Marvelous Indeed!

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The pastor of my youth opened every Easter Sunday service with this ancient declaration and response. This Truth and its acknowledgement is a succinct statement of what makes me tick.

“But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

Luke 24:12

Luke tells us, early on the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James gathered the spices they had prepared for the anointing of Jesus’ body. They headed to the tomb where He had been laid and discovered that the tomb was open and His body was gone. I cannot imagine what was going through their minds. Just as they stood there, “perplexed,” Luke tells us, two men appeared to them “in dazzling clothing” and declared the shocking news:

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:5-7)

The women, remembering Jesus’ words, went and told the disciples what they had seen and heard. The disciples didn’t believe them. But Peter had to go see for himself.

I have focused on Peter these past few days. Peter was one of three disciples, along with James and John, who seemed to have a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Jesus took only these three up the mountain to witness His transfiguration for example (Luke 9:28-36). Peter was the disciple who vowed to stand with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, but soon afterward deserted Him, denying Him three times. Luke wrote that Peter wept bitterly upon hearing the rooster crow, just as Jesus said. Here, we see Peter, gathered with the other ten disciples, receiving this incredible news from the women who had visited Jesus’ tomb. As the others expressed doubt, Peter went to see.

I love what Peter did upon looking into the the tomb, containing only the linens that once wrapped Jesus’ body, but otherwise empty just as the women had said. Luke doesn’t say he returned to the place where the disciples were gathered; maybe he did. But what Luke tells us Peter ultimately did really resonates with me:

“…he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

This is a lot to take in. Sometimes we just need time alone to ponder, consider and pray. Peter “marveled” at what had happened. Have you ever marveled over the works of God? Have you ever watched the sun set over a vast ocean or mighty mountain range and marveled at the glory of God’s creation? Have you ever found yourself in need, really in need, and have God meet that need seemingly out of nowhere? Have you ever opened Scripture and heard God’s voice as you read it? Does the reality of what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for those who believe hit home?

Today we Christians celebrate the most important event in all of history and the greatest miracle of all time – the resurrection of our Lord from the grasp of death. The victory lies not with those who killed Him. The victory is His, and through His victory, we have assurance of eternal life with Him in Heaven. This, my friends, is something to celebrate. This is something worth marveling. This is most certainly and eternally true.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Happy Easter!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

What Now?

I’ve never really known what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It seems that it should be different from other Saturdays, given the events of Good Friday and the coming celebration of Easter Sunday, like we’re sort of on “pause” as we await Jesus’ resurrection. Reading my Holy Week devotional this morning, God offered this:

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

While this is not a direct answer to my Easter Saturday dilemma, it made me think: what do I do with Good Friday? Do the events of Good Friday have any lasting influence on my life here on Earth? Or do I simply coast, awaiting the day when God calls me home to be with Him, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?

As I pondered this, it struck me that the man who wrote this letter is Peter, the disciple who swore vehemently that he would never abandon Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34) Through the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the disciples still did not understand what God was unfolding. I can only imagine the disciples on Saturday, sitting together, wondering what to do next. Their beloved teacher, Jesus, was gone. His enemies had won (or so it seemed). I’m sure they feared potential repercussions upon themselves. Scripture does not tell us how they spent Saturday – probably because that is not what God wants us to focus on.

In reading Peter’s letters, we see a different person than the man who cowered by the fire that Thursday night, denying Jesus as the young girl and others pointed him out to those who had gathered (Luke 22:54-61). Jesus was right. Peter would deny Him three times. When that reality hit, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And then, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the disciples finally got it, thanks to Jesus’ appearing to them and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1-2). Peter and the rest were changed forever and God worked through them in incredible ways.

So here we sit in 2019 with the benefit of Scriptural insight, including eyewitness accounts of the events that first Easter weekend. And, Peter, the one who denied Jesus, offers this. Jesus, by His sacrifice, healed the wounds that our sins heap upon us. It was His action that saves us for all eternity. Our response: to reject sin (“die to sin”) and seek a righteous, God-pleasing lifestyle (“live to righteousness”). The fact that we are freed from sin’s bondage and eternal consequence offers the opportunity to open our arms wide, embrace life and approach it from an entirely different perspective – the perspective of one who is free, one who is loved, one who is saved. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is, I believe, the ideal time to ponder this. What does this mean for my life? What changes will I make? What will I do to live a life that honors and pleases my Lord and my God?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Mission Accomplished!

“Good Friday”. What an ironic name for the day on which Jesus was humiliated, hung on a cross, and suffered a horrible death by those He came to save. But – that was exactly why He came to Earth.

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Just a few days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.” Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, was on a mission that only He understood at the time. As the people celebrated what they thought would be a conquering king and warrior, Jesus knew what was to take place over that coming week. He knew His mission. He knew it would be agonizing. He knew it would be humiliating. He knew it would be excrutiatingly painful. He knew it was necessary. And, so He went.

So, on Friday, after being betrayed by one of His disciples and deserted by the rest, after facing severe beatings and being convicted of false charges, there He hung as soldiers and bystanders mocked His name and cast lots for His clothes. When I was young, I thought these words of Jesus were words of defeat. The Pharisees and scribes had been plotting His death since the beginning of His ministry three years’ prior. They finally got their way in most dramatic fashion. But that is when I was young and naive.

“It is finished!” That mission that Jesus came to exact was completed! Jesus, God incarnate, true God and true man, achieved the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He was no victim; He “gave up His spirit” willingly for you and for me so that we might be saved.

Dear friends, this is indeed “Good Friday”. And you know what? That conquering king and warrior the people wanted? That is exactly who Jesus is: King of kings and Lord of lords. By His sacrifice, Jesus won the victory over sin and death once and for all. It was not the victory that the people anticipated on Palm Sunday, but it was the victory they most needed. Indeed, Jesus achieved the greatest victory of all time. By His sacrifice, we who believe in Him are saved for eternity by grace through faith.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Betrayal & Desertion

Maundy Thursday. The events of this day always give me pause. I am simultaneously disappointed in His disciples, amazed by His love, and reflective of what my reaction would have been had I been there with Him. Indeed, it is an active day that culminates with Jesus standing alone before His accusers.

“‘…but all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets’. Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:56

As I read Matthew’s account of the events of this day (Matthew 26), I’m struck by how much happened in the span of just a few hours. Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover, during which Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. He announced to His stunned disciples that one of them would deliver Him into the hands of those who seek to kill Him as the rest of them flee for their personal safety. His disciples promised to stand by Him, but Jesus knew they would not and stated so.

Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was real. Here we see His nature as Son of God (true God) and Son of Man (true man). As a human, He asked God to remove the burden He was about to undertake. He expressed His frustration at His disciples who did not grasp what was going on, and could not stay awake and keep watch as He prayed. As God, Jesus knew exactly what was coming, He knew it must be, and He went willingly. As Judas betrayed Him with a kiss and He was seized by soldiers with swords and clubs, the 11 disciples fled, just as He knew they would. Jesus faced His accusers alone, just as He knew He would.

I would like to think that I would have reacted differently had I been one of the eleven. I would like to think that I would have stood beside my Lord as He was carried off to face the authorities. I would like to think that I would have spoken up in His defense and, if need be, have gone with Him to death. I would like to think these things, but I know I wouldn’t have reacted any differently than the 11 did. How do I know that? Because, like them, I am human. Pondering the events of Maundy Thursday, I think about opportunities to witness that I have squandered, avoiding the subject because it can be uncomfortable to discuss. When I squander those opportunities, I betray Him. I think about the times when I say and do things that I know displease and dishonor Him. When I say and do these things, I betray Him. Just as Jesus knew His disciples would abandon Him, He knows and understands my shortcomings and failures. Knowing all of this, His love never wavered. He went to the cross for them, for me, and for you.

When Jesus distributed the bread, “…this is My body…” and the wine, “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,” (Matt 26:26-27) He announced a new covenant. He would be the perfect Sacrifice, sufficient to achieve perfect, everlasting atonement for our sins. I look forward to Maundy Thursday worship tonight. Tonight, with my church family and with Christians all around the world, I will celebrate Holy Communion. I will receive, once again, His forgiveness for my sins. And I will remember the events of this night over 2,000 years ago – the night on which Jesus went forth to die for you and for me.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Mission

My allergies have been relentless over the past few weeks! How frustrating it was for me to be in worship on one of my favorite Sundays of the year with no voice, unable to join in hymn and worship. But then I remember, this is not about me. My vocal limitations did not reduce the significance of this day.

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:9

For as long as I can remember, Palm Sunday has been one of my favorite worship days of the year. Reading about all that Jesus said and did in the three years prior to His fateful entry into Jerusalem, it’s no wonder the people were celebrating. The people believed that Jesus had come as a conquering king; the one who would seal their protection from Rome and from their enemies. Indeed, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, but He is not the sort of king the people expected. And, in just a few short days, as this reality hit home, their shouts of “Hosanna in the highest” would become shouts of “crucify Him”!

Today, as we ponder Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have the lens of Scripture through which to view these events. Through Scripture, we know that Jesus knew exactly what was to happen. You see, Jesus knew his mission. It was not to conquer Rome. It was not to amass an army to take on the world. No. Jesus’ mission was to achieve the greatest and most important victory of all time: the victory over sin and death. He knew that His mission would be achieved that very week through pain and agony – indeed through death. He went willingly, out of love for those He came to save, including me and including you.

On the church calendar, this is Holy Week. I am using this week to prepare my heart, my mind, and my soul to confess that my sins hung Him on that cross, to remember that He went willingly out of love for me, and to be assured once again that I am saved by His grace through faith. I’m also using it to reflect on my mission in life. I know God has me here for a purpose, as He does each of us. Let us each pause in the busy-ness of life to prepare our hearts to celebrate His victory over sin and death in our behalf and to ponder anew what God would have us do to serve, honor and glorify Him.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019