Great deception

Matthew 28_11

Matthew 28:11-15

From Galileo to Columbus, the world has had difficulty accepting things that challenge long held belief. The earth is the center of the solar system and the world is flat. When challenged, these long held truths found support by kings and emperors. Pope Urban VIII even had Galileo stand trial because he dared question perceived realities. One might think that the Church would be open to new possibilities, especially since it is the Church which was born out of such a discovery. After all, once crucified and buried, dead men don’t escape the grave.

After making their report to the authorities, the guards were paid to keep the story from spreading. After all, if the resurrection were real, then everything Jesus said and taught would also be true. The priests and Pharisees would have explaining to do. Better to keep it quiet.

Since that first Easter day, the world has tried to do just that; keep news to the resurrection quiet. All sorts of stories and theories have been offered, the oldest one being concocted by the temple authorities claiming the disciples stole his body. Some asserted that Jesus did not die, and when he was taken from the cross was revived. Still others say Jesus wasn’t crucified at all; it was an imposter who hung on the cross. Try as they might, such claims cannot be substantiated because they are not true.

God sent his Son into the world to save people from their sin and that’s just what he did. All who believe and are baptized are saved. Just as the world is round and the earth revolves around the sun, God’s people are raised to new life through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There really can be no point in raising new questions, defending old assertions and supporting the notion of life without Christ, unless one intends to live apart from God.

Prayer: Almighty God, fill us with your truth, that we may tell others the news of Christ’s victory. Amen.

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The second day of the week

Luke 24_38

Luke 24:36-53

The Easter narrative makes us fully aware of what happened on the first day of the week. Women went to Jesus’ tomb and found he was not dead; he was raised. The news spread throughout that first day of the week with Jesus appearing to his disciples and two people on the road to Emmaus. Easter changes lives, but for our world today, what are we to make of Easter on the second day of the week?

On Easter Sunday, churches were filled with worshipers. On the second day of the week, with the chorus of Jesus Christ is risen today!” fresh in its ears, the world returned to work. How long will it be before doubt once again creeps back to the forefront?

By the second day of the week, the daily struggle of earthly life returns in force. For many, grief remains, worry returns, relationships are still broken, and death looms on the horizon. Living in the midst of our brokenness, some forget that because of Easter, these things no longer have power over God’s people. In the face of sin and death, we have the promise of life in God’s kingdom.

Jesus’s resurrection on the first day of the week sets the tone for life in the face of death.  It brings forgiveness in the face of sin. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the powers that defy God. On the first day of the week, every week, God’s people are witnesses to these things.

Prayer:  Holy God, as we worship you on the first day pf the week, fill our hearts with Easter joy all the days of our lives. Amen.

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Walking with Christ

Luke 24:13-35

It’s a long walk down the road to uncertainty, a long dark walk. Turning points are few, and often misunderstood. That’s the road Cleopas and his companion were navigating. That might be wishful thinking. When you’re lost, you’re not really navigating. You’re just walking. We have all found ourselves walking that road at one time or another.

Whether it is grief, depression, loneliness or addiction, the road to uncertainty is one which is well traveled. Sometimes there are sign posts that will redirect us in the way we should go. But even these are often unrecognizable. Remember, it’s the road to uncertainty. It’s hard to travel this road alone. We need someone to point the way.

The stranger that joined Cleopas and his companion seemed to know something the others didn’t. As they walked together, the risen Christ joined them and taught them that God’s intent went far beyond the pain of the cross. Jesus helped them recognize that out of darkness, God brings light. Out of despair, God gives hope. Finally, in the breaking of the bread, theirs eyes were opened. Through Christ, the road to uncertainty finally has a destination, a relationship with the one who restores hope as we walk with him in faith.

Prayer: Teach me your ways, O Christ, that I might walk with you today and always. Amen.

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Were you there?

Luke 24:1-12

Were you there? No doubt many sang this beloved hymn on Good Friday. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Of course, you were. Though not physically, your sin, my sin, our sin was there. It is what nailed him to the tree. It is the reason Jesus had to die.

Or what about when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there? Surely you were. The wages of sin is death, and we are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory. We have not kept God’s commandments, and we have not even come close to loving one another. Jesus paid the price for our disobedience. He died. We buried him.

Yet, today is the day of resurrection. Were you there when God raised him from the tomb? Were you there to meet the risen Lord Jesus as the great stone was rolled away? Though not physically, you were. God had you in mind when Jesus died, and he had you in mind when he raised him up on the third day. You were there, and so was I. In fact, all who call upon Christ as Lord were present in the eyes of God the day Jesus was raised. Because you are precious in God’s sight…you were there.

Prayer: O Lord God, in my heart, I give you thanks and praise. For you have saved me from my sin. Amen.

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Keeping vigil

Luke 23:50-56

What do you do when you feel all hope is lost? When dreams are crushed we are devastated. When we lose someone who is dear, we grieve. When all of this comes at once, there is no direction in which to turn. Such was life for the disciples who followed Jesus and the women who traveled with them. Their Lord, their hope was dead. Crucified and buried, Jesus was no more. At least that’s what the world would have them, and us, believe.

When the reality of sin shatters our hopes and dreams our lives are often sent into a tailspin. Especially when it comes to matters of faith, hope and love, we need assurance. We long to hear from God that all is well. But fear and doubt all too often rise to the surface and cast a long shadow. It’s in these times we forget the words of Christ, that he would be raised on the third day.

Peter, James and John, along with the other remaining disciples hid in fear. Joseph of Arimathea obtained permission to bury Jesus’s lifeless body. The women who followed along saw where his body was laid. They thought it was over. Jesus’s words had fallen silent. But in the still of our hearts, Christians today know our Redeemer lives. With the assurance of the gospel, may God’s people keep vigil today. Pray and prepare for the feast to come.

Prayer: In the quiet of our hearts, O Lord, hear the prayers of thanksgiving for your mercy, grace and love. Amen.

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Father, forgive them

Luke 23:33-46

I am looking at you Jesus, staring actually, and I have to get something off my chest. I know why you are hanging there on that cross. It’s because of me. You taught me the way of God’s love, but I failed to listen. You showed me how to walk by faith, but I wandered off in my own direction. I didn’t always love you with my whole heart, and I seldom love my neighbor with the love you have for me. It’s my fault. I’m the guilty one.

Jesus, I can’t put into words how I feel at the moment. I should be there, not you. I should be the one sentenced to die, but you stepped in. On Sunday, I shouted “Hosanna!” But today my voice was one of those calling for your crucifixion. Oh, why did I do that? What was I thinking? Yes, I know, I was thinking of myself.

But there you are, on the cross. In all of my sin and shame, staring at you, I have this strange sensation. Yes, I am guilty. Yes, I deserve to be there in your place, but there you are…in mine. Somehow, I can’t help but feel thankful. There is a joy that is washing over me like springs of fresh water. Seeing you bleeding breaks my heart yet I feel, well, cleansed…no…redeemed. That’s it, I feel the joy of redemption. And it all happened when I heard you speak. “Father, forgive them, they no not what they are doing.”

Prayer: Thank you Jesus. It’s all I can say. Thank you for your grace. Amen.

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Given for you

Matthew 26:26-29

For forty days, Christians have walked with Jesus along the road to Jerusalem and the cross. Along the way, we have heard Jesus’ teaching, witnessed his miracles, and through these received a glimpse of God’s kingdom. Beholding all of these, one question might come to mind; “If Jesus did so much good, and lived a life without sin, why did Jesus have to die?”

Beginning the Paschal Triduum (Three Days), Jesus provides the answer to a much deeper question; “For whom did Jesus do all of these?” For whose sake did he stop along the way and have compassion? For whose benefit was it that Jesus taught in parables and performed signs and wonders? Who profited from his suffering and death? Who did Jesus come to deliver from the powers of sin?

You. He did it for you.

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gathered his disciples and told them about the things that would soon happen. Jesus didn’t explain the full meaning of his death, but he left no doubt as to its significance. Jesus met the twelve in a most intimate time and place, during the Passover meal. On that night, in the bread and the wine, he offered them (and you) his body and blood for the forgiveness of sin.

In the same way, even now our Lord Jesus meets us at the table. He provides more than just bread and wine. He gives us more than a means to remember his sacrifice. Jesus provides us with heavenly food, his very own body and blood. Never was there a gift so precious, never was there food so satisfying. He gives it to you and to me so that we would live with him forever.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus, for saving your people from their sin. Amen.

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