From Tradition to Expectation

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:1-8 NIV)

Like the women on their way to the tomb, we often approach Easter as tradition rather than an expectation. They were on their way to anoint Jesus’ dead body with the spices they had prepared – an ancient Jewish custom – but didn’t expect not to see His body there. Why prepare spices in the first place when there’s no body to anoint? Jesus had told them that He would rise again. Were His words too good to be true? The angels asked them the same question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” How many times do we talk and sing about the Easter story, but don’t live like it’s true? We say He is risen but act like He is still dead or even worse, we live as though we’re dead. If the resurrection of Jesus is a tradition rather than an expectation, we’ll never know what it means to have that same resurrection power. Let’s expect more from our risen Lord and Saviour!

Strengthen the Others

 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 NIV)

Jesus knew that Simon wasn’t as strong as he claimed to be (is it any wonder then why Jesus doesn’t refer to him as Peter, or “rock,” in this instance?). That is why Jesus prayed for him. In answer to that prayer, Simon would bounce back as the rock that he was meant to be, so Jesus encouraged him to strengthen the others. Simon learned once again Who the real source of his strength was.

We’ve all been in Simon’s shoes. We’ve all gone through trying times that have proven our real character. And just like Simon, we’ve been reinstated by the grace of God and asked to help those who have fallen to rise again. Because God can turn our defeat into triumph and our weakness into strength. He never gives up on us and we should never give up on others. So when He strengthens you, don’t forget to strengthen the others.

In the Palm of His Hand

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

(Isaiah 49:16 NIV)

Have you ever written something important on the palm of your hand so you wouldn’t forget about it? Maybe not so much today because we can get our devices to remind us. But today’s Bible verse, which was written thousands of years ago, tells us that God has not forgotten about us; He has our names engraved on the palm of His hand. In fact, just in the preceding few verses, it says:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (vv.14-15)

While the Israelites were questioning God’s love for them and saying He had forgotten about them, He reminded them that He would never do that.

Your King hasn’t forgotten about you either. He loves you, you matter to Him and He is coming to deliver you from whatever it is that you’re currently going through. He remembers, He cares, Salvation is here!

God has you in the palm of His hand.

Finish Strong

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)

Anyone can enter a race, but not everyone can make it to the finish line. Half way through, we become weary and discouraged when we look at how long we still have to go. But the Scriptures continually exhort us to keep running because God’s not done with us yet. Jesus is the perfect example of what it means to finish strong, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And it is on Jesus we need to fix our eyes in order to keep running the race marked out for us. It’s okay if we stumble and fall – because eventually we will – but with His help we can pick ourselves up again and run until we reach the end. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” Paul encouraged Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7). Let’s finish strong too!

Keep Pushing

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 NIV)

At the most weakest moment in His life, Jesus chose to watch and pray. Knowing what soon awaited Him, He told His close friends to do what He was about to do – pray. Clearly, they were so overcome with sorrow that they chose to sleep on it instead (Luke 22:45). How many of us have been in a similar situation where we were so overwhelmed by life’s heavy burdens that the last thing we wanted to do was pray? But pushing through it all with prayer is what we were meant to do. Someone has noted that the word push stands for pray until something happens. Jesus certainly did. Through prayer, He pushed through betrayal, denial, suffering and death. That is why He was victorious. The next time you find yourself on the edge, push. Pray until something happens.

By His Wounds We Are Healed

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

Jesus experienced the most excruciating pain possible because of us, yet “by His wounds we are healed.” How can we be the cause of someone’s pain and still find healing through it? Listen to today’s passage from The Message Bible: “But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.

So many people are hurting and in need of healing right now. And who better to understand our pain than the One who experienced the most agonizing pain on our behalf? Jesus. His wounds are still healing us. We don’t have to hurt anymore because He was already broken for us. Thank You, Jesus!

Hope Walks With Us

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. (Luke 24:19-21 NIV)

What are you hoping for? The disciples on the way to Emmaus had hoped that Jesus was the One who was going to redeem Israel. He did, just not the kind of redemption they were expecting. “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (vv.25-27).

There was Hope walking with them and they didn’t see Him. First and foremost, they – and we – needed rescuing from sin. Their hope was met differently, but it was still met. We also know from Scripture that Jesus will return as the triumphant King and He will indeed redeem Israel from all oppression. In His way and time, God will resurrect your hope, so keep hoping because Hope still walks with us.

Image: http://www.LumoProject.com

I Was Dead But Now I Live

I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:8 NIV)

Exiled on an island for his faith in Jesus, the beloved disciple sees the risen Christ. Falling at His feet “as though dead,” John is told not to fear because although once dead, Jesus now lives for ever and ever (Revelation 1:9, 17-18). The living Jesus met John in his loneliness and fear to remind him that his suffering for God and His kingdom was well worth it. This wasn’t a fairy tale that John was told to uphold. In keeping with Jesus’ “I Am” statements in his Gospel, John now adds a new one, “I am the Living One,” in the book of Revelation, which he also authored.

Don’t you just love the past tense in today’s verse, “I was dead”? Every Easter and at Communion, we remember Jesus’ brutal death, but I love how Jesus also reminds John – and us – “I am alive for ever and ever!” This same Jesus wants to resurrect every one of us, so that we, too, can say, “I was dead but now I live.” No matter our past, we can have a brighter future because of Jesus. He has authority and control over death.

He Set Us Free

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

Jesus’ sole mission was to set us free. Free from meeting the demands of the religious law and those who burdened people with it but wouldn’t lift a finger to help them keep it (Matthew 23:4), and free from sin. And free us He did. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” Jesus told His hearers (John 8:36). You know that mission hasn’t changed. Jesus is still in the business of setting people free. The question is, are we living and walking in that freedom? So many of us end up carrying loads we weren’t meant to carry in the first place. All those times we chose to say “Yes” to demands and expectations while on the inside we were screaming “No.” The good news is it’s not too late to trade those heavy burdens for Jesus’ easy yoke. His invitation still stands, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Signs of Life

For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers, and as a garden cascades with blossoms, so the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom and puts praise on display before the nations. (Isaiah 61:11 MSG)

After a long, dark and cold Winter, most – if not all – of us are looking forward to Spring, especially here in Canada. I’m constantly looking for signs of life at this time of year. Easter, which falls around Spring every year, is a wonderful reminder of that renewal that we all crave and need. Today, I came across a beautiful quote by Martin Luther. It says, “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” As we begin to see signs of life around us this season, may we be encouraged in knowing that it’s God’s will to breathe new life into every one of us, resurrecting us with His Son. May we rise again after a long, dark and cold season of tests and trials.