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Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

The world was forever changed on Easter morning.  On Friday sin was judged and the just penalty was paid in full.  On Sunday the Lord rose triumphantly from the grave proving He had not only paid the penalty, but He defeated death, hell, and the grave in the process.  ALLELUIA, JESUS IS RISEN!  THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!

In Friday’s post I shared pics from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher over the most likely site of Golgotha and the empty tomb.  Just outside the current city walls there is another potential site where there was a rocky face that had the appearance of a skull and an empty tomb in a garden.  During our trip to Jerusalem last spring we visited this site.  Whether this site is the actual burial place or not, it much better depicts what it would have looked like.  I share these pics with you today in hopes that this Easter you experience God’s grace in a new and powerful way.  He died for you and He rose for you.  Lift up you heart, your hands, your voice to Him this day… and be thankful!

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Picture from around 1900 of what the rock face looked like.  This was also beside a major road out of Jerusalem which was another necessary characteristic of the Roman's.  Crucify in a very public place to send a message to other would be rebels.

Picture from around 1900 of what the rock face looked like. This was also beside a major road out of Jerusalem which was another necessary characteristic of the Roman’s. Crucify in a very public place to send a message to other would be rebels.

Communion shared in the Garden Tomb.  Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of Me."

Communion shared in the Garden Tomb. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

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Between the delivery of the promise and its realization is the “Tween Time”.  On Good Friday Jesus died.  Through the Holy Sabbath that followed the disciples, His followers, the religious leaders, even the Roman authorities lived in the ‘tween time.  Consider what each group must have experienced through this day of waiting.

His disciples were crushed.  They had lost their leader, their friend, the One they had left their lives and livelihood to follow.  They had thought He was going to become the leader who would set them and their nation free from Roman oppression.  They were Jesus’ closest friends and confidants.  Simply losing someone dear is a terrible shock.  But they had thought Jesus was so much more.  Now He was gone.

They were also very afraid.  It was bad enough that the religious leaders had it out for Jesus, but the Romans had actually carried out the execution.  And one thing about Roman justice when it came to even a hint of rebellion, they were not afraid to squash it ruthlessly.  If they had crucified Jesus because they felt He was a threat to Roman rule, then His disciples would soon follow.  Recent uprisings had seen not only the leader crucified, but dozens and sometimes hundreds of their followers crucified as well.

In varying amounts they were also ashamed.  They fled when Jesus was taken.  They were not able to stand this simple test.  Peter personified this sense of guilt for the group.  He promised to stand with Jesus going to the garden, but within just a few hours he had denied knowing Jesus even with an oath.

His other followers were bewildered.  They too had put their hopes in Jesus.  Many had experienced healing at His touch.  Others had been set free from demonic bondage.  Thousands had seen and experienced His miracles whether in the food that multiplied when He prayed or through sermons that touched the heart.  They knew these things that had happened were real… or at least they thought they were real.  How could it be that the One who demonstrated such power had so quickly been taken from them?

The religious leaders were a mixture of smug assurance that a very real threat had been eliminated and still a little wary since the impostor had spoken a number of time about “life after death”.  While they felt confident that Jesus’ death would put an end to this growing challenge to their power, they took steps to ensure no further complications could arise by the Galilean’s followers taking His body and saying He had arise.  They convinced Pilate to have the tomb carefully guarded.

The Roman authorities were probably not too terribly worried about the whole issue.  Pilate, for His part, was not particularly pleased that he had to stoop to being the pawn of the religious leaders in this incident, but his tenuous hold over this restive Roman province was predicated upon a good “working” relationship with the Jewish leaders.  As requested, a Roman guard posted at the tomb of this man, Jesus, was a simple final task in this unsavory business.  Soon the Passover would be over and he could return to Caesarea away from these religious fanatics.

On this Saturday everyone was convinced a climax had been reached, the curtain had drawn closed, and Jesus’ life and mission had been completed.  Jesus’ powerful presence had been the engine that was driving the movement and now He was gone.  While no one really knew what to expect a couple things were certain.  The religious leaders had stopped this movement by cutting off the head and the disheartened, frightened band of disciples and followers were certainly in no condition to keep it going.  This Jesus movement was a thing whose time had passed.

At least that is what they thought on Saturday in the ‘tween time…

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Good Morning this Maundy Thursday of Holy Week 2015.  For much of the night I pondered and prayed about what to share this morning.  Holy Week is climactic in the life of a believer as we relive Jesus final earthly hours and culmination of why He came.  As I alluded to yesterday Jesus came with a primary purpose and a number of secondary purposes.  Some of His secondary purposes were to give us an example of how to live, to touch lives in His day that were later recorded so we would know how to minister, and to send the Holy Spirit to live within us who would further our living and ministering in faith.  His primary purpose was to give Himself up as a perfect sinless sacrifice for sin so that through Him everyone would have a path to forgiveness and restoration with God the Father.  I heard on the news this week that a recent study found that over 50% of youth and young adults do not know the reason for the Easter season.  That is sad.

I am praying for a groundswell of truth seeking for I am convinced that if people seek truth, they will find God.  This is never more accurate than if they simply look into the facts about Jesus.  I have spoken with unbelievers and invariably their response has fallen along a couple of distinct lines.  Either they don’t want to be bothered by seriously considering the claims of Christ or they simply have never taken the time to weigh the evidence and apply logic to determine what is true.  In my experience the root of unbelief for those who have heard the gospel and not accepted it has always been a sin they were not willing to give up or look past long enough to consider is Jesus who He said He is.

One of the things I have done a lot in my career as an engineer is Root Cause Analysis.  The most effective way to get to the real reasons a failure occurs is to diligently gather all the evidence, make sure it is valid and accurate, and then put those pieces of evidence together to see what story it tells.  I have been involved in hundreds of these investigations and if this process is followed, we always resolve the issue.  However I have seen a number of situations where the investigator approached a failure with a preconceived idea of what the root cause was and the investigation did not go well.  You see, if we approach a question with a bias ahead of time, it becomes much more difficult to accept the evidence at face value.  We look for evidence that supports our hypothesis.  In many cases unconsciously.  In others it is conscious and willful.  We will overlook or dismiss evidence that does not fit our hypothesis.  Additionally when we have a bias from the outset, we are not able to effectively apply logic.  Remember that one of the key principles of logic is that when all the evidence is weighed, if all other options are eliminated, then the remaining option, regardless of how unlikely, must be true.  (I think I heard the character Sherlock Holmes say that recently.)

The ultimate question then becomes “Who was Jesus?”  People who haven’t investigated all the facts and applied logic will often respond, “Oh Jesus was a good man.”  “He was a wise and good teacher.”  Or perhaps they will even go so far and say what Islam says about Him, “He was a great prophet.”  However those are not valid choices as the ultimate declaration of who Jesus was.  To make the claims He made and to suffer an indescribably cruel and painful death as He did, there are really only three choices.  One he was insane and delusional in the most extreme sense.  Two He was the greatest deceiver who has ever lived.  Or three, He was who He claimed to be.  Jesus claimed to be God’s Son – to be One with the Father.  He claimed to be able to forgive sins.  In John 14:6 we read “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one come to the Father except through me.'”  These are extremely bold claims.  A good man does not make Himself equal to God unless that is Who He truly is.  Otherwise He is either a deceiver or mad.

The evidence is pretty substantial.

  • We have eye witness evidence from multiple sources of the life and miracles of Jesus.  They are amazing stories.  And if we do not allow our biases, either for or against to sway us, then we put those into the “validation bin” to determine a little later if we admit them as true and valid.
  • We have the number of prophesies in the ancient Hebrew sacred texts (the Old testament of the bible) written 400 – 1000 years before Jesus’ birth that fit what we know about His life perfectly.  Many of these were fulfilled completely independent of any thought or action He could have taken.  Here are a few of the 100+ prophesies fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
    • Virgin birth
    • Born in Bethlehem
    • Herod’s killing of all male babies in Bethlehem (except Jesus who had escaped to Egypt) after Jesus birth
    • From the lineage of David
    • The manner of His death
    • The advent of John the Baptist
    • Plus many more to numerous to capture here.
  • The fearful disciples who hid themselves after the crucifixion were transformed into life long evangelists after His resurrection.  Eleven of the twelve were martyred with John the only one to suffer a natural death albeit in exile because of His faith.
  • Jesus’ body was never found.  This is really huge. Remember the key principle about logic mentioned above.
    • If the disciples had stolen the body (highly unlikely) one of them would surely have broken and confessed when under the threat of death.  And while it is possible a person might die to cover up a lie, that such a large group of people maintained the same story speaks to the truth of the tale.
    • If the authorities had taken the body all they had to do was show the body and the movement would have been stopped at the outset.
  • The number of post resurrection appearances Jesus made.  All told Jesus appeared to over 500 people after He was ressurected.  And because of this they were transformed into faithful followers even through persecution and death.
  • The accuracy and validity of the bible.  This is actually evidence to support the validation process.
    • The bible is far and away the most studied book of antiquity.
    • There are more high quality ancient manuscripts of the bible than any other book from antiquity by far.  Some of these manuscripts are from within just a few decades of the original documentation.  A recent ceremonial mask from Egypt was found and carefully studied.  I believe the date was from around 80 AD.  The mask was made from papyrus that had short selections of the Gospel of Mark in it that authenticated current texts.
    • The dead sea scrolls found in the Judean desert in 1947 had a large number of Hebrew texts that proved the accuracy of current texts.
    • Along these lines, an understanding of the absolute rigor and holy reverence with which the Jewish scribes approached the copy of the texts ensures the highest level of accuracy and attention to detail.
    • The secondary sources such as the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus that support the historical details surrounding Jesus and the time and place He lived.
    • Even the manner of the biblical writings supports its authenticity.  A consistent message and story is presented with enough variability to show it was compiled by different persons with slightly different perspectives.  The minor differences do not in any way take away from the central tenants of the faith, but they do reveal an integrity in documentation and copying.  This supports the argument that what we have today is in the same form as the original writers, some eyewitnesses and some recorders of eyewitness accounts, intended.
  • The growth of the church from the humblest of beginnings, ie. one man crucified upon a Roman cross after only a three year itinerant ministry in a very small, remote, and isolated province of Rome, to the 2 billion Christians in the world today.
  • Lastly, the lives of people throughout history and continuing today, who are changed because of knowing the risen Lord.  Jesus is alive today and He is still meeting people and transforming them through His mercy and grace.

I am one of those people Jesus has changed.  I have met the Lord.  He has saved me.  He has brought much positive change in me.  I would love to say I am totally faithful and complete in every way, but I am not…yet.  I, like all faithful believers, am a work in progress.  But I am growing because He is real and He is walking with me, helping me to become more and more like Him.

Dear friend, I hope this has encouraged you today.  If you are a believer my desire is that this provide a reinforcement of your faith and help you share that faith with others.  If you are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ I invite you to dig deeper and see if what I have written is true and accurate.  Ultimately I was convinced by the life that I saw in people who claimed to know Jesus and lived with a vibrant, tangible faith.  The rest of the information just solidified my faith once I accepted and started following Him.  Since this is Easter, I encourage you to go to a bible believing church this Sunday and ask the Lord to speak to you.  See if He won’t speak a message of love to you heart.  What do you have to lose?

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

Oh, one more thing.  Three year ago I wrote a blog that is really cool family story called Quest for Truth.  If you want to read about a practical application of Truth Seeking.

 

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It is Wednesday of Holy Week in Jerusalem the year 30 AD.  Jesus has less than 48 hours before He is nailed to the wooden beams of a Roman cross.

I often try to put myself in the place of others to see from their perspective.  I have found this an excellent approach at building empathy.  I wonder what Jesus’ mindset was on this Wednesday.  He knew what was before Him.  He had mentioned it to His disciples on numerous occasions (even though it appears they didn’t grasp the immediacy of his prophetic words).  Yet we see in the scripture that Jesus continued His routine.  He resided outside the city, probably in Bethany (Matt 21:17).  His early morning would be spent in communion with the Father.  One of the things I didn’t realize until lately was that Jesus didn’t need to carry a written scroll of the sacred texts.  He had these memorized.  This was actually common among religious Jews, so it is a safe assumption that Jesus knew them by heart.  Of course He knew them – He helped write them.  John 1 tells us that Jesus is the “Word of God” so He knew the scriptures more intimately than any religious person ever could.  He actually understood what each line and phrase was intended to convey.  And that was another reason that He and the religious leaders so often clashed.

After breaking fast with His disciples He would head to back into Jerusalem probably over the road from the Mount of Olives.  Let’s take a minute and consider what breakfast would look like.  Jesus, fresh from His time with His Father in prayer and having been awake for some time already, would be fresh and alive.  I can visualize various members of His band coming in and picking up a piece bread and fruit the women have spread on the table and playful conversations picking up.

“Andrew, did you sleep in the barn again?  You have straw sticking out of your hair.” John asks Andrew as he sleepily walks into the large room.

“Speak for yourself John.  From your smell I would say you slept in the barn AND you haven’t bathed in a month,” Andrew replies.

“Andrew, he is just a boy.”  James exclaims.  “He hasn’t learned that a man must bath at least once a week if he is to share close quarters with his friends.  Out in the fields and walking in the wilderness he can get away with only the occasional ritual bath, but not when we all come to Jerusalem.”

“He will get His ritual bath soon enough,” Jesus says.  “We all will be cleansed very soon.  Passover is upon us my brothers.  A very special Passover indeed.”

After breaking fast they would take the 30 minute or so walk to Jerusalem entering through one of the massive gates in the city wall.  They would proceed to the Temple.  One of Jesus’ favorite places to teach was Solomon’s colonnade.  Here he would take a seat and begin to teach.

These final few days were a political chess match.  Jesus continued to teach and heal while the religious leaders repeatedly tried to trap Him in His words.  One day they asked Him about paying taxes expecting Him to either anger the authorities by saying NO or displeasing the crowds by saying YES.  Instead Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God, that which is God’s”.   Another time they demand to know by whose authority He is teaching.  They did not sanction Him therefore that are suspect of His credentials.  Not to mention He takes issue with a significant number of their interpretations of the law.  Jesus answers their question with a question.  “I will answer you if you answer my question first.  John’s baptism – where did it come from?  Was it from heaven or of human origin?”  Now they are trapped because they did not accept John’s baptism and message, but they know the people did.  To answer as they truly believe would risk a riot and further alienation from the people.  But to answer otherwise would reveal their blatant hypocrisy.  So they say, “We don’t know.”

If He was stressed by the continued manipulations of the temple leaders, none of the Gospels bear this out.  And personally, I don’t expect that these things surprised or stressed Jesus.  Not because of the fact of His divinity, but because of His intimacy and trust in the Father.  The impression I take from studying Jesus in the scriptures is One who is 100% confident in Himself because of His absolute connection with the Lord of the Universe.  There is no sin to disrupt that connection.  He consistently seeks to know the Father’s will and communes with Him constantly.  And He is obedient to the uttermost.

A logical question arises – did Jesus know all the events each day held beforehand?  We see that a number of times He is aware of what is going to happen… sending the disciples ahead for the donkey on Palm Sunday, waiting for Lazarus to die before heading to Bethany to raise Him, seeing Nathaniel under the tree before they meet.  But I don’t think this has to be extrapolated that He knows every detail of every day.  In fact, I think He knew the details that He needed to know to be in the right place at the right time.  And I am sure that He was given the words He needed at the time they were needed (see Mark 13:11).  This came from His communion with and total faith in the Father which was reflected in complete obedience.  But in keeping with one of the “secondary” reasons He came and lived among us, for Him to effectively model a life we are to strive for, He would have to “walk by faith and not by sight” some of the time.

I encourage you to take time to put yourself in Jesus’ place on this Wednesday in His final week.  Consider what might be going through His mind.  How did He find the will to move resolutely toward His death rather than look for the way to escape.  Then apply that to where you are right now.  What incremental step can you take to grow your faith and move a little closer to the person the Lord has called you to be… the Lord has equipped you to be… the Lord died for you to be.  Don’t misunderstand.  The Lord isn’t calling a person of little to no faith to immediately become one who boldly faces down the religious leaders and willingly dies for Christ.  But He is calling us to grow in our faith today to be a little stronger today than yesterday.  And then tomorrow to grow a little stronger than we were today.  In time, perhaps less than we can imagine, the Lord will put us in places were our natural response would have been to run and hide, but our faith response becomes to stand and proclaim the goodness and richness of the Lord.

Be blessed today my friend and allow the Lord to make you a blessing to those He puts in your path this day.

 

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