Not the end

Stories to Live ByLazarus was sick. Maybe it was staying out late fishing in the rain that turned his cold to the worst. Maybe the infected cut on his hand from mending the nets had turned to gangrene, or a pounding ache in his head that won’t go away.  But now, his sisters Mary and Martha had exhausted their salves and home remedies.  They sent for Jesus.  They needed the Healer.

But Jesus didn’t show up.  It wasn’t for lack of love for Lazarus, but because he loved him.  He wanted Lazarus to experience God’s glory.

When Jesus finally made his way to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Mary and Martha’s grief overwhelmed them.  They both came to him with questions…

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Luke 11:21 and 32).

Lovingly, Jesus met them in their pain. He mourned death. He wept. But Jesus knew something they didn’t know.  Jesus knew about belief so strong that it conquers death. Jesus knew about resurrection and life — real life.

At the tomb, Jesus showed them.

He told them to roll away the stone.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Luke 11:39-40)

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Oh, how many times I have faced a brother’s tomb and come to Jesus with questions?

When a brother betrays his wife with years of a secret addiction; when a brother takes a joy-ride in his father’s sports car and kills his best friend in the accident; when a brother smiles, but in the end sees no option but to end his own life…

I ask, “Where were you, Jesus?  Couldn’t you have seen what was happening and stopped it?  Couldn’t you have stepped in?  You’ve healed others, why not my brother!”

Patiently he tells me roll away the stone of my doubts. Gently, he asks me to believe.  Quietly he whispers.

“I know it hurts. Remember Gethsemane? But I know how the story ends.  It’s for God’s glory. Trust me. The grave is not the end.”

empty_tomb_wide

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Luke 11:25-26).

 

This, friends, is the beauty of Easter.

What a wonderful Savior.

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boy walking photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

empty tomb photo credit: icr.org

Check out Institue for Creation Research for an article on the impact of the empty tomb.  It’s a great read!

Encountering Jesus

I pulled this post from the archives.  It seemed appropriate in remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection.  Where do you take your botched responsibilities?

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When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

Morning Gate

“What is that to us? they replied.  “That is your responsibility.” 

When Pilate saw that he was getting no where, but instead that an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in the front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. ‘It is your responsibility!” Matt. 27:3-4, 24

What an interesting parallel between Judas and Pilate… responsibility.

Judas had followed Jesus closely for three years.  Judas had sat under his teaching, watched him heal blind, and broke bread with him.  Judas got it all wrong… the betrayer.

Pilate had only one brief interview with Jesus.  One cryptic conversation probably left him with more questions than answers.  Pilate ducked out and missed it… the dodger.

 

When the innocence of Christ’s blood rises up before him, Judas only sees his responsibility.  Actually, he sees his culpability, his blame.  It grips him around the throat and pulls him under.  He sees no option other than to take his own life.  He doesn’t see Jesus’ offer for a new one.  Responsibility blinds him to it.

When Christ’s innocence stares Pilate in the face, he lets his desire for peaceful public relations get the better of him.  He abdicates his responsibility and kowtows to the crowd. In washing his hands of the innocent man’s blood, he only implicates himself further.  The irony jumps out and grabs him – for only in washing himself in Jesus’ blood would Pilate find the truth he is seeking.  But Pilate misses Jesus’ offer of new life.  Responsibility disguises it.

twisted

Two men.  Two encounters with responsibility.  One overcome with the weight of it.  One skirting the glory of it.  Both blinded.  Both guilty.  Both forever tied to the story of Christ’s death that brings life.

Some might argue that it’s unfair to hold either Judas or Pilate responsible for Jesus’ death.  After all, it was God’s plan.  Jesus said so.  This is why he came – to die.  Judas and Pilate were simply pawns in God’s chess match with the evil one.  How can they be responsible?

True. God’s intention was to have Jesus Christ die on man’s behalf.  But even truer is the fact that my sin put Jesus on that cross just as much as Judas’ betrayal or Pilate’s poor judgment.  My sin… and your sin… drove Jesus to the cross.  We are all responsible for the innocent man’s blood.

But our confrontation with our guilt doesn’t have to end in despair or disillusion like it did for Judas and Pilate.  Not if we know who to bring it to.

See, Judas sought the religious leaders for absolution.  All he got was his blood money thrown back in his face.  Pilate sought the crowd for answers. All he got was “Crucify him!” slammed in his face.

But you and me?

With all our botched responsibilities, we can come to Jesus and get nail-pierced hands cupping our face, and love-laden eyes washing over our face, and grace-filled words warming our face saying, “My child, your sins are my responsibility.  You are forgiven. Now, come, follow me.”

Sun through tree

What a wonderful Savior.

 

Lessons from an itinerate preacher

A person can receive only what is given him from heaven.  John 3:28

John the Baptist fascinates me.  He’s the voice
of “one crying out in the wilderness.”  He preaches boldly, amasses a following, and lives on the fringes of acceptable society.  Most importantly, he’s content to play second fiddle.

John disciples aren’t quite as content.  They complain to him about Jesus’ crowd-stealing.  Jesus is baptizing, and they are baptizing, but more people are going to Jesus!

John responds with usual frankness. (This is my paraphrase.) “Quit your whining! I’m doing what God gave me to do. I’m not the Messiah.  God designed it this way!  I pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God so that people would be drawn to him and follow him.  He must become greater than I’ll ever be!” (John 3:29-30)

John had received his orders and he carried them out flawlessly.  There’s no room for pointing fingers like little children fighting over who has a bigger pile of Legos.

Unfortunately, I relate all too easily to John’s disciples.  I find myself trapped, comparing myself to others who have extensive influence, or cool ideas, or poignant insights.  I wonder silently, “Why can’t that be mine?”

Often what others get seems more attractive than my lot.

So how does John look at Jesus and not compare?  How does he not veer from the mission given him by God?  Doesn’t it worry him that his crowd is dwindling and his influence waning?

I know that later in John’s story, when he’s sitting in Herod’s prison, he sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he is really The One.  Essentially, he questions his cousin, “Was it worth it?” Jesus responds by letting the evidence speak… lame walking, blind seeing, deaf hearing, dead living.

So with the cloud of doubt dissipated, John must have possessed enormous peace when he died at the hands of a pompous pretender.  John knew he had completed the assignment “given him from heaven.”

I want that single-mindedness.  I want the confidence of claiming what I have received from heaven.  I want to live my life in such a way so that when I die, I know it’s done.

As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, speaker, writer, woman, I want to be focused on the role God’s given me.  It’s more than a task.  It’s a life mission… and it’s unfolding, evolving, emerging… and revolving around Jesus.

May I see him more clearly, day by day.