And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:6
The stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let us in. God is so good to let these women, who stuck with Jesus till the bitter end, SEE that the tomb was empty. And not only that, but the angel says they will get to SEE HIM.
The women GO to the tomb. They didn’t have a plan; they didn’t have all the details figured out yet, but they went.
They are told NOT to BE AFRAID. This is shocking and unknown territory. God knows it elicits fear of what is to come, and He says, “do not be alarmed.”
The angel sent by God invites them to COME and SEE the place where He had been laid. To come and see for themselves that He was, but is no longer, there.
They are instructed to GO and TELL the disciples. They can’t linger long in the empty tomb or keep this incredible news to themselves. They must go and tell others.
And in the going, they are told they will SEE HIM, just as He promised.
It was a new beginning for the three women. It was a new beginning for the disciples. It was a new beginning for the kingdom of God. It IS a new beginning for us.
We need to GO; to take action to seek Him, despite our doubts. We need to COME and SEE; to examine truth for ourselves. We need to GO and TELL others what we’ve discovered. And most of all, we need to MEET HIM; to personally experience Him.
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. Mark 16:1-2
“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” the three women talk among themselves as they gather up all of the spices to give Jesus the preparation for burial He didn’t properly get. They never expected to find the tomb empty. It was the end of a good run with a good man, but it was over. Their beloved Jesus was gone. They would never see Him again.
To their surprise, when they approached the tomb, the stone had been rolled back. I wonder what the women were feeling as they made their way into the tomb...Were they cautiously entering full of fear? Were they excitedly rushing in? Were they full of hope that maybe He had risen as He said? Were they angry thinking someone had taken Him?
The tomb isn’t empty, but Jesus isn’t there either. Instead, a young man in a white robe was sitting in the tomb.
“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Steven Furtick says, “The tomb may have looked empty…but it was full of hope, potential, possibility and new beginnings.”
The empty tomb isn’t the end of a story, but instead a new beginning.
Jesus WAS crucified, but He IS risen.
Questions: Jesus had told His followers many times about His death AND resurrection. Why do you think they were surprised to see the empty tomb? Why were they scared? What do you think they thought happened?
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
Tetelestai….Greek for It. Is. Finished. The last words spoken by Jesus.
I am not finished, but IT IS FINISHED.
Sin debt paid in full. Tetelestai.
Debt wiped away completely and forever. Tetelestai.
Lost sought and saved. Tetelestai.
Atonement for sins of all who believed and will believe. Tetelestai.
Reconciliation of man with God. Tetelestai.
Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowing. Tetelestai.
Seed who would crush the serpent’s head. Tetelestai.
Power over sin and Satan. Tetelestai.
All that I set out to do in human flesh. Tetelestai.
Not abolishment, but full and complete fulfillment of the law. Tetelestai.
All works given to me by the Father. Tetelestai.
Bearing witness to Truth. Tetelestai.
Lighting the way, making the path known, becoming the path. Tetelestai.
Nothing more to add; nothing more to do. Tetelestai.
The final word in the redemption of humankind. Tetelestai.
Question: What does the finished work of Jesus mean to you?
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cries out from the cross. He is quoting Psalm 22, something that would be extremely familiar to the Jewish onlookers.
A holy God must turn His face from all the sin. This moment is what Jesus dreaded in the Garden…not so much a painful death, but a momentary separation from His Father as He assumes the full wrath of God for our sins. He takes it all.
Once again Jesus cries out with a loud voice and yields up His spirit. No one could take it from Him. He willingly, purposefully, and obediently gives it up. Jesus takes the punishment for our sins, securing them forever between the splintered wood and His bloody hands. But it doesn’t end there…He also gives us His righteousness. A holy, spiritual transaction.
Simultaneously the following occurs:
As hard as it is to read or comprehend, may we never lose the significance or awe of the details surrounding the death of Jesus. The fulfillment and culmination of God’s sovereign plan from the beginning of time.
Truly this IS the Son of God. My Savior and Lord!
Challenge: Read Psalm 22 that Jesus quotes from the cross.
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42
On the cross, Jesus is flanked by two criminals. One on either side. Both broken, bloody, beaten, breathing their last breath on the cross.
Though excruciating to even speak, one spends the last moments of his life hurling insults at Jesus. Sarcastic. Demeaning. Cruel.
Jesus is silent.
The other criminal on His right has a holy, righteous fear of God, despite his unlawful behavior. With his last breaths, he admits he is a sinner deserving of the punishment he was getting, unlike Jesus who had done nothing wrong. Perhaps he caught a glimpse of Jesus speaking or healing one day on the mountainside. In this devastating and final moment on the cross with nails in his hands and feet, he knew there was hope to be found in Jesus. He asks for mercy and remembrance.
God had to look away from sin. But He didn’t leave His Son alone. Perhaps God has given Jesus a precious gift during the last moments of His life in the flesh. Something so treasured by Jesus. A man of true faith. A sinner confessing and asking for mercy. A lost son running home.
This time Jesus isn’t silent.
“Truly I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus answers. Today. When his last breath escapes him, he will be with Jesus. This criminal likely lived a life of rejection, but he is about to be with Jesus. In paradise. The temptation, the sin, the rough circles he ran with, the rejection, the fear, the constant looking over his shoulder…will be no more. He is about to be free and fully restored in paradise.
This man had a radically different heart condition, responding with a radically different cry to Jesus, resulting in a radically different new and eternal home.
Challenge: Recap the two responses to Jesus and the two outcomes.
The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” Matthew 27:21-22
“Barabbas. Barabbas!” From his small dark prison cell, Barabbas surely heard the shouts of his name from the crowds, followed shortly after by even louder cries of, “Let him be crucified!” I wonder if he was trembling or stoic with the realization that his life was surely about to come to an excruciating end. Just punishment for his many crimes.
Instead, the notorious murder goes free, while the innocent Jesus is condemned. The cross meant for Barabbas hailed on the raw, bloody, exposed shoulders of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t resist or fight back. In fact, He joins the chorus saying, “ [your name]. [your name]!” You see, He isn’t just taking the place of Barabbas on the cross, He is also taking it for you and me. He humbly, powerfully, and willingly takes the punishment we deserve.
Everything happens as the prophets foretold…as Jesus told his disciples it would. He is mocked, scourged, spit on, lots cast for his clothes, taken to the hill to die on a cross. An intended humiliating public display for all to see.
Three hours of unusual darkness covers the land during the middle of the day. The heavens declaring the weight of this moment.
Questions: Picture the scene of Barabbas in his prison cell hearing his name wondering if it was his time to die on a cross…and then hearing that he has been released and Jesus would be crucified instead. Imagine what he is thinking and feeling. Do you have this kind of emotion when you think of what Jesus did to take your place?
Pilate said to him [Jesus], “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” John 18:38
“What is truth?” Pilate scoffs as he walks away. This in response to Pilate asking Jesus if He was the king of the Jews and Jesus responding, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE TRUTH. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
What threat is this Jesus if his kingdom is TRUTH? I imagine Pilate is thinking.
God came to earth on a mission of truth. Jesus tells us He is the WAY, TRUTH, and LIFE. His kingdom is truth. And while this was not at all a threat to Pilate who was concerned only with his posh political status, it was offensive to the Jews, and it is just as offensive to many today.
Hating the idea of absolute truth, our culture likes to live in a kingdom of pragmatism (if it works, do it), relativism (no all-encompassing truth; your truth is your truth, and mine is mine), and inclusivism (all ways to “god” are equally valid and lead to the same place in the end). In fact, the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016 was “post-truth.”
So, what is truth? It isn’t cultural norms, the most followed news source, a celebrity opinion, a professor’s latest publication, our emotions, comfort or desires. It is Jesus…the WORD that became flesh…God’s Word. This is truth. Absolute truth. Truth that exists whether one believes it or not. If we want to know truth, we must know Jesus.
Questions: Do you believe in absolute truth? Do you believe that the Bible and God’s Word are truth? Why do you think people are threatened by and argue against absolute truth?
But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Mark 15:5
How do you react when you are falsely accused or misunderstood? For most of us, the natural inclination is to fight back. We want to clear up the misunderstanding; clear our “good” name. We likely call or shoot off a text to a friend. We may craft a vent post on social media. Anything to make sure someone (everyone) knows we were wronged, and things aren’t as they are being portrayed.
But Jesus shows us another way. He never fought back. He never spent His precious time or energy clearing up the many misunderstandings or false accusations hurled His way. And if anyone had a right to do so, it would be Him.
Jesus didn’t strive for human acceptance, attention or adoration. He just kept faithfully, obediently, and humbly living out His calling. He never argues or pleads with anyone to follow Him. He doesn’t water down the message to make it more palatable. He speaks the truth, and then He steps back. We either believe it, or we don’t. As a result, He was accused of all sorts of “religious” offenses and was consistently misunderstood and misrepresented. But He was never deterred.
Leading up to the most severe accusation facing Jesus — betrayal and fabricated charges that would lead to a brutal death — Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane and prays. He steeped Himself in prayer and conversation with God, His Father. God Himself in human flesh refueled with a fresh dose of truth and intimacy. A necessary equipping to endure His calling.
Only in being rooted in who we are in God can we resist the temptation to fight back the distractions of the devil to get us off track. And it requires ongoing refilling through prayer and abiding in God. Then, fully equipped, like Jesus, we won’t be tempted to defend or debate; instead, we will have the assurance necessary to keep our eyes up and our feet moving to the rhythm of our calling for His glory.
Questions: How do you react when misunderstood or falsely accused? How can you be more like Jesus next time this happens?
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” John 17:1
Roughly three years prior to this scene, Jesus, around age 30, begins to emerge as someone to keep an eye on. No longer just an ordinary Jewish boy/man in an ordinary Jewish community who was obedient, kind, respectful, but nothing special in the eyes of most. Things changed one day along the Jordan River when He was baptized by the one ordained to pave the way. This day the voice of God spoke while the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. It was the start of something, though not yet “the hour” the heavens had been eagerly anticipating.
Jesus began to call disciples; students to follow, fellowship, and learn from Him. Several days into His public ministry, Jesus and some of His disciples attend a wedding in Cana. The celebration is joyful… until the wine runs out. The mother of Jesus looks His direction…I picture that “do something” mom look. Jesus responds, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? MY HOUR HAS NOT YET COME.” Nevertheless, Jesus performs His first miracle…turning water set aside for ceremonial cleansing into wine.
Fast forward three years and Jesus is with many of those same disciples. The time that had not yet come at the Cana wedding was upon them. Lifting His EYES UP, Jesus prays, “Father, THE HOUR HAS COME; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”
The hour has come. The cross and bloodshed will become the vehicle to glorify Jesus. The hour has come. The intersection of two pieces of wood will become the intersection of grace, mercy, love, and justice. The hour has come. What was set apart for cruelty, suffering and humiliation will be set apart for restoration. The hour has come. The water – the outward temporary cleansing – is about to be turned into wine – the perfect blood of the only spotless lamb of God. The final, FINISHED sacrifice for our salvation and redemption. The hour has come.
Challenge: Take time today to thank Jesus for submitting to sacrificial death for your sins and freedom.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13
I am terrible with directions. Awful. I can get lost anywhere. Imagine I had a guide. A wonderful person on one of my journeys that I trusted completely. All I had to do was follow him and I would never get lost. However, he could only help me when I was physically with him. But then, what if he implanted a spiritual GPS in me that was a manifestation of himself? He would always tell me where to go. He would alert me if I was going off track. He would even help me when I was confused and teach me things along the way. And when I was weary, He would fill in the gaps for what I needed on the journey. I never had to doubt a thing, He could not steer me wrong; it isn’t in his nature. But I had a part to play. I had to make sure he was activated in me. I also had to listen to him. When he told me where to go or what to/not to do, I had to listen. He couldn’t physically make me go there. I had to follow his directions.
This is the power of the Holy Spirit available to us. As much as I long to go back in time and physically walk with Jesus, this is a better thing for now. It is my fault if I am not activating Him in my life, or equally bad, not listening to Him. If we were chronically directionally-challenged and we had a fool-proof internal guide at our disposal but refused to use it, we would be crazy. We have so much power available to us and I’m convinced too many of us are not recognizing the value, rendering it idle.
David Guzik points out, “Look at the disciples before Jesus left. Confused. Thick-headed. Afraid. Selfish and self-centered. Look at them after Jesus left, and after the Helper had come. They are wise, surrendered, bold, and giving. Truly it was ‘to your advantage’ that Jesus left!”
This. This is the power I want. I want to fully activate the Holy Spirit - God inside me - and never get lost again.
Questions: So how are you with directions? Would you love an implanted GPS for your life? How can you look at the Holy Spirit to be this person in your life?
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I [Jesus] go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
I don’t know about you, but I often wish I could transport in time and walk with Jesus. To hear Him teach, to watch the miracles, to just be near Him and know Him on that physical personal level. My daughter and I often talk about “movie time” in heaven where we imagine God pulling out the projector and letting us watch stories from the Bible as they actually played out…or better yet, to transport us to walk side-by-side with Adam when his eyes first opened and God was the first face he saw, Moses when the Red Sea parted, Ruth when she wed Boaz, Esther when she held her breath and walked in to address the king, David when he faced Goliath, Hosea as he faithfully stood by Gomer, Mary when the wise men came and worshipped her newborn son, the woman who had been bleeding 12 years when she was suddenly healed by Jesus, Martha when her brother was raised from the dead, the disciples when the risen Jesus first appeared and breathed on them …I could go on forever…
Jesus is telling His disciples – and us – there is something better. Something that can only come in His absence. The disciples don’t get it though. They are sad, confused, afraid, heartbroken over the idea. What could be better than the personal presence, protection, wisdom, guidance of Jesus Himself?
But Jesus insists. IT WILL BE BETTER.
The better person will be a helper, a guide, a convictor of sin, righteousness, and judgment, a voice of truth. But the best part…instead of being with us, He will be IN US. He will be with us always, wherever we find ourselves.
Questions: Do you ever imagine what it would be like to transport to one of your favorite Bible stories? Do you ever wish you could be with Jesus in person? How do you see the Holy Spirit as even better than that?
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
“These things” Jesus is referring to are the reminders He had just given His followers about abiding in Him. About being the branch fully connected and dependent on the vine, joined in relationship and nourishment. About obeying His commands and soaking in HIS love.
THESE THINGS Jesus tells us SO THAT His joy may be in us; that our joy may be FULL. The abiding, connecting, depending, obeying…THESE THINGS lead to JOY. A lasting and fulfilling joy not found in striving, achievements, status, or circumstances.
Pastor Jack Wellman describes joy this way: “Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is an emotion that is acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.”
Rick Warren adds, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
This life is not easy, that is for sure. But in this passage, Jesus wants us to know that there is GREAT JOY to be had. Jesus wants us to be FULL OF JOY, and the way we have this joy is by truly KNOWING and BEING WITH Him.
Abiding in God, loving HIm, trusting Him, obeying Him, and bearing fruit in His kingdom isn’t about adding more checkmarks to a list, but to experience true joy…something our hearts deeply desire.
Questions: Have you found joy in knowing Jesus? How can your life be full of joy even as things are hard and heavy around you?
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2
I’m going out on a limb to declare that we ALL want to bear fruit. We all want our life to matter for something bigger than ourselves. We want to make a difference and we want to live a joy-filled life.
Jesus shows us how to get there, but there is a price…though not as high as doing nothing. The shears come out either way.
If we are not bearing fruit, we will ultimately get cut off the vine completely, left to wither, dry up, and die. But even when we are bearing fruit, the shears come out. This time for the purpose of pruning…SO THAT more fruit may be produced. No matter the size of the harvest, there is always opportunity for more fruit.
No one escapes the touch of the shears, but the outcome is vastly different.
Pruning takes on different forms depending on what we need in our fruit-bearing journey. And pruning, even with the promise of a beautiful outcome, is just plain hard.
But the alternative is never experiencing the fullness of joy He promises. It is remaining in just-okay-limbo-land…or worse.
Here's some good news: If we commit to the abiding in Him, in His Word, in His commandments, He promises to give us what we ask and need to stay there, to withstand the pruning, and to come out stronger and more fruitful on the other side.
Questions: Where are you today? Do you feel cut off? Are you in the middle of a beautiful harvest after a season of pruning (praise God!)? Are you in the midst of the pruning? Are things such a mess you don’t even know where you are? Wherever you are, commit to quiet time. Dig in His word. When He speaks, listen and obey…no matter how hard…trust He will be there to help as He promises
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13
About that “greater works” thing…John calls the miracles of Jesus signs. They pointed to who He was and what He would ultimately do. While He was walking the earth, the work wasn’t finished, but when He hung on the cross and breathed His last breath, taking the wrath for all of our sins, IT WAS FINISHED. It’s go time. Time for some new works, friends. Works that Jesus made way for and we get to be a part of. Works of sharing the Gospel and letting the Holy Spirit take hold of people. Works with an impact that will never run out or die. Eternal healing and raising from the dead. He doesn’t need us, but he ALLOWS us to be part of these greater works. What a blessing and privilege!
I often look at a loved one who is suffering, and I wish I could grab them, find Jesus on the dusty dirt road by the Jordan River, and touch the hem of his garment so they would be healed. But Jesus is telling us we can do even greater works than this. We can be a part of shining His light and pointing people to an eternal healing and restoration. It is so beautiful and overwhelming. I don’t want to miss any part of this incredible charge Jesus has given me.
And in this charge of greater works, Jesus gives us another promise: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
I think many people mistake this for a “name it and claim it” gospel, sometimes for noble things…sometimes for not so noble things. But it is actually in the context of taking the baton Jesus handed to the disciples… who handed it to the early Christians… who handed it on and on until we ran alongside and grabbed it for our leg of the race. He is for us. He sent us the Holy Spirit. He wants to equip us for the race and the good works He prepared in advance for us. It might not always look like we think it should, but He PROMISES, “I WILL DO IT.” I believe Him. Do you?
Challenge: Let’s not trade the good for the GREATER. Let’s be a part of these greater works. Let’s ask in His name and watch Him work!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, WHOEVER believes in me will also do the works that I do; and GREATER works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father…” John 14:12
During Jesus’s last meal with His disciples, He leaves them with powerful truths and promises.
If we believe the Bible is true, then promises such as this one – to do the works that Jesus does, greater works even – are true for us too. And I don’t know about you, but it fires me up!
Who is it for? WHOEVER believes in Jesus…that is me, and you if you are a believer.
What will we do? ALSO do the works that Jesus did…scratch that…GREATER works than these.
How? Because Jesus (God the Son) went to God the Father, and in doing so, the power of God the Holy Spirit comes into us.
So, lets back up to that greater works thing. Greater than feeding 5,000? Greater than walking on water? Greater than turning water into wine? Greater than healing all manner of disease and illness? Greater than raising the dead?
While I’m guessing we will never match the physical miracles performed by Jesus, they were temporary. The 5,000 were hungry again the next day. The wine eventually ran out. The healed people – even raised Lazarus – ultimately died. There are greater works than these that Jesus ushered in, and we get to be a part of seeing them explode.
J.C. Ryle says, “There is no greater work possible than the conversion of a soul.”
Questions: Do you believe in the power of God you can do the greater works Jesus mentions? What do you think this looks like? Is this exciting to you?
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48
Why Judas? We are told Satan enters Judas. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Judas was an innocent bystander. We know from John’s gospel account that this same Judas was a lover of money and helped himself regularly to the moneybag. Perhaps Judas rationalized that he had been betrayed by Jesus. He signed up to be part of a political superpower, not a humility and service gig. He loved money and power and prestige more than he loved Jesus.
John Piper notes, “Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway.”
Deception and greed opened a door in the heart of Judas, and Satan capitalized on it. “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
George Morrison says, “not only did Judas sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but he also sold himself.”
Sin will destroy us, but God’s plan will never be destroyed. The cross meant to kill is our victory.
It is a powerful reminder not to be deceived by how something appears on the outside. But even more importantly, a reminder to check our hearts and motives frequently. To do whatever it takes to keep our hearts pure and free of welcome invitations for Satan to slither his way in.
“Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” (2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG)
Challenge: Take time today to do a heart check. Have you strayed from truth and your faith in any area? Are you trying to orchestrate things your way instead of seeking God’s way?
And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Luke 22:2
One of the holiest days – Passover – is drawing near and instead of engaging in prayerful preparation, the chief priests and scribes are wracking their brains over how they can put Jesus to death. Their current obsession.
But they were afraid. Not a fear of God and His judgment, but a fear of people. They couldn’t risk the public uproar if they arrested Him among the crowds that were always surrounding Him. God knows, they have tried and tried unsuccessfully to deceitfully trap Him, but nothing has worked. He is too smart for that. Too holy.
They needed another plan. They needed to know where He retreated; where He went in private. They needed to do it then and there. But how?
To their pleasant surprise, in walks Judas. One of the twelve who Jesus hand-selected after prayer and fasting to be His disciple. One of the twelve who camped with Him, ate with Him, listened to Him teach, watched Him heal…for three years!
They couldn’t have orchestrated a better plan. Though they are surprised, Jesus isn’t. He will soon reveal it at the Passover meal with His twelve closest friends, Judas included.
From the outside, Judas looked like a committed follower of Jesus. But here he is. Offering to betray Jesus for only thirty pieces of silver.
“High offices in the church do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin,” says J.C. Ryle. This is crystal clear in observing the religious leaders in Jesus’s time. And, sadly, Judas too.
Questions: How can someone seemingly so close to Jesus throw it all away to betray him? How can this be a warning to us?
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38
Shortly after Peter confidently asserts to Jesus that he will never fall away, he finds himself in a garden where Jesus brings him and a few others to pray.
Here Jesus finds Peter failing at something far less intense than facing death for Jesus’s sake.…namely, not being able to stay awake when Jesus asks him to during a time of deep need.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Jesus says.
Be alert. Watch and pray. We can’t fight temptation on our own. We need to tap into the power of God. But again, Peter falls asleep.
Not many hours later Peter denies Jesus. Three times. And not to an armed military commander, but to an unthreatening servant girl. The rooster crows.
And this is so us, right? We feel so close to God and we make promises we can’t keep. Or we royally mess up and we make promises we can’t keep. Or we want something so badly and we make promises we can’t keep. Or we let emotions get the best of us and we make promises we can’t keep.
Be careful what you promise to God. He doesn’t want our naive promises; He wants our person, our presence, our devotion. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We must watch and pray.
Questions: What promises have you made, so sure you would keep them, but ultimately broke? Why was it so hard to keep? What caused you to break your promise?
Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Mark 14:29
At the last Passover meal with Jesus, Peter made a promise he couldn’t keep. In accordance with the Scriptures, Jesus tells the disciples they will all fall away. Peter, always the impulsive one, declares, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”
Peter is speaking out of self-reliance; out of pride and emotion. Always the recipe for disaster. Jesus knows it is a promise Peter can’t keep and tells him so. He is even specific about when the denial will take place: this very night, before the rooster crows.
Despite specifics uttered by Jesus, Peter becomes more emphatic, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Peter is speaking based on his feelings at the moment. They just had a nice meal. They learned of a new covenant. They are singing hymns. Everything feels good – feels right – at the moment. Peter is pumped and feeling brave.
Jesus, on the other hand, is well aware of the intense spiritual battle raging all around. Staying grounded, resisting temptation, facing fears, doing the right thing when it is hard takes more than simply an impassioned promise made in a safe environment.
Oswald Chambers says, “Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it… Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant… Jesus had a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself or his own capabilities well enough. Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him…beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God”
Question: Why is it so hard to follow and obey Jesus in our own power?
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” John 13:8
“You shall never wash my feet,” Peter declares. He doesn’t understand. He can’t accept his Lord stooping to such a lowly position. The pride that kept him from initially being the one to step up among all the others and wash feet is now keeping him from allowing Jesus to serve him in this way.
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with me,” Jesus responds.
“Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head,” Peter swings at breakneck speed in the complete opposite direction, still woefully off track. He is taking what he hears Jesus say and deciding how it should happen.
Peter struggled to just be still, listen, trust, and obey Jesus on many occasions. He was often impulsive. He often reacted based on emotion. He wasn’t intending to fight Jesus on this, he just hadn’t learned how to surrender. He still wanted his share of control over how it would all go down.
I deeply relate to Peter. Like Peter, I really do love Jesus. A lot. But also like Peter, pride keeps me from sacrificially serving others and pride keeps me from allowing others to serve me. Pride keeps me wanting control of how things should happen instead of fully leaning into Jesus’s ways. My will keeps me from sitting still long enough to listen to ALL of what God has to say...instead, my typical M.O. is hearing a few words and running while His voice trails behind until inaudible.
I’m so thankful that God still used Peter—and still uses us – in amazing ways for His glory. Praying today to fully step into God’s plans, God’s timing, God’s direction. Thank you, God, for your patience, persistence, and beautiful example of how to serve and love well.
Questions: Do you see any of yourself in Peter? Are you quick to try to control the narrative around you? What makes it hard for you to be still, listen, trust, and obey Jesus?
“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities BELIEVED in him, but for FEAR of the Pharisees they did NOT confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from MAN more than the glory that comes from GOD.” John 12:43-44
I fear many of us get to the point of belief, but we are stuck there. The glory of man seductively slips its way into first place in our hearts. We’re not afraid to be put out of the Jewish synagogue, but we have our own “synagogues” we aren’t willing to sacrifice…things we prioritize that are keeping Jesus from His rightful Lordship position in our lives.
As the brother of Jesus reminded us, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19)
Belief is not the same as declaring – confessing – Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The devil believes and still remains his own lord.
What does it look like to have Jesus as the Lord of our lives? He is the ruler, master, authority, and boss. Of. Everything; All. Of. Us. It is yielding our lives to Him. Absolute and total surrender. We are not our own. He is the one we want to impress. He is the voice we want to listen to above all others.
S.M. Zwemer says, “Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.”
I fear we believe in Jesus, but our heart is still in a full-on battle with the world. And we can’t successfully serve two masters. We like the idea of Jesus as Savior, but not so much of Jesus as LORD OF OUR LIFE. We love the identity we try to create, copy and portray more than we love the identity given to us by our Creator. We love the purpose we covet more than the greater purpose we were designed for. We love the glory that comes from peers, status, comfort, control, worldly achievement, human accolades more than the glory that comes from God for God.
Questions: How do we break free? How do we love God more than the world? How do we move from belief to surrender? How do we make God first?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:24-26
Only by a seed “dying” or being buried in the ground – willing to transform – will it grow and bear fruit. Remaining just a seed, it sits alone and unproductive, not fulfilling the purpose of its creation.
Jesus is saying that unless we are willing to lose our life, we will never keep it for eternity. As long as we cling to ourselves as our own lord, we lose.
And think about it…we are terrible lords. On our own, we are just unplanted seeds being carried away by the latest gust of wind. Unfulfilled, stuck in a cycle of striving, comparison, envy, pride, dissatisfaction. Wondering why nothing is growing.
The answer to true life is in the dying. Being buried to take root in Jesus. Dying to us as lord of our lives and blooming with Jesus as Lord.
It seems terrifying and unknown and counter-cultural, so we cling to what we know, chasing the fake bright lights and bling that are the devil’s crafty distortion of the true light.
The upside-down kingdom of God is so different than the world we live in. The world that tells us to love and protect our life, even if it means stepping on everyone else to get there. The world tells us people should serve us…we deserve it. But God says, lose your life to gain it. Serve others. Love others more than yourself. And in this, we find a full life and fulfillment.
Questions: Think about the seed analogy…how it must die to transform and to bloom into what it was created to do. How can you relate this to your life? What things must die to bloom?
For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. Mark 13:8
The disciples want to know what to look for to recognize when the end is near. When we feel weary, we too want to know when it will all end. When will Jesus return? When will He make all things right as He promised? When will sin, and pain, and envy, and our repeated mistakes, and suffering, and death be defeated once and for all?
Jesus tells the disciples that the signs to come before the day of His return will be horrible…nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines. And if that isn’t bad enough, He says they are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Pain has a purpose. Progress comes from pain. Pain indicates something is wrong. Pain makes us take a hard look and to try to change something; to fix it. Pain makes us stop, limiting what we can do; forcing us to slow down. Pain is humbling.
Jesus relates the pain to come as birth pains. Pains that increase and intensify, but ultimately produce something new and something beautiful on the other side of it.
Though we groan now under the weight of sin, a time will come when all things that went wrong when sin entered the world, when the pains of childbirth began, will be made right again.
C.S. Lewis says, “If you find yourself with a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that you were made for another world.” Indeed, we were made for another world. A world free of sin and suffering. A world in intimate communion and community with God. Until that time, we groan with the sustaining and increasing pains of childbirth. And when that time comes when the birth pains subside, and new life emerges, the pain will long be forgotten. It will again be good. Very good.
Question: How can a painful experience usher in something good?
So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. Luke 20:20
The Jewish elites are dying to catch Jesus in something – anything – but He continues to leave them baffled and speechless instead. Public opinion keeps them from going after Him directly, so they scheme some more.
At last…the perfect plan, they think. Let’s drag politics into it, they devise. Ooohhhh, and taxes…that’ll surely not end well, they plot.
“Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” they ask Jesus, following some manipulative & mocking complimentary words.
If He says to pay the taxes, they reason they can twist it to show He is denying God’s authority. Or, if He says not to pay, Rome will lose it and see Jesus as a troublesome rebel. They are sure it is a plan that can’t go wrong.
“Whose image and inscription does it have?” Jesus asks as He holds a denarius in His hands…the hands that will soon be pierced by the same government pictured on the coin. “Caesar’s,” they reply.
“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” Jesus responds. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. “…and to God the things that are God’s,” He concludes.
What are they to even do with this? Everything is God’s. Everything. Caesar may have his picture on a man-made coin along with a rule and right to taxes and submission for a time, but his power is limited. Jesus essentially says pay the tax but know there is a higher ruling authority under which everything and everyone submits. David Guzik paraphrases, “Give the coin to Caesar, but give your life to God.” It isn’t about two realms – secular vs. sacred; church vs. state; Caesar vs. God. God is over ALL things in ALL places at ALL times.
Questions: Whose image is imprinted on you? Are you giving Him all that is His?
“Unbind him and let him go,” Jesus commands. John 11:44b
No longer dead, Lazarus emerges from the tomb he was in for four days. Hands and feet still bound; face still wrapped with cloth.
Jesus instructs the men to unbind him; to take off the burial clothes.
Pastor Joby Martin says, “Living people don’t wear dead people clothes; they don’t fit anymore.”
We too have experienced death – death to our sins; death to our old ways; death to trying to do the impossible on our own; death to condemnation and shame – when we put our faith in the work of Jesus. We can walk out of that pit of death and into a new life of freedom and purpose.
Do we live like it? Are we still walking around in dead people clothes, doing the same things, wallowing in the same weak faith, striving for the same worldly things that disappointed us in the past, prioritizing the same shallow tasks?
You don’t have to do the things you used to do because you are not the person that you used to be. Not only are you forgiven and free, but you are also now imputed with the righteousness of Jesus. When God looks at you, He sees His Son.
Time to shed the burial clothes and walk in the redemptive freedom of Jesus.
Question: Imagine Jesus saying to you, “______ [your name], come out of the grave! Unbind yourself. Take off those dead people clothes…they don’t quite suit you anymore!” What things might you need to take off to live the life God has called you to?