of us- the messengers.  

Prayer: Help me to speak forth your hope and good news, O Lord.  


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

4/17/14- The Empty Tomb

1Early 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. 2So 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!”
3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (John 20:1-10)

Thoughts: When Mary (and her friends) left it was still dark.  Hope seemed gone.  Death, evil, pride and meaninglessness seemed to win.  Yet that was not the last word.  The first sign Mary saw was that the tomb was empty.
      Jesus' enemies did not dispute that the tomb was empty.  The Jews claimed the disciples stole the body.  The Romans never doubted that they killed Jesus- even Tacitus (116 AD), their senator and historian said, "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus."  They did not doubt that Jesus died and that the tomb was empty.  But they never admitted to the resurrection either.  The Jews began the rumor that the scared and cowardly disciples overwhelmed the sleeping guard (guards did not sleep or they were severely punished-and if their prisoner they guarded escaped they would be killed).  Peter and John ("the other disciple" here) were brave enough to run and find out what was going on.  They believed the tomb was empty, but they did not fully understand that Jesus was raised until they saw Him.  We do not have to fully understand God or Jesus in order to have faith.  
God leaves fingerprints of His actions everywhere.  The empty tomb is but a fingerprint to tell us God had been there and had done some amazing work.  It is a forensic monument to His stupendous work.  

Prayer: Lord, you leave signposts that point to your work and love.  Help me to believe the signposts not because I fully understand, but because of who you are.  

(Empty first century tomb in Israel)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/16/24- The Burial of Christ

38Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.e 40Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)

Thoughts: The Apostle Paul said that he passed on to us what was of first importance that Jesus died, was buried and was raised according to the scriptures.  We often talk about His dying and raising, but this talks about the neglected of the three- His burial.
       Jesus' burial has significance.  It tells us Jesus really died.  Living people do not get buried- and if they do, they do not stay living long.  A tomb would be the least likely place to  be revived from the dead.
     Jesus burial also means He is able to sympathize with those who die.  He descended into the grave, sheol, hades- the realm of death.  But while He is able to understand death fully, no grave could contain or seal Him in death.
      Some used the burial to raise the question of the descent into hell of Jesus.  The western medieval way of looking at this would be to say Jesus  went to purgatory to preach to the spirits of the saints of the Old Testament and others (1 Peter 3:19- "he also went and preached to the spirits in prison."  This descent is also hinted in the Old Testament (Ps. 49:15; Hos. 13:14; Jonah 2:2,6; Isa. 26:19) an the New (Acts 2:31; Eph. 4:9-10; 2 Pt. 4:6).  While it was not added to the Apostles' Creed til 359, it was part of the writings of Ignatius, Polcarp, Irenaeus, and Tertullian in the early church.  This would not be a universalistic belief as some in hell would still reject the message and person of Christ.  Some Roman Catholics spoke of this as the "Harrowing of Hell" meaning the conquering of the devil and bringing to Himself those who had never heard.  Certainly there is a sense of the conquering of evil in the cross.  Some Protestants following Aquinas (eg. Luther) believed Jesus took the time between His death and resurrection to go to hell and tell those who were there what He has done- so that they too would recognize His justice- with the knees of those under the earth bowing to Him (Phil. 2:10).  John Calvin said that Jesus went through hell on the cross for us when He became our sacrifice for sin and said, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"  Hell certainly is a God-forsaken state.  For many Reformed thinkers, the burial of Christ was another part of the humiliation of Christ- along with coming to earth, having no home or possessions on earth, and dying a humiliating and unjust death.  So, many combine His burial with His humiliating descent into hell. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your burial, that reminds me of your great love.  No tomb, no grave could hold you.  

(Peter Huys 1545-77 Harrowing of Hell)

     Michelangelo- Pieta- Mary holding the dead Christ before burial

Monday, April 14, 2014

4/15/14- Jesus' Death

28Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”c 37and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John 19:28-37)

Thoughts: John records two last sentences of Jesus.  "I am thirsty" which emphasizes His humanity, and human weakness.  They offered him bitter drink that would not satisfy His thirst.  They put the sponge on the hyssop plant- which is the same plant that they used for putting the Passover Lamb's blood on the doorpost.  Jesus really suffered for us.  There was an old heresy that said Jesus was just a Phantom- a spirit- and not a real, suffering human.  But "I thirst" is a reminder of His vulnerability and weakness. 
"It is finished" (teletesrtai) is a reminder that Christ's work- His teaching, earthly example, and daily humble sacrifices- culminating in the cross is over and done.  The sins were paid for. The sacrifice is real. 
The last paragraph is a reminder that Jesus really did die.  When they pierced His side blood and water came out.  It is a sign of a broken heart.  The crucifixion causes heart and lung failure- when fluid forms around the membranes of the heart and lungs. The piercing of the side was an indication and affirmation that Jesus really died.  

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that you became human and suffered for us.  Thank you that you sacrificed so much for us and gave yourself.  Help me to believe and trust in you.
(Velasquez 1632)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

4/14/14- Jesus' Cares For His Mother

25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,b here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.  (John 19:25-27)

Thoughts: Jesus loved his mother to the end.  As the eldest son, he took care of his mother, and made sure she was cared for after his physical death.  He honored his mother in accordance with the fifth commandment.  In our day of generational wars, many are degrading the elderly saying they are not "making room" for the next generation.  This will get worst before it gets better.  Jesus teaches us to care for our parents when we are adults.
     If you go to Ephesus in Turkey today, you will see a house on top of a mountain they call "Mary's house."  Ephesus was also the final place of John, "the disciple" mentioned here. Jesus did not shirk his earthly, physical responsibilities.  Legend has it that Joseph died when he was a teenager and that Jesus supported the rest of the family until he reached 30.  Jesus leaves us an example of someone who cared for His family. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to remember and care for those you have placed around me.  Thank you for your example of love for family and kin. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

4/13/14- Who is in Charge?

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETHTHE KING OF THE JEWS20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”a
So this is what the soldiers did. (John 19:16-24)

Thoughts: This passage begins and ends with the soldiers.  They "took charge."  They "crucified him." They handled his clothes.  Jesus was as meek as a Passover Lamb being led to the slaughter.  Jesus said nothing this whole time.  Pilate was the one who made the claim for Jesus that He was a King.  This passage points out that Jesus was not only tortured physically, but He was also humiliated and mocked.  Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the crucifixion.  It is clear that Jesus simply did not try to fulfill these prophesies.  Some of them were fulfilled by His enemies (His betrayal, the casting lots for his garment, the not breaking of His bones).  It is clear, even to the detail who is the real King here.  While the passage says that "the soldiers took charge", the One hanging on the cross was the real King of Kings.  

Prayer: Lord, even in the tough times, help me to trust in you as my King. 

(Montegna 1549)

Friday, April 11, 2014

4/12/14- Pilate Judges Jesus

7The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
11Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:7-16)

Thoughts: Pilate, the governor, was afraid of condemning Jesus- but he was also afraid of losing his earthly position and reputation more.  That the Jews were accusing Jesus of being the Son (essence) of God, Pilate was concerned about this case more than others.
   Pilate asked Jesus where he was from.  In my area of the country, this is a polite but also important part of our identity.  Jesus did not want to argue with Pilate and he knew it mattered little what He said.  Pilate gloried in his power to give or take life.  But Jesus reminded Pilate that all life is a gift of God and not his to give or take alone.  God uses even unbelieving, disobedient, ruthless politicians to accomplish His will.  In the end, the Jews wanted him dead over Jesus' divine claims while Pilate did not want Jesus' kingship to interfere with Rome's rule.  

Prayer: Lord, do not let my hold on this world be so tight that I cannot hold onto your truth and what is right.