"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 31, 2010
May you have a blessed Easter!
We have all had loved ones pass away, so we have an understanding of what death is. We know that once someone takes that last breath, that part of our life is forever changed. We can no longer talk to that person, hold their hand, hug them, or have any type of communication with them.
My mom was sick for a long time before she passed away. There were times when she slept a lot and didn't communicate with us a whole lot. Pain medication made her hallucinate from time to time. But there were still moments when her mind would be clear and we could talk with her. We could sit beside her bed and hold her hand. We could kiss her goodnight. We could tell her that we loved her, and hear her say it in return.
But once she breathed her last breath, that chapter of our life was closed and we could no longer have those special moments with her. We can go to the cemetery and know where her body lies, but her spirit is in heaven and we're still on earth. We have the hope and promise of some day being reunited with her, but until that day comes, all we have are our memories of her.
Jesus had told His disciples over and over again that He would be crucified, but would rise again on the third day. Even after ministering alongside Him, I'm not sure they really got it. As all humans do, they had an understanding of death, but had never seen anything happen like Jesus was describing to them.
When they were standing at the cross, they understood that it was the promised Messiah that was hanging there. They saw the crown of thorns on His head, they saw the nails that had been driven into Jesus' feet and hands to hold Him on the cross, and had seen the spear driven through His side. They saw the blood gushing from His body. They heard Jesus speak the words, "It is Finished." Then they saw Jesus breath His last breath and bow His head in death.
Joseph of Arimathea, who was a good and just man, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, he took Jesus' body, wrapped it in strips of cloth with about 100 pounds worth of myrrh and aloe that Nicodemus had brought (wrapping the body in strips of cloth with spices was the burial custom of the Jews), and laid it in a new tomb that had never been used before and was hewn out of a rock.
Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary followed the men and observed where the body of Jesus had been laid.
The next day, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together and confronted Pilate. "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So that the last deception will be worse than the first."
Pilate told them that they had a guard at their disposal, so go make the tomb as secure as they knew how.
So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard in place.
Following the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. I can understand that. Many time following the loss of a loved one, family and close friends may return back to the cemetery a day or two following the burial. To some, being close to where their loved one lies, helps with the grieving process. Sometimes they may be in shock following the death, and going back helps them deal with the reality that that person really is gone. Sometimes it helps to just go and be able to privately say a final goodbye, without other people being around. Others will take flowers or other special mementos and lay on the grave.
Perhaps these women were still reeling from the shock of seeing Jesus tortured and crucified on a cross. The image of Jesus hanging there with the crown of thorns pushed deep into His skull, nails holding Him to the cross, the cries of people mocking Him, and the blood gushing from His body was still very vivid in their minds. Very early in the morning, they came to the tomb and brought spices that they might come and anoint Jesus. They were wondering who they might get to roll the stone back away from the door for them. But God had already taken care of it!
Before their arrival, a great earthquake occurred. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb, and sat upon it. Jesus' countenance was like lightning and His clothing as white as snow as He walked out of the tomb. The guards shook for fear of Him, and became like dead men.
Here were big, strong guards standing in front of the huge stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb. I'm sure they thought the worst trouble that they might incur might be the disciples of Jesus coming to try and steal the body away. But all of a sudden, an angel descended from heaven. They had no power to hold the angel back from rolling the stone away. Then out walked Jesus! We know that Joseph and Nicodemus had tightly bound the body with spices and strips of cloth, yet He walked out dressed in clothing of purest white and His countenance like lightning. God had breathed life back into His Son and dressed Him in heavenly garments. He was no longer that human baby that had been born to Mary, who had walked and lived in the flesh among mankind; but this was the resurrected Saviour. This was the risen Messiah!!
The power and majesty of Jesus could not be touched by mankind. The guards trembled with fear and fell powerlessly to the ground. They witnessed the greatest miracle that the world has ever known. I'm sure they were thinking, "How are we going to explain this to our superiors?" There was no denying that Jesus was alive and had walked out of that tomb. He didn't need help from the disciples to get the stone rolled away from the door. He didn't come shuffling out in grave clothes that needed to be unbound. But God send an angel from heaven down to earth to roll the stone away, so that His Son could walk out victoriously. And He came out wearing a robe of pure white. Jesus had accomplished His purpose upon earth and He now had a glorified body.
When Mary Magdalene saw that the stone had been taken away, she ran back to tell the disciples, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
Peter and another disciple ran to the tomb. The other man stooped down and peered inside the tomb and saw the grave clothes lying inside. But Peter went into the tomb; and he saw linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that had been around Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple came inside the tomb and saw it all for himself. The men returned to their own homes.
But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she was weeping, she stooped down to look inside the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
They asked why she was weeping, and she said, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have taken Him."
You would have thought seeing two angels in white would have clued her in that something miraculous had taken place!
She turned around and saw a man standing there, but did not recognize Who it was. He asked, "Why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?" She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
Then He said, "Mary!" She then recognized that it was Jesus standing there talking to her.
Jesus gave her a message to tell His disciples, and she ran to where they were.
Mark records that she ran to where they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that she had seen Jesus and that He was alive, they did not believe.
Then Jesus appeared to two of them as they were walking into the country. They went and told the rest, but they did not believe them either.
Later Jesus appeared to the eleven as they sat at a table, and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart.
Why was it so difficult for the disciples to believe that Jesus had fulfilled His promise that He would rise from the grave after three days? The chief priests and Pharisees remembered Jesus saying that He would rise, and it scared them. They were afraid the disciples would steal the body and hide it so that it would look like His word had been fulfilled. They didn't believe it, but they didn't forget what Jesus had said.
But the disciples were gathered together mourning and weeping. And when they were told by those who had seen Jesus that He had been seen and had truly risen from the grave, they didn't believe.
Perhaps after seeing Jesus on trial, seeing Him tortured and crucified, and seeing Him dying on the cross, they were struggling with their faith. Even though Jesus had told them that He was going to die, I'm not sure they really believed it was going to happen. But it did.
They were familiar with death and knew the finality of it. They had seen loved ones die, and knew that once their body was buried, that was it. They understood death, but not resurrection. This was something new and unfamiliar to them.
I would have thought that they would have been excited to see what happened that third day. It looks like they would have all gone to the tomb first thing that morning, and stood there in anticipation to see how it was going to take place. I know they were still in fear for their lives, after seeing how Jesus had been treated. But still, it seems like they would have wanted to be right there at the tomb to watch. Instead, they were gathered together mourning and weeping. And when they heard the good news, they doubted.
But even though they may have struggled with their belief that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, that didn't change the truth of what had occurred. He was alive and had conquered death and the grave; whether or not they believed.
That still holds true today. Jesus did come to earth, He did die on the cross, and He rose from the grave. Whether or not we choose to believe the truth of it is up to us. But that doesn't change the facts of what occurred. Jesus is alive today and is in heaven with His Father. He is awaiting the day when He will be reunited with all those who believe.
The disciples eventually did see Jesus, and they did believe that He was alive. They stood and watched Him ascend back to heaven. They knew that He had fulfilled His every promise. We all have a precious promise to hold onto today. We know that the day will come when we will see Him face to face. But instead of Jesus coming back to earth to live, we will all ascend to heaven and spend eternity with Him.
This Easter let's celebrate Jesus. He's alive! There are those who witnessed Jesus coming out of that tomb. There were witnesses to the empty grave. There were those who saw Jesus after His resurrection. They talked with Him, saw the nail prints in His hands and feet, put their hand in His side where the spear had been thrust, and watched Him ascend into heaven. These accounts are written in the Word of God. We can know that it is true!
Let us rejoice in knowing that we serve a risen Savior! Let's celebrate the truth of Easter!
Sometimes when we pray and pray for something that seems impossible, it's hard to believe when our prayers are answered. If we pray for healing from cancer, and get a good report from the doctor, we might ask, "Are you sure? And it's COMPLETELY gone?" Sometimes, it's hard to just assume that we will have what we pray for. It can be scary to expect the best, just in case we're wrong.
Maybe that's what some of the disciples felt. They may have known that Jesus was supposed to come back from the dead, but didn't want to count on it. But when we try not to count on something too hard, we tend to assume it won't come true. And when we do find out a miracle has come true, we may still say, "Sure, you look a lot like him, but you're much cleaner, and dressed much better. Show me the scars on your hands, and then I'll believe it's you."
Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. Cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/3 Tbsp. butter
Mix cocoa and sugar in a small saucepan. Add milk. Heat over medium heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Boil for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Use as a topping for ice cream.
Last Sunday during Sunday School class, Devin's teacher taught about what Palm Sunday meant. So during the main service, the pastor had Devin and another girl who was in the class, come to the front of the church and tell what they had learned. This is a deaf church that my sister and brother-in-law pastor. Here is Devin's version of his understanding of Palm Sunday:
"The people throw their coats on the ground and wave leaves, and then Jesus rides over them [the coats] on a donkey. The people say, "Yeah!!!" Then PAR-TY; they have a birthday party!" (Birthday party?? That's Devin's translation of celebration!!)
God deserves our best, because He gave us His best!
We hope you all are being blessed by our weekly newsletter and find encouragement from the devotionals we write.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon