Saturday, November 21, 2009

Murder in the name of God

It seems inconcievable. But in our day we are seeing it on a scale unprecedented in history.

Murder! In the name of God!

What sort of strange and vile religion is this?
Well it happened a long time ago. And it is still happening today.

7 "The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith."
8 -10 "Stephen, brimming with God's grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. But then some men from the meeting place whose membership was made up of freed slaves, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and some others from Cilicia and Asia, went up against him trying to argue him down. But they were no match for his wisdom and spirit when he spoke.
11 So in secret they bribed men to lie: "We heard him cursing Moses and God."

Simple revenge. As old a motive for murder as there is. The venue to accomplish the murder? Religion...

12 -14 "That stirred up the people, the religious leaders, and religion scholars. They grabbed Stephen and took him before the High Council. They put forward their bribed witnesses to testify: "This man talks nonstop against this Holy Place and God's Law. We even heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth would tear this place down and throw out all the customs Moses gave us."
15 As all those who sat on the High Council looked at Stephen, they found they couldn't take their eyes off him—his face was like the face of an angel!"

But God, the REAL God was with him...
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We put them in jail. Where did they go?

The religious elite put the apostles in jail. Then they met to decide how to stamp out this threat to their establishment.

17 -20Provoked mightily by all this, the Chief Priest and those on his side, mainly the sect of Sadducees, went into action, arrested the apostles and put them in the town jail. But during the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, "Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life."
Promptly obedient, they entered the Temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
21 -23Meanwhile, the Chief Priest and his cronies convened the High Council, Israel's senate, and sent to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. When the police got there, they couldn't find them anywhere in the jail. They went back and reported, "We found the jail locked tight as a drum and the guards posted at the doors, but when we went inside we didn't find a soul."
24The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. "What's going on here anyway?"
25 -26Just then someone showed up and said, "Did you know that the men you put in jail are back in the Temple teaching the people?" The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them."

So they had to rearrest them. But this time they were afraid. Not of God, of what the people might do.

27 -28Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, "Didn't we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus' name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are trying your best to blame us for the death of this man."
29 -32Peter and the apostles answered, "It's necessary to obey God rather than men."

The religious were afraid of what the people might do. The apostles were only full of proper fear of God. They did not fear man. Not the police. Not the religious elite. Not the people. They go on with their message...

"The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven. And we are witnesses to these things. The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey him, corroborates every detail."
33 -37When they heard that, they were furious and wanted to kill them on the spot. But one of the council members stood up, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel, a teacher of God's Law who was honored by everyone. He ordered the men taken out of the room for a short time, then said, "Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. Not long ago Theudas made something of a splash, claiming to be somebody, and got about four hundred men to join him. He was killed, his followers dispersed, and nothing came of it. A little later, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and acquired a following. He also fizzled out and the people following him were scattered to the four winds.
38 -39"So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!"
40 -42That convinced them."

They didn't want to be found fighting against God! So they decided to beat the apostles... (figure out how those two go together...)

"They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus' name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute."

Overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name.



This group of believers experienced supernatural life in the midst of their very ordinary lives.

Acts 5:12 -16 "Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done."

Miracle 1
"They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon."

A wise pastor said,
"In the natural, there will be division.
Only with supernatural power will there be harmony."

Harmony is a sign of the Holy Spirit, and is a sure sign that God is at work, and that the people involved are letting God work, instead of working in their own natural abilities and strength.

Miracle 2
"But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both."

It is the Holy Spirit of God that calls men and women to God. It is not music, programs, clever speeches, wonderful inspiring vision. When God is at work people come to Him.

Miracle 3
Supernatural healing. I would postulate that healing of all kind is from God. When God is at work marriages are healed and restored. Broken relationships are renewed. Broken bodies are healed.

"They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on stretchers and bedrolls, hoping they would be touched by Peter's shadow when he walked by. They came from the villages surrounding Jerusalem, throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed."

Of course, miracle 3 gets the most attention.

But all miracles are evidence that God is at work in the midst of history, accomplishing his purposes and bringing the world to himself.

Friday, November 20, 2009

God gets rough...

God is love.
Sweet and gentle.
The nice old "grandpa-in-the-sky, right?

Better read today's story...

1 -2 But a man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it.
3 -4Peter said, "Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn't lie to men but to God."
5 -6Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it. The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.
7 -8Not more than three hours later, his wife, knowing nothing of what had happened, came in. Peter said, "Tell me, were you given this price for your field?"
"Yes," she said, "that price."
9 -10Peter responded, "What's going on here that you connived to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who buried your husband are at the door, and you're next." No sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down, dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 "By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with."

The legalistic use this story to keep order in the church. The permissive avoid the story altogether.

But it is there. No getting around it.

I guess we shouldn't lie to God. Not in public. Not even in our hearts.

And grace was on all of them

God has a plan in mind to win the world.
Not to coerce the world.
To win the world.

It involves communities of believers who love God and love each other in tangible ways.

It does not involve buildings, or programs or paid staff. Just people in community who love each other. Doing what comes naturally when God is in their midst.

23 -26 "As soon as Peter and John were let go, they went to their friends and told them what the high priests and religious leaders had said. Hearing the report, they lifted their voices in a wonderful harmony in prayer: "Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David:

Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth's leaders push for position,
Potentates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers!

27 -28"For in fact they did meet—Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!—met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion.

29 -30"And now they're at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus."

31 While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God's Word with fearless confidence.

32 -33 The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That's mine; you can't have it." They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.

34 -35 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person's need.

36 -37 Joseph, called by the apostles "Barnabas" (which means "Son of Comfort"), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles."

Communities full of grace. It's a beautiful thing...

Religion gets rough!

The religion of the self righteous
The acts of the believers

Today the two clash head on! The self righteous have all the position, all the prestige, all the power.

The believers just have Jesus. And the boldness of knowing God personally.

1 -4 "While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus. They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning, for by now it was late in the evening. But many of those who listened had already believed the Message—in round numbers about five thousand!

5 -7The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religion scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: "Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?"

8 -12With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: "Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I'll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.' Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one."

13 -14They couldn't take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed!—what could they say against that?

15 -17They sent them out of the room so they could work out a plan. They talked it over: "What can we do with these men? By now it's known all over town that a miracle has occurred, and that they are behind it. There is no way we can refute that. But so that it doesn't go any further, let's silence them with threats so they won't dare to use Jesus' name ever again with anyone."

18 -20They called them back and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, "Whether it's right in God's eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there's no question—we can't keep quiet about what we've seen and heard."

21 -22The religious leaders renewed their threats, but then released them. They couldn't come up with a charge that would stick, that would keep them in jail. The people wouldn't have stood for it—they were all praising God over what had happened. The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old."

Dead theology vs men alive in Christ.
There is no contest.

(I never did figure out why the visitor in the picture put a tortilla on his head. Maybe it was raining...)

The Acts

1 -5One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here." He looked up, expecting to get something from them.
6 -8Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.

8 -10The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple's Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.

11The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon's Porch to see it for themselves.

The acts. Not the theology, the acts. Folks knew these guys had been with Jesus because of what they did, not so much because of what they believed.

How are the acts of THIS disciple today?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In my first book...

John Grisham started writing by getting up at 5:00 am every morning and putting in two hours of writing before going off to the office to put in a full day as a small time prosecuting attorney.

As soon as his first book was finished, he started on his second. No one would publish his first book, but he kept writing. He now writes one book a year, and I call him the premier story teller of our time. There are now 235 million copies of his books in print.

The book detailing the most explosive change in human life, society and civilization ever ever ever begins very simply. "In my first book..." Just like John Grisham was a busy attorney when he started writing, so the author of this book was a busy doctor. His writing was part time, in addition to his other duties. His name was doctor Luke.

The book describes what happened to divide history into before and after. BC and AD.

The title is not catchy. Was there no publisher to insist on a flashy title? It is called, simply, "The Acts of the Apostles" commonly shortened to just "Acts".

It is now part of the runaway best seller of all time - The Bible.

1 -5 "Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but "must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon."

6When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?"

7 -8 He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."

9 -11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, "You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left."

Thus begins the story of the acts of the apostles...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do you love me?

One of our favorite scenes from my wife's all time favorite movie is entitled simply, "Do you love me?"

Love. Golde..."

Do you love me?

Do I what?

Do you love me?

Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion

"Golde I'm asking you a question..."

Do you love me?

You're a fool

"I know..."

But do you love me?

Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

I was shy

I was nervous

So was I

But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?

I'm your wife

"I know..."
But do you love me?

Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

Then you love me?

I suppose I do

And I suppose I love you too

It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know

Well, I hope its not irreverent, but Jesus made that question famous many centuries before Fiddler on the Roof came along...

15After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"

"Yes, Master, you know I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

16He then asked a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

"Yes, Master, you know I love you."

Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep."

17 -19Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I'm telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you'll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don't want to go." He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, "Follow me."

20 -21Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, "Master, what's going to happen to him?"

22 -23Jesus said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You—follow me." That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn't die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you?"

24This is the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down. And we all know that his eyewitness account is reliable and accurate.

25There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can't imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books.

Fish for breakfast

OK - I'll admit. It is not exactly what I salivate for, when I put my feet over the edge of the bed in the early hours of the morning.

But - this is a different time. A different place.

1 -3After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed "Twin"), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, "I'm going fishing."

3 -4The rest of them replied, "We're going with you." They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn't recognize him.

5Jesus spoke to them: "Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?"

They answered, "No."

6He said, "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens."

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren't strong enough to pull it in.

7 -9Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "It's the Master!"

When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren't far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.

10 -11Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you've just caught." Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn't rip.

12Jesus said, "Breakfast is ready." Not one of the disciples dared ask, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Master.

13 -14Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead."

It was the best breakfast of their lives!

The conversation

Two friends. Walking and talking.

This conversation gets immortalized in history...

13 -16That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

17 -18He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

19 -24He said, "What has happened?"

They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

25 -27Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

28 -31They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: "Stay and have supper with us. It's nearly evening; the day is done." So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

32Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"

33 -34They didn't waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: "It's really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!"

35Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

36 -41While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

41 -43He asked, "Do you have any food here?" They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes."

That particular conversation has never stopped...

The huddle

19 -20 "Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house."

Together. Huddled. Doors locked. Safe from the outside world.
Christians have done that for centuries. When you are afraid, you huddle.

"Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you." Then he showed them his hands and side.
20 -21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant."

Jesus shows up, and the group is thrilled.

"Jesus repeated his greeting: "Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you."

Hold on. I like the first part. "Peace to you." Acutually, add a word. Peace and PROSPERITY to you. That's great. But what is the second part. You are sending us? No! We want to huddle. We want to be safe. We need comfort. We need reassurance. Don't be SENDING us!

22 -23 "Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said. "If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?"

24 -25But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, "We saw the Master."

But he said, "Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it."

26Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you."

27Then he focused his attention on Thomas. "Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe."

28Thomas said, "My Master! My God!"

29Jesus said, "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing."

30 -31Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it."

Soon we will see the huddle break, and the group will explode into hard hitting action!

The runner and the lunk

When you know the ending of a story, it is hard to apppreciate the feelings and emotions of the players as things were happening to them.

An unimaginable catastrophe has happened to this group of believers. They thought they had found the Messiah. Kind. Supernatural powers. Words of wonder and inspiration. But he had been killed. So what about them? What about all those wonderful teachings? Did they need to abandon the dream and go back to their ordinary lives again?

A greiving women is about to turn things on their head yet again...

1 -2 "Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance."

She just knows that an even greater disaster has happpened, on top of the disaster of her "Messiah" dying. Now his grave has been plundered.

"She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, "They took the Master from the tomb. We don't know where they've put him."

There were at least 11 disciples huddled together. Can you guess who left immediately. Action first! Questions later!

3 -10 "Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter."

John is a young man at this time. He and Peter start out, running out of the city. Both consumed with their thoughts and fears. For the first few steps, John hears the thudding feet, the heavy heaving of his elder - Peter. Soon those are behind him. Within a few hundred yards, all John hears is the wind going by him, and his own heaving as he goes down the valley, across the bottom, and charges up the hill to where the tomb is. Soon he is there. Whoa! The stone IS rolled away, just like Mary had said!

"Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in."

John stands to one side, hands on hips. Heaving, then breathing, then normal. Soon he hears the huffing and puffing like a huge bellows. Here comes Peter, red faced, powerful, stocky, determined...

"Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself."

Peter didn't hesitate at all. He goes right into the tomb. If there is someone in there - he is going to tear him apart limb by limb. Whoever was messing with his Lord's grave... with his Lord's body...

"Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed."

Gentle John goes into the tomb, now that Peter is already in there, still heaving great gasps of air.

They both saw the same thing. Empty tomb. Neatly folded graveclothes. The 80 pounds of Mhyrr and spices made the fully wrapped grave clothes like a cocoon. But the white cocoon was empty. Jesus wasn't TAKEN out he had LEFT! On his own!

The impact of that hit them both like a speeding train.




"No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Deep in wonder and full of joy

That small phrase jumped out of me this morning.

Deep in wonder and full of joy.

Maybe it isn't supposed to happen all the time. But I think it is supposed to happen at least occasionally. Here is the story of the resurrection morn...

1 -4 "After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn't move."

OK, a little feminism here. The big burly gaurds - fully trained for war and fully armed? Scared to death.

Two believing women - frail, alone, worried, deep in thought? Well they left deep in wonder and full of joy!

5 -6 "The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

7"Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message."

8 -10 The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples."

Jesus honors these two women, by appearing to them first. Before the disciples. Before any of the other believers. Jesus appeared to them first!

"Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. "Good morning!" he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, "You're holding on to me for dear life! Don't be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I'll meet them there."

When you meet Jesus... When you fall at his feet and worship him...

You leave deep in wonder and full of joy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up

I am reading through an old National Geographic magazine about Herod - the master builder of Judea before and during Christ's time on earth.

He was cruel, militarily strong and politically adroit. He had heard about Jesus, the amazing magician who was wandering about his kingdom.

6 -7 "When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.

8 - "Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions."

Herod was like millions of people today. Jesus, you supernatural "puppet-on-a-string". DO something for me! Entertain me! Make everything go my way! Make me rich!

Jesus didn't answer—not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

11 -12 "Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance."

The delight didn't last long. Those that come to Jesus for the miracle, for the immediate benefit, for the "Alladin in a box" experience get dissappointed quickly. Some of the most avowed athiests are like Herod. They came to Jesus for a miracle. When their quick fix doesn't happen just like they want, just when they want?

Mightily offended - they turn on Jesus.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This has to be the Son of God!

It was a terrifying day!

45 -46From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

Jesus is being crucified. The world is plunged into darkness.

47 -49Some bystanders who heard him said, "He's calling for Elijah." One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, "Don't be in such a hurry. Let's see if Elijah comes and saves him."
50But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last."

Jesus dies, and some astonishing things happen.

51 -53At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom."

I am quoting. "What did this mean, this event that was so important that three of the Gospel writers mentioned it?
The temple was divided into two portions, an outer room called the Holy Place in which a number of priests served, and an inner room called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies. This inner room represented God's presence. It was so sacred that the only person allowed in was the high priest, and then only on one day of the year to make atonement for the sins of himself and the people.
This sacred room, the Holy of Holies, was separated from the rest of the temple by an elaborate and beautifully embroidered curtain. According to Jewish descriptions of the temple, this curtain was truly massive-measuring some 30 feet wide, 60 feet high and three inches thick. Its tearing in two from top to bottom at Jesus' death was a shocking and bewildering event! How could God let something like that happen within His temple?
Yet God was not only behind this, He deliberately tore the curtain to make a point -that mankind's sins, which had cut us off from Him (Isaiah 59:2), could now be forgiven through Jesus Christ's shed blood.
Comparing how the high priest had previously only been able to pass through the curtain once a year to offer atonement for sins, (Hebrews 10:19-22) explains that a new High Priest, Jesus Christ, through the sacrifice of Himself superseded this ritual for all time and gives mankind direct access to God"

So that was astonishing. I imagine it made a huge sound. It certainly made a huge impact! But that wasn't all!

"There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What's more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus' resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)"

Can you imagine being there? The world goes dark? (This was before electricity) The veil is ripped top to bottom? There is an earthquake, with rocks splitting open? Dead people are raised? This was earth shaking! Hair raising! Scary!

What was the conclusion of the pagan Roman guard and his guys?

54 "The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, "This has to be the Son of God!"

Two thousand years later, 1.3 billion of us are still saying,
"This has to be the Son of God!"