authority, compassion, cross, death, faith, forgiveness, Jesus Christ, life, miracles, resurrection

Mary Sees Him, #104

Mary Magdalene and an Empty Tomb

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 

“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”

John 20:14-15

Mary Magdalene would’ve been the last one I would have chosen to be the first witness. If it was me, I would have gone straight to Caiaphas, or gave Pilate a good scare–“I told you so.” He didn’t go to the Temple and to show off his resurrection power. He zapped no one.

It fascinates me, but Jesus didn’t show off his power. Instead Mary was chosen, the harlot, and the one who he cast out seven demons. Simple, humble Mary. The one whom he forgave. And he comes quietly, and gently to her.

But he’s alive!

Brutally killed, taken off the cross and carefully laid in a tomb–but Jesus comes to life!

The most powerful testimony of truth of the Gospel rests here in the resurrection. Our faith hinges on this. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ bones still lay in a tomb, and we are still dead in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

There is so much in this passage; the implications are enormous.

“What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.”

     Frederick W. Robertson

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His Last Breath, #103


“Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I commit my spirit to you,” and with those words he died.”

Luke 23:46, LB

The cross had done its vicious work–it brutalized Jesus, and we see him broken and nailed to it. So much is happening, it’s quite hard to assimilate it all. It’s difficult to focus on just one thing. Several events seem to be happening all at once.

  1. An eclipse of the sun, darkness at 3 pm. It lasted three hours.
  2. An earthquake that shook the entire scene, it was strong enough to split rocks.
  3. The veil in the temple that separated the holy from the holiest, torn from top to bottom.
  4. Resurrections, with dead people wandering through the streets of Jerusalem, preaching.
  5. The mocking thief, and the salvation of the one who believed in Jesus.
  6. A centurion, most likely overseeing the soldiers, declaring that Jesus was “the son of God.”
  7. The women disciples who had followed Jesus, standing and witnessing all of this some distance away. Eleven of the twelve “disciples” were absent.
  8. John given the charge to watch over Jesus’ mother.

Each are significant in their own right.

These are all noteworthy, and this post could take up one of them and go in any direction. Besides these eight main observations, there many other details that could be mentioned. Needless to say, the crucifixion of Jesus profoundly effects every person who has ever lived.

They say the last words of a dying man are significant, and many books have been written about what people have said at the moment of death. We expect to hear some final wisdom (and often we’re disappointed.) We now hear the last words of Jesus, and they’re packed with meaning.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  This is the last thing Jesus spoke. We know that he had been separated from the Father because of our sin. Yet now we hear the faith of one who could hold on to his spirit while he died.

He had been beaten to an inch of his life.

He has been mocked and spit upon and made to wear a crown made of thorns. He stumbled through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying his cross–down what we now call the Via Dolorosa (lit. “the way of suffering.”)

“When he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

1 Peter 2:23

We see his faith in the Father’s mercy. At the very last moment he lays his spirit into the hands of God. We must remember, he is not the victim of a terrible tragedy, but he’s the second person of the Trinity, who has decided he must die, so we wouldn’t have to. He carried away the sin that wasn’t his, yours, and mine.

Jesus “put” his spirit into God’s hands. He believed that the Father would take it up, and hold it for him. As a man who was seconds away from dying, he trusts the Lord absolutely. There’s no fear, and there’s no doubt. In spite of everything, he places his soul into the One who promises to save him.

Never doubt that the crucifixion was brutal.

His suffering was intense, and it was very real. He did what he did to free us from our sin. Jesus transformed his death on the place of the skull to the place where sinners find salvation that’s eternal. As we consider this, let’s not forget–it’s our sin that put him there.

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

 John Stott

The breath that caused Adam to live (Genesis 2:7,) is now exhaled into the lives of anyone who believes.

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The Skull, #102

“Two criminals were also led out with him for execution, and when they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him with the criminals, one on either side of him.

“But Jesus himself was saying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Then they shared out his clothes by casting lots.”

Luke 23:32-34, Phillips

This is easily the darkest and evil point in human history. The Son of God, (the second person of the Trinity) allows himself to be crucified. Do we have the slightest idea what that means? Is this really something we can grasp?

The word “Calvary” means “place of the Skull.”

When criminals were put to death that’s where it took place. Since Romans liked to execute people, I imagine it was semi-permanent, with vertical poles set in place. The “skull” was visible to all, situated on a main highway. The men who were lifted up would’ve been able to see Jerusalem’s walls, and perhaps even the Temple.

Jonathan Edwards comments about putting people to death like this:

“Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.”

“Maximum pain and suffering.” Doesn’t that bring it into perspective?

Jesus spends his last few hours praying for his enemies. While he was suffering and dying, the soldiers were rolling dice for his robe. But as he was hanging, the nails holding him in place–he was praying. The pain must’ve been beyond belief. (It’s worth noting that we get our English word “excruciating” from the Latin word meaning “from the cross.”)

Jesus took my sin–he took yours too. He absorbed every ounce. And yet taking on all that, he was still innocent. He did not sin, but he carried every single drop of it. Why would he do this?

At that precise moment, the Father turned his back on him.

With all of that sin (my sin, and yours) God turned away, (Isaiah 53:10). He was now totally alone, and the wrath of God was poured out on him. Jesus, at that moment, was in our place–he substituted himself for us. He died, so we might go free, (2 Corinthians 8:9).

What more can I say? The darkest moment for him became the brightest one for us. He hung there, completely horrified–he was now all alone. God left him at that moment.

I now must live differently.

Once I really truly understood this, everything changed. God is now my friend, I’m at peace with him. When Jesus died on “the place of the skull” he substituted his life for mine. He died, and now I live. It was the greatest exchange in all of history, (1 John 4:9-10).

I now choose to turn away from those things that Jesus Christ went to the cross for.

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authority, Bible promises, death, decision, disciples, Gospel, Kingdom of God, miracles, truth, will of God

A Really Hard Reality, #53

30 “They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,” 

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 

32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

Mark 9:30-32

There are no illusions found in these verses. This passage is painfully practical, and whenever I read it I’m forced to take another slug of reality–Jesus will die. Evil men will kill Him. I don’t want to see His ministry end like this. Deep inside, I want to His ministry to continue. I need to hear more parables, and see more miracles.

But thinking squarely isn’t always my best point. I sometimes like illusions. They seem like necessary padding for the stark rigors of living. They’re nice to have around. But I do know that gripping reality is needed. It’s harsh and rude, and some of us avoid it like vampires dodge picnics.

The disciples must get real and extend their thinking about the Kingdom. They’ve been witnesses to all those supernatural things that the Messiah is doing. It’s all been very good. But now they must think deeper, and even more redemptively. Jesus will-must die, and He will rise. Why?

The Holy Spirit is always pouring love on us. I know that all that He does is done by love. Whether it’s touching a leper or feeding 5000, it’s love that is Jesus’ reason and clearest motive. Easily seen in these amazing miracles, and somewhat harder to picture when it comes as betrayal and murder. (God help us adjust.)

Jesus will (must) die. That is His accurate prediction. The disciples must clear the decks and assimilate this fresh information. They’re needed to grab this and make it part of their understanding. They are now witnesses, completely and wholly grasping the deepest realities of the Kingdom.

The gospel of the Kingdom up to this point is indeed a wonder. Teachings and healings, miracles and resurrections are becoming the norm. We all want to see them continue. We are shocked when Jesus takes this morbid perspective! How perfectly awful. (NOT the way to win disciples!)

The death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection, is the next necessary miracle. It is needed to redeem and ‘heal’ the entire world. Oh yes, Jesus touched a leper, forgave the whore and raised the dead–but these are miracles that primarily touched individuals. He intends to kick it up a notch.

Jesus is going to die for us all. Isn’t that outrageous?

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Being Worthy of Jesus, Entry #31

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:37-38 (context, vv. 34-38)

It’s funny, but we never realize that the challenges of following Jesus are never more than the cost of not following Him. The cross leads to death, most certainly. But let’s never forget that there is a resurrection that does happen after that death. We’ll never live unless we die first.

The problem is that we don’t want to die!

We cling to our lives with the intensity of a drowning man clinging to a ‘life ring.’ We dare not let go. We dare not simply give up and really call out to Jesus. We hang on to the old life, and as a result, will never, ever experience the new. We believe that we will really drown. We are afraid.

Jesus is demanding from us a preeminent love for Him. A love that ‘nullifies’ anything earthly; a love that surpasses anything “good and proper.” He wants it all! There will be no competition, no contesting our love for Him. Jesus is either all, or He will be nothing.

Yes, there is a “cross.”

There will be a awful terrible death to everything we think brings us life. The “disciples” understood crucifixion. A Roman general once did it to the members of a Jewish rebellion. He lined the highways with 2000 crosses, to declare the iron-clad sovereignty of Rome.

Yes, the disciples knew. They remembered the horrifying deaths of so many. They undoubtedly passed by these insurrectionists who hung on these crosses and died. They vividly understood that a cross wasn’t a piece of jewelry, but it meant an awful bloody death of a human being. They knew. The cross was gruesome.

Following Jesus means this kind of death.

It ends everything dear to us. It irrevocably ends life as we know it. Life now consists of having a first love, a renouncing everything else that we hold dear. The relationships we thought were good, are now stumbling blocks to the path to our cross.

Yes, there is always a resurrection. Life will be given back to us. But death comes first, and it is incredibly painful. Sometimes we preach and teach, we embrace a “resurrection” life that excludes a cross. We jump right into a Christianity that has circumvented a terrible death. We are now officially, “cross-less Christians.”

“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

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Let’s Follow the Master, Entry # 21

Luca Giordano
Naples; 1634-1705
The Calling of St. Matthew, c. 1685
oil on canvas; 78.5 x 100.5 inches

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 

“Follow me.” 

And he rose and followed him.”

Matthew 9:9

Another “tax collector.” (Why won’t Jesus ever learn?) It really does seem that He has a definite preference for the scum and the outcast. For some very odd reason that’s the sort of person He likes. But really, do we dare question His wisdom in this? Do we think we have a right to pass judgement on Jesus’ choices?

I have to think that Jesus is showing us His deep fondness for the ‘ungodly.’ Tax-collectors, egads!!!! I don’t really understand, until I consider my own ‘wretched’ life. Until Jesus comes to me, calling me, I will continue to set in my dreary booth, taking money from other dreary people.

So what does it really mean to really follow Jesus?

I think of Matthew, a wicked man who has no qualms about betraying his people for money. It’s always been odd to me, that Matthew’s name meant “pure.” (What were his parents thinking? Maybe they grasped his future destiny as an apostle? IDK.) But I am certain that Matthew’s call to follow meant he had to leave something ‘behind.’

We follow Jesus. We’ve accepted the call that we must turn away from our past life. We’ve left behind all the money and just walked away from our table. We understand that we can’t bring it along; we have renounced its claim on us.

Following Him means taking up our “cross,” and everything that it might entail. We really do need to leave it all behind. What a deal, huh?

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Mark 8:34

   

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