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Peace (Part 1)

pink tulips on brown wooden surface
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples
were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with
you.” John 20:19
I had a history professor who loved to draw on the blackboard (Yeah, I’m that old.) the military
maneuvers of famous battles. The problem was that before long there were so many intersecting
lines and arrows that the diagram became a hopeless maze. It would be like that trying to
diagram the events of Easter morning. Some women made their way to the tomb early in the
morning. One of them, Mary Magdalene, sees only the stone removed and runs to find Peter and
John. The other women find the grave empty and two angels announcing Jesus’ resurrection.
They, too, run back to the city to find the disciples and are met on the way by the risen Jesus.
Mary finds Peter and John, and all three run back to the sepulcher. John gets there first, Peter a
bit behind, and seeing the tomb empty they take off back to the city. Sometime thereafter the
risen Jesus appears to Peter. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene reaches the grave out of breath, and
everyone is gone. To her first, Scripture says, Jesus appeared. During this time a frightened
cohort of soldiers had run back to the city to tell of the earth’s rumble, the flash of light and the
stone flung clear away from the tomb, and no body inside. That set the 71 members of the
Sanhedrin scurrying through Jerusalem to bribe the soldiers to keep their mouths shut. Those
who had seen the empty tomb ran around the city, I’m sure, to find as many of Jesus’ followers
as they could with the news. They had some unusual company in the streets of Jerusalem –
saints that Scripture says only in passing were raised by God from their graves in testimony to
the power and significance of the resurrection.
When all this running around was over on Easter evening, what set in were confusion about what
happened and fear of what might happen next. Then Jesus suddenly appeared to say: “Peace be
with you!” Only Jesus can actually provide peace by speaking the word.
Jesus brings peace to resolve confusion. Was he a ghost? No, they could touch him. Was this
an illusion? No, this was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and his own promises.
What did it mean that he was alive? So many questions, so much uncertainty. But Jesus was
there, and he brings peace. Did they understand it all? No, but Jesus did, so they were at peace.
Maybe you’re a bit uncertain about your future, post-covid. Maybe there are unresolved issues
in the family. Maybe you have some questions and doubts about your faith. Let Easter assure
you that the Savior who put himself between you and God’s just anger at sin is alive and on top
of things. You don’t have to understand what is or what’s coming if you have Jesus’ peace.
The disciples had seen the irrational hatred of the Sanhedrin and the mob frenzy that pushed
Pilate to order the execution. It wouldn’t take much detective work to identify Jesus’ co-
conspirators. They must have expected a knock on the door and a squadron of soldiers come to
arrest them. Instead, Jesus appeared with no need for a door. For a brief moment that must have
ramped up their fear; but then fear dissolved in a sigh of peace. Look, if Jesus can beat death,
what is there to be afraid of? I’m sure you can come up with a substantial list of real fears, from
failing health to fragile job, from kids in trouble to the evening news. The reason for fear is that
we are powerless to control much of what happens in life; and we know only too well what kind
of wickedness there is in human hearts. Stop! Jesus didn’t rise from death to leave you fending
for yourself. Go ahead, pray. Your big brother Jesus can come to your rescue as swiftly as he
appeared on Easter evening. Peace be with you! Easter can’t be just a holiday.
PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to pause today in spite of all there is to do and all the things that
ramp up my anxiety; and fix my thoughts on how Jesus’ resurrection changes everything
about life. Give me a big sigh of peace and the assurance that I can pick up my life with
certainty about the things that matter. Amen.


Father Forgive Them

Jesus Christ on cross painting
Luke 23:34  “Father, forgive them…”

How ironic that a day of such sadness becomes so well known as “Good Friday.”  But this is very much in keeping with a right understanding of what went on this day, many years ago.  If you attend or view a Good Friday service today, the music will be solemn.  There probably won’t be any laughter.  There may even be the shedding of a tear or two as we consider all that happened to our Savior.  That in itself is “good” for Good Friday.  It means we understand our sin.  The solemn music, lack of joy, and presence of tears aren’t just because we are emotionally attached to Jesus.  It’s not just because we’re hearing a tragic, true story about the death of someone we love.  It’s because we know that we are involved in all of this.  It is our sin which brought this day about, and not just everyone else’s.

We’ve been thinking about this and talking about this for well over a month now.  It began on Ash Wednesday, a day on which the world considers us foolish for wallowing in our guilt, and making ourselves depressed because of all the things we’ve done wrong.  It’s not pleasant to consider such things, but it is extremely beneficial when we arrive at this day.  We get it right when the sorrow of this day centers on our responsibility for it.  And when we get that right, then this day really becomes a “good” Friday.

Look at what Jesus does!  The agony, the suffering, the death is not just a tragic story about a hero who sacrifices Himself.  This day is about the impossible love of God for you and for me.  See Him hanging on a cross!  The brutality and violence of that act pales in comparison to how determined Jesus was to undergo it.  He did this willingly, lovingly for us and for our forgiveness.  Hear His final Words!  They aren’t just poetic last thoughts of a dying man.  They are full of salvation and again, love.

How could that not be good?  How good it was that God would send His Son.  How good it was that Jesus came!  How good it was that He fulfilled His mission!  How good it was that God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us, that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.  It is an appropriate label for a sorrowful day.  A blessed GOOD Friday to us all!

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, nothing about this day seems good.  But we know better.  All that you did on this day is good for us, because now we are saved.  Our highest thanks and praise is to you, on this Good Friday.  Amen.


Holy Week – Wednesday

gray praying hand statue
Matthew 26:39  “Yet not as I will, but as you will…”

We know what happened on each day of Holy Week, except Wednesday.  On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  On Monday, He drove out the moneychangers.  On Tuesday He taught around the temple courts.  On Thursday he was in the upper room with the disciples, among other things, giving them the Lord’s Supper.  On Friday, He was crucified.  On Saturday He was in the tomb, and then on Easter Sunday He rose.  What of Wednesday?  It’s the day of Holy Week we don’t have any events recorded and we really don’t know where He was.  But we can take a pretty good guess as to what Jesus was doing.  He was probably doing what he so often did.  He most certainly must have been in prayer.

We see a magnificent example of Jesus’ prayer on Thursday night when He was in Gethsemane.  Would the Wednesday prayer have been similar?  Perhaps.  In Gethsemane we note some characteristics of prayer.  Two particularly stick out.  Jesus was honest with the Father.  “If it is possible,” Jesus said, “take this cup from me.”  What a prayer!  Jesus knew full well that His destiny was the cross.  He knew full well what was the Father’s will.  And yet, He prayed honestly, exactly what was on His mind and in His heart. We should never be afraid of saying to God what we think, what we feel.  God is big enough to take it.  And when we have been honest in our prayer, perhaps it is then that we are most open, most attentive to hearing what God’s answers are, because we know and understand so clearly what we have asked of Him. 

The second beautiful characteristic of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is how He concluded it.  He said, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”  Yes, that’s how we should pray as well.  We pray honestly as Jesus did, and we pray full of faith that what God will do, and how God will answer, will be exactly right.  “Thy will be done” is a statement of faith that God knows far better what is best for our faith and life than we do.

No, we don’t know exactly what Jesus was doing on this day of Holy Week.  But I think we’re on pretty safe ground to assume that He was praying.  He was likely praying for Himself, for His disciples, for you, and for me.  That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, may our prayers be like your prayers.  May we be honest, and may we be full of faith that the Father’s will is exactly what is best.  Amen.


Holy Week – Monday

Matthew 21:13  “My house will be called a house of prayer…”

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple area. The issue with the moneychangers wasn’t so much that things were being bought and sold around the temple, it’s how the buying and selling cheapened the right worship of God. 

There were many coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, and those coming would often be bringing a sacrifice to offer to God.  This was not necessarily an easy thing to do, nor should it have been.  If one were bringing a lamb, the perfect one would be chosen from back home.  After all, this is for God.  Perhaps the journey would be multiple days to get up to Jerusalem.  One would have to transport the lamb, feed the lamb, protect the lamb.  The journey to bring the sacrifice itself would be a sacrifice, and that was appropriate.  All the while the person or the family would be thinking how much they loved God, how much they wanted to offer the right gift to God, and would carefully make sure they’d be doing just that.

Enter the moneychangers.  They’d make it easy on you.  “Don’t worry about going through all the trouble transporting that lamb.  We’ll have one here for you.  Don’t inconvenience yourself bringing a sacrifice all that distance, just pick one up on the way in.  We’ll make a deal, half-price on Monday.”  That’s what irritated Jesus.  Add this to the loud bartering and haggling which would disrupt the reverence of those coming to worship, and you have a righteous reaction on Jesus’ part.  A house of prayer had been made into a den of thieves.  And so, Jesus drove them out.
How fitting, how appropriate that the one who drove out the moneychangers as they were cheapening the sacrifices, would Himself be the perfect sacrifice.  And how sacrificial His sacrifice was.  No easy act, this passion and crucifixion of Jesus.  The sacrifice of Himself was the biggest part of it all, but the sacrifice leading to the sacrifice demonstrates all the more fully how determined Jesus was to take our sins away.

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, in this Holy Week, we remember with gratitude how perfect your sacrifice was for us and for our salvation.  Amen.


Everyone Needs DAD: Depression

silhouette of kneeling man
And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? … Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me [in the grave]. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.” Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. [1 Samuel 28:16,19-20]

Have you ever had a day where it felt like you had no strength, no motivation? Have you ever had a time where you didn’t feel like moving, or doing anything at all? Lacking purpose, drive, motivation. Feeling worthless, useless, cast aside. 

These are tell-tale signs of depression. While some people face clinical depression (chemical imbalances and physiological issues), all of us face depression in our lives. All of us face the weight of depression. It is part of our human experience. 

Saul, the first king of Israel, was overcome with depression quite a lot. He turned away from God and decided to do his own thing. But he learned that his way was the wrong way. Then came the real trouble. Depression came upon him because he separated himself from God. 

We need our heavenly Father, our Abba, our Daddy. Being separated from God and God’s will leads us to places where we might not even want to move. Saul got so stuck in his own sin that he refused even to move back into the arms of his heavenly Father! No wonder he felt so depressed, with no strength left. 

What’s got you feeling depressed? As the old hymn says, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Our Dad can do something about depression. Jesus cures our every weakness, when we find ourselves resting securely in Him. Don’t separate yourself from God, especially when the hard times come. God will see you through. Find help and find hope- here on earth, with family and friends and even professionals. But always remember to turn to God our Father, who promises to strengthen you and guide you with His will.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we lift up all people who are feeling depressed today. Life can be hard and there are so many difficult circumstances. But we know we can trust in You no matter what. May we always be found with You, and under the care of our Heavenly Father. Surround us with your presence, and others who care for us with the love of the Father. In Your name we pray, Amen.