November 14

November 14

Jesus’ Resurrection — The empty tomb, appearing to Mary, & ascending to heaven.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Luke 24:1-12
Reading 2: John 20:1-18
Reading 3: Hebrews 9:16-28

Have you ever found you had completely missed the point? I recall several times in my life where, with a sudden rush of emotion, I realized that I now recognized something truly life-changing for the very first time.

Imagine how the women felt, after 36 hours of anguished grieving over the execution of their leader and Lord, they left as early as they could to go and give His body the necessary burial treatments as a final act of love and care. They were clearly in no mood to celebrate or rejoice. But within minutes they saw the empty tomb, spoke with two angels, and recognized the life-upending fact that Jesus was alive. They were the first to know, and to their credit believed right away, remembering that was what Jesus had promised. Mary Magdalene becomes the first apostle of the resurrection: sent to tell others what she has witnessed and experienced. To their discredit, the men were less adaptable – refusing to believe the women at first.

This authenticity of the accounts makes them much more believable. The honesty and self-incrimination of the record!

We also have the record of Peter and John’s first sight of the tomb (in John’s gospel). This gives us an interesting insight into the process of coming to faith: John “looked in” to the tomb (a Greek phrase meaning he took a quick glance). John was a good boy and he knew he was not allowed inside a tomb. Peter was a little older and much more headstrong – he went in anyway and “noticed” the linen grave clothes (a different Greek phrase meaning he looked more closely) but it was John who was first to believe – and the Greek phrase “he saw and believed” would best be translated “he focused on the details and considered their meaning.”

This process of examination and consideration is how many people come to faith in Jesus. If you genuinely examine the details of the resurrection accounts and seek to understand the significance of them, it is the most logical and rational conclusion that Jesus is who He said He was – the Christ, the Messiah, God’s chosen Savior for humanity.

This is the approach taken by the writer to the Hebrews, who explains the rationality of believing in the resurrection and all that it implies.

Who will you invite to consider these things today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

PS: If you would like to see a chronology of the events around the resurrection, compiled from the four gospels and other New Testament accounts, you can check out this listing or this more extensive article.

November 13

November 13

Pause and Reflect

This may be the most important “Pause and Reflect” of the whole year.

In our readings, Jesus has died. The perfect for the imperfect. The sinless for the sinners. The eternally beloved for the temporarily excommunicated.

Defeat is victory in God’s plan.

His Story has reached the climax.

What a perfect time to pause and reflect!

How will this truth affect your life, today and in the future?

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 12

November 12

Jesus’ Death & Burial — Jesus’ death on the cross & burial by Joseph of Arimathea.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 27:45-66
Reading 2: Luke 23:45-56
Reading 3: Hebrews 2:9-18

The apparent victory of satan in collusion with human authorities to eliminate the Messiah and reject God’s presence on earth comes with the cry “My God, why have you abandoned me?” But Jesus is not crying out in fear or surprise. Instead, He is teaching us to the very end – God is turning away from the sin His Son has taken on. By dying as a perfect human being, He takes away the power satan has over death (as the writer to the Hebrews explains). Additionally, Jesus is quoting the first words of Psalm 22, likely intending His hearers to “hear” the whole Psalm through the brief quotation (in a similar fashion to what would go through an American mind at the words “O say, can you see?”). If you read the whole Psalm you will see there is much more there than the idea that God has abandoned Jesus.

So Jesus overcomes sin and satan – this defeat is thus a perfect victory.

And there are several other lessons to learn from those around the scene of Jesus’ death:
You may have died without seeing what you longed for, but God can make you alive again (Matthew 27:52).
The power of God in action is enough to reveal Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 27:52).
You may not be able to influence the actions of others, but you can still do the right thing in failure (Luke 23:50-53).
It is always right to obey God’s instructions, even if it seems inconvenient or troublesome (Luke 23:56).
Opponents of God will always seek to strengthen their own position at God’s expense, but this only serves to highlight their defeat when God wins the victory (Matthew 27:62-66).

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 11

November 11

Jesus’ Suffering–Various prophecies of the cross
(My God, I thirst, Garments divided, Pierced)

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Mark 15:20-36
Reading 2: John 19:23-37
Reading 3: Psalm 22

We have looked many times at the prophecies fulfilled in the birth and life of Jesus, but there are many fulfilled in His death too. As you read today, reflect on how these fulfilled prophecies validate the truth of Jesus’ claims and His ministry on earth. No-one could fabricate a story to include all these elements with the range of historical records that combine to shine light on the events as they are recorded.

Our Savior lived and died as recorded in Scripture. We can trust Him with our lives!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 10

November 10

Jesus’ Conversations — Jesus talks with women, soldiers, & the thief on the cross.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Luke 23:26-44
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 2:7-8
Reading 3: 1 Peter 2:18-25

As Jesus is being taken out and unjustly killed, for doing nothing wrong, He is clear in His final words to point others to the truth and to freedom in God. To the women who are lamenting His impending death He says “weep for yourselves and your children, for worse is coming.” For the soldiers who are crucifying Him, he prays: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” And to the repentant thief, He promises paradise today!

What an inspiration for us – to speak the truth in love, even when we are rejected, or persecuted. I am not referring to faux outrage about Starbucks using red cups that don’t say Christmas, but the much harsher mistreatment we may well have to face as society turns against religion and lumps true followers of Jesus in with that repulsion. Paul warns the Corinthians that this world does not understand God’s plans, and Peter writes to those trapped in slavery that they can please God by acting counter-intuitively in their suffering. He is not endorsing slavery, but he is promoting radical servanthood that makes the power and love of God visible in an evil world.

You and I may well have the opportunity to do the same in our lifetime. Jesus is worth it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 9

November 9

Jesus’ Crucifixion — Jesus carries the cross, is crucified, & Jesus’ call to carry your cross.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 27:31-44
Reading 2: Acts 2:22-23
Reading 3: Luke 14:25-33

Today we reach the peak of God’s One Story.

God sent His Son Jesus to be born as a baby, live as the first sinless human being, and die for the sins of all mankind.

As you read Matthew 27:31-44, see the interwoven threads of sin and rejection that led to this moment. Recognize the betrayal Peter refers to in Acts 2. See also the strength and determination of Jesus to complete the assignment given to Him by His Father. This looks like a final defeat, but in “God’s prearranged plan” it will be the beginning of final victory!

Then consider Jesus’ own instruction to us (and all His followers) – if you want to follow such a Savior (and who wouldn’t?) it will cost you everything. You may get to keep relationships, and even possessions, but they will not be yours anymore! Giving up all we have reflects the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Sometimes it takes that level of letting go of things to be able to accept and receive what He is giving us.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 8

November 8

Jesus’ Roman Trials — Jesus’ three Roman trials, releasing Barabbas, & Jesus’ beatings.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: John 18:28-40
Reading 2: Luke 23:1-25
Reading 3: John 19:1-22

After the three Jewish trials, and the abandonment of all His followers (including Peter’s denial), Jesus now faces the Roman authorities, the representatives of the earthly superpower of the day.

Notice how the apparent superpower is manipulated by the religious leaders, and also how the trials go back and forth as the Roman rulers, Pilate and Herod, try to get each other to take responsibility.

This section of the story of Jesus shows us the emptiness and fallibility of human power, even apparently dominant power. It also shows how organized religion and political power collude, manipulating each other, to reject God. Christianity cannot be a governmental religion and remain pure.

Through it all, Jesus is in control of Himself, unlike any other human being. He only answers with confirmations of the truth others see and denies all falsehood. This ultimately amounts to Him choosing to be crucified because He will not defend Himself.

John’s account is the main one used here because he was likely the only disciple close enough to the action to know all that went on. He followed through to the crucifixion because he was Jesus’ closest friend.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 7

November 7

Jesus’ Jewish Trials — Jesus’ three Jewish trials & Peter’s three denials.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: John 18:12-27
Reading 2: Matthew 26:57-75
Reading 3: Luke 22:54-71

As the life of Jesus reaches its early end (or its victorious climax, depending on your understanding) we see how much the Jewish leaders hated Him.

They broke many of their own laws in their haste to do away with this rabbi who threatened their hold on power:

  • they were not to try people during religious feasts, or at night;
  • they had no power to pass a death sentence, and if a death sentence was sought there was to be a night and a day before the sentence was carried out.
  • Jesus was given no representation, and was asked incriminating questions,
  • each member of the court was required to vote individually on the verdict (but Jesus was condemned by general outcry).

The first trial was before Annas (he had been High Priest, his son-in-law was now the High Priest, but he was most likely the “power behind the position”). At this trial, the physical abuse that would eventually lead to Jesus’ crucifixion started. Next, Jesus was taken to Caiaphas (the current High Priest); he was known to be a wily politician as well as a powerful religious figure, and he too treats Jesus with contempt. Finally, Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin (the High Council), where Jesus does not give direct answers to the accusers, but His responses reflect that they too know the truth about Him. It is not zeal for theological purity that is driving their condemnation – it is a deadly mix of religious pride, lust for power, and fear of the Roman occupiers.

Through this journey of three sham trials, Peter is also making a journey – one of shame and denial. In the heat of the moment, Peter’s humanity fails him and he saves his own skin by denying Jesus, even though he had promised Jesus he would die to save him.

Of course, all of this was part of God’s plan – a plan that seemed so invisible to the participants at the time, but which now is as clear as day!

Despite injustice, God overcomes sin, dies to give us life, and rises again to bring us to Himself. That’s GOOD NEWS!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 6

November 6

Jesus’ Arrest — Jesus’ garden prayer, knocking the mob down, healing an ear, & arrest.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 26:30-56
Reading 2: Luke 22:39-53
Reading 3: John 18:1-11

As we reach the high point of God’s One Story, it is worth noting that there is always more going on than meets the eye. We live in a physical, natural world, with human authorities and power structures, but we are more than just physical beings. When God created Adam He breathed into him and he became a living soul – a blend of spiritual and physical.

Just as we are body, soul, and spirit, and God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so this world has a spiritual dimension that is seldom visible. As you read the familiar accounts of the arrest of Jesus, watch out for glimpses into the unseen realm. There is a battle going on through the readings of the next few days, and it is important that we discern it and learn the outcome.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 5

November 5

Pause and Reflect

We have been reading about Passover topics for the past few days. Before we move on from the Upper Room, and into the final dramatic hours of Jesus’ life, let’s pause and review.

What have you noted in your journal from these Passover readings?

How does the perfect Passover of Jesus’ death reflect, yet differ from, the Passover God instituted for Israel?

Since you live after the perfect Passover, what are the implications for your life?

Have a great day!

Mark.