Forty Days of Suspense
Friday, 12 August 2022
What would we have been thinking with everything that was occurring?
JESUS unjustly tried, bitterly condemned, mercilessly crucified
needlessly locked in an unfriendly cave behind a sealed stone.
Unexpectedly the earth shook violently
miraculously, the stone no longer blocking the way, the tomb empty
two angels in blazing white announcing triumphantly, “He is risen!”
A mysterious one inquiring, “Woman, why are you weeping,
for whom are you looking?”
turning round, Mary unable to believe her eyes: JESUS!
Two disciples hopelessly leaving Jerusalem headed to Emmaus
unexpectedly a mysterious one wanting to sympathize with their despair
only when he broke bread, did they suddenly realize: JESUS!
The disciples, gathered behind locked doors (minus Thomas)
out of nowhere a mysterious one appeared boldly, “Peace be with you!”
JESUS! “But how did he get in here?”
The disciples in the same room, locked again, surprised to hear,
“Put your finger on my nail prints, your hand in my side!”
Doubting Thomas readily believing: “My LORD and my GOD!”
The Sea of Galilee, the disciples not surprisingly fishing again
“Hey friends, haven’t you caught anything yet? Why not try the other side?!”
A net brimming with fish, Peter now swimming, declaring: “It is the LORD!”
JESUS sharing a meal with the sometimes teachable disciples
“Don’t leave Jerusalem but wait for a special gift”
“How could it be, what did he mean, baptized with the Holy Spirit?!”
The disciples asking their most frequent question for three years now
“Is this the time for you restore the kingdom to Israel, JESUS?”
“Sorry, no, it is not for you to know.”
“Instead . . . The Holy Spirit will enter into you powerfully
so you can serve me faithfully, witnesses to people in Jerusalem, Judea . . .”
“Did Jesus really include: To the Samaritans?! To the ends of the earth?!”
The Mount of Olives, JESUS and the disciples together one last time
puzzlingly, effortlessly lifted above them, his closest friends
straining to see, downheartedly watching, "He disappeared behind the clouds!"
Fearing the worst, after so many unnerving events of forty days
unexpectedly two angels in blazing white proclaiming great news
“He is not gone for good; he will return! The very same JESUS!”
Life Application Questions
Jesus, Looking for Disciples
Previously, while staring and standing, disciples glimpsed gloom with death’s arrival. Jesus cried “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46). Standing on holy ground—no one ought be wearing shoes.
The women arrive. “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” (Luke 24:1-3). They see him first! These women are truly blessed among women. They are blessed above all human beings, all flora/fauna, all creatures great and small—they see death’s threat, broken at his feet.
Our brother Luke wins the prize for understatement-of-the-universe when he records, “While they [the women] were wondering about…[the empty tomb]… (emphasis added Luke 24:4). Wondering? Shock, life-arresting-broken-heart syndrome would not be too startling a description for their encounter.
Neither do we have a report from Heaven describing the angelic host as they watched with wonder. This holy and momentous day, this day of resurrection comes to pass—Jesus is silent no more. Death shatters before him.
With the first rise of his chest, the first beat of his heart, the first firing of nerves, Jesus stands on the grave’s rim, looking back at resurrection. He gave thanks, for that was ever his pattern over so much as a simple meal.
We offer resounding praise to God for Jesus’ resurrection for in him our hope resides (2 Corinthians 4:14). Jesus rises and truly truly, the universe shifts. Then, as it is to this very day, disciples understood at least some of the implications: “…they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52).
Life Application Questions
After the resurrection how soon does Jesus begin seeking out his disciples?
Did the resurrection accounts from the Gospels have a role in your first understanding of the Good News?
Do the accounts of the resurrection make an impact among today’s people?
What was the sound of an angel’s voice? See Luke 24:5-7.
Wednesday, 10 August 2022
God’s resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is the gospel—the good news—that He died for our sins and was raised to life. The lyrics of the Easter Song, help us celebrate this good news!
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
That You can be born again
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
Christ is risen from the dead
The angel up on the tombstone
Said, He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell His disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead
Joy to the world
He has risen, Hallelujah
He's risen, Hallelujah
He's risen, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Source: Musixmatch; Songwriter: Anne Ward Herring
The power of the resurrection gives us a sure hope. Not only hope that we will also be resurrected, but also that we will be reunited with our Christian loved ones in heaven. Philippians 3:10 speaks of this power, "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." This power is accessible to believers. "That power of the gospel is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead" (Ephesians 1:19-20).
Based on the power of the resurrection the disciples could offer forgiveness of sins. God is actually the one who forgives sins, but we have the power to share the gospel, which provides for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The disciples were given the power to declare what God does when a man either accepts or rejects His Son. "And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven'" (John 20:22-23).
The God of the resurrection is powerful enough to do all that we can ask or think. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). This is all good news, the power of the resurrection is reason to celebrate!
Life Application Questions
Do I celebrate the riches of this inheritance? Do I find joy in the resurrection?
Do I take seriously the power of forgiveness by sharing the gospel?
Do I want to know Christ, participate in His sufferings and know the power of His resurrection?
Famous Last Words
August 9, 2022
Last words count. Jesus’ last words are important. Our last words as Christ followers are also valuable. George Harrison said, “Love one another.” Winston Churchill said, “I’m bored with it all.” Randy Pausch got his terminal cancer diagnosis and he gave his Last Lecture which became the basis for his book, The Last Lecture. As professors come to the end of their academic careers, they are asked to consider their demise and ruminate on what matters most to them in their last lecture. From Matthew 28:16-20, what do you think the people perceived that Jesus valued the most in his “last lecture”?
Jesus establishes his authority throughout Matthew. By his death and resurrection, Jesus has defeated all questions about His ultimate authority. Since Jesus has all authority, we can obey Him and follow where He leads without fear. How does God’s authority impact how we minister to others? We minister in His name and under His authority. We do not face a lost world on the basis of our flimsy authority, but in the authority of Jesus Christ.
If Jesus has all authority, then it reasonably follows (therefore) to be going. Go is not a command, but a present participle: going. “While you are going, make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). What does “while you are going” mean to you? “While you are going” impacts your daily life. While you are going to the grocery store, or weeding your garden, or working in your cubicle, these are all part of your mission. To me, this “go” always felt like a mandate to foreign missions or marginalized people groups and not my neighbor with the colicky baby. “While you are going,” changes the directive to be very present tense and active in the mundane mess of our daily lives. In his last lecture, Randy Pausch said, “The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.” Where is your, “while you are going” and how will you spend your time?
The term “disciples” was the most popular name for the early believers. Why would some of Jesus’s last words be: “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them…” (Matthew 28:19-20)? Apprentice might be a more equivalent term in today’s culture. Disciples in Matthew’s day attached themselves to a teacher, identified with him, learned from him, and lived with him. He learned, not just by listening, but also by doing. How do you make disciples?
I am with you
Some of Jesus’s last words were "And surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). Though Jesus time on earth was coming to an end, He was not leaving his disciples alone. While we are going and making disciples with Jesus’ authority, we are not alone in our mission. Jesus knew his time was short when he delivered these last words. As Randy Pausch began his last lecture, he said, “If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?” What would your famous last words be in your last lecture? What is your spiritual legacy?
Believe it or Not
August 8, 2022
Today’s Bible reading presents two quite different reports on the resurrection of Jesus. If you attend a church that celebrates Easter, you're familiar with the story of Jesus' resurrection. But do you really get it? Would it take more than an earthquake, an angel, an empty tomb, and a Jesus sighting to convince you of the resurrection? Witnesses to this most important event in history tell two quite different stories. Both groups of witnesses were aware of the events surrounding the crucifixion and now both had seen the evidence of Jesus having risen from the dead.
The women believed what they saw, but the guards told another story. After they "came to" (The guards shook with fear when they saw [the angel], and they fell into a dead faint. vs. 4), they ran back to the city, told the story to the leading priests, and together they concocted a story to save face. The "large bribe" they took was enough to ensure they told the lie that Jesus' disciples came and stole the body.
A search on why people today doubt the resurrection could be very enlightening. You have to wonder why people think they need to defend or deny what Scripture says. How could a mere human think they know more than the Holy Scriptures, written by the very Holy Spirit of God himself? It’s not likely that today’s doubters are being bribed to believe a lie—as were the guards at the tomb—but they are ignoring the clear testimony of eyewitnesses as well as the clear teaching of the Bible.
There were doubters in the days of the early church, too, and the Apostle Paul directly addresses those concerns.
Why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless . . . And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised . . . In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (1 Cor. 15:12-20 NLT, emphasis added).
The guards knew the infallible truth of the event (vv. 8:11). They actually reported the real story to the religious leaders, but, fearing for their lives, they accepted and reported a lie, which continued to the time of the writing of Matthew’s Gospel. The question for us is how seriously do we take the story of the resurrection. Is it just another curious Bible story, or does its reality spur us on to sharing its truth and the promise of the believer’s ultimate resurrection with a world without hope?
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
jbd & gmd