Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

I wonder how many people in Jerusalem realized how special the approaching high Sabbath would be 2000 years ago?  The pivot point of all human history was days away and I suspect no one aside from Jesus really grasped the import of the times.

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea come to mind as two persons that may have had an inkling, but I am certain they didn’t quite comprehend the plan God had in mind.  The hustle and bustle of the ceremonial season would have been a bit of a distraction to them or to any religious leader trying to discern the course of the itinerant preacher named Jesus.

The political intrigue of the religious leaders and the secular authorities would have kept the insiders guessing.  The young and zealous desiring freedom from Rome were a constant threat for bringing down the heavy heel of the Roman legions.  The Roman and Jewish leaders sought to walk a fine line between some autonomy for the people to continue their religious practices and the rule of Rome.  People were pawns to them and the game they played would have kept them clueless to the miracle of miracles that was drawing nigh.

It would seem the most likely to have some insight into what was about to unfold would have been the common folk who traveled with Jesus.  Jesus had told them on a number of occasions that He had to go to Jerusalem to die.  But they too were not able to put the pieces together in this week of preparation.  Some perceived Him to be the Messiah sent from God, but dying???

Even today, we risk overlooking the importance of what God is doing… here, now.  We have the benefit of 2000 years of history pointing to the validity of God’s marvelous plan.  We have written records that clearly demonstrate God moving, saving, recreating, releasing, and empowering the Church… common folk and noble alike.  All who turn to Him can be saved and given new life.  Jesus is alive and at work RIGHT NOW.

But we so easily miss the best because of all the rest.  Political intrigue… yep it’s still here and many are distracted by it.  Religious ceremony… check, we will have our “bells and smells” and Easter egg hunts, our new Easter clothes and church’s filled with CEOs.  (CEO = Christmas and Easter Only).   Sadly, even Jesus-followers sometimes struggle with perceiving how special this time is because of work or vacation (can anyone say “spring break”), or the pressures of life… each of which demand our attention.

Do you sense the importance of what Jesus did this week 2000 years ago?  Do you sense the importance of what He is doing right now?  It is not my intent to beat you up from afar, but I do want you to consider what Jesus did and He is doing.  I encourage you to set aside time to just meet with Jesus this Holy Week and ask Him to help you see it with new eyes.  We are easily distracted, but this most special time is worth the effort to anticipate and experience with wonder.  God gave us the most precious gift in His Son, Jesus.  Jesus offers us salvation (and so much more) through the gift of His life.  He took our sin and exchanged it for His righteousness on the cross.  In this final week before He submitted Himself to the most excruciating of deaths, Jesus poured out such amazing wisdom.  Check out the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last week.  Matthew 21 and following, Mark 11 and following, Luke 19:28 and following, and John 12:12 and following.

I have found that my blessing in Easter grows immeasurably when I allow Jesus to help me in Holy Week to see how special it really is.  My prayer is that you too will experience Jesus in a new a fresh way this Holy Week and into Easter.

Blessings upon you today my friend.

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Over the past few weeks I have taken more time to study one of the chief “villains” in the Easter story, Caiaphas, the high priest who orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion.  While I have contemplated the Easter story hundreds of times through the years, I have always just lumped Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas into the group of evil religious leaders who conspired to have Jesus killed by the Romans.  While true, I realize this superficial look misses a vital lesson that we need to consider in our walk with the Lord.

  • How did these men who were steeped in the religion of the Jews miss the coming of the Messiah?
  • As the prophecies were fulfilled why did they not stop, reconsider, and acknowledge that Jesus was who He claimed to be?
  • Finally when Jesus rose from the dead, why did they not get the message then?

Answers to these questions will help us find the right path that they failed to see.  Simply stated “Wrong Motives Made Them Miss the Messiah

For these men, religion defined by their interpretation of the Law, meaned everything.  Most importantly it trumped the relationship aspect that God desires to have with His children.  King David was called a man after God’s own heart because He was passionate to know the Lord.  You can’t help but see this intimacy in many of David’s psalms – see Psalm 51, 91, 139 for good examples of this intimacy.  For Caiaphas the protection of the “purity” of the Law was His responsibility.  As high priest he was the final arbiter in disputes and interpretation of how it was applied.  Viewing his role as the primary custodian of the Law, Caiaphas took exception to any view of the religion different from his.  When asked by one of the religious leaders what the greatest commandment was Jesus response was not about religion but relationships.  From Matt 22:35-40:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 22:37 (Deut. 6:5) 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 22:39 (Lev. 19:18) 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus’ message of a relationship with God and particularly His boiling the Law down to two keys struck the religious leaders as a direct attack on everything they stood for.  They saw their religion threatened and their defenses were on the alert to any further subversion of their religious practice.  Their religion made it hard for them to see the living God among them.

There was also the potential political threat of Jesus teaching.  Jesus was amazingly popular.  He brought a message to every man, woman, and child of a God Who loved them deeply, Who care for them intimately, and through signs and miracles wrought by Jesus’ hand, was actively engaged in people’s lives.  Under the Roman occupation though popular figures were considered a threat who could marshal the masses to rebel and this was not acceptable.  Both the Romans and the Religious leaders were determined to prevent a rebellion, therefore Jesus walked under a cloud of suspicion.  On a number of occasions Jesus pointedly rejected the political route even though many in the crowd clamored for Jesus to fulfill the popular interpretation of the conquering, kingly Messiah.  But both the Romans and the Religious leadership heard the crowds, they saw them growing, and they felt the threat to the delicate balance in this hotbed of sedition.  Their political view made it hard for them to see the living God among them.

Annas’ was of the Zadokite clan.  The high priesthood had resided in the Zadokite clan for hundreds of years.  When Alexander the Great conquered and rose to power he transferred power away from the Zadokite clan.  The Romans however restored power to Annas’ ancestors building a political and financial relationship that was mutually beneficial to both parties… at the expense of the general population.  Taxes, fees, exchange rates, and monopolies on religious essentials allowed the priestly families to become incredibly wealthy.  They in turn shared some of this wealth with the Roman’s in the form of tribute.  To the religious leaders Jesus assault upon the money-changers and vendors selling animals in the Temple was more than just an attack on their prescribed religious practices, it was an attack on their carefully crafted and extravagant livelihood.  Their lifestyle and the financial pipeline from the religious practices that poured lots of money into their pockets made it hard for them to see the living God among them.

Finally as the story of Easter plays out the religious leaders’ anger, hatred, and rage finds its full vent upon Jesus.  That Jesus does nothing to resist them, nor does He do anything to try and deflect their accusations causes the mock trial, torture, and execution to progress rapidly.  In approximately 24 hours Jesus goes from kind and gentle leader of a small band of disciples to a dead body in a grave.  The book “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Duggard brings to light much of the context and backstory that we may not pick up just from reading the biblical text.  The high priest and religious leaders broke numerous religious laws in the way they handled Jesus’ case, however they justified it all on religious and political expediency.  On the third day, when the tomb is opened and the body of Jesus disappears despite a Roman guard stationed at the tomb, I would think that they might have second thoughts about who Jesus was and the validity of their actions.  Instead they make up a story about the body being stolen and attempt to carry on life as normal.  Their pride and their guilt made it hard for them to see the risen God among them.

We’ve looked at roadblocks to recognizing and accepting the Lord for Who He is.  It is also true that these same obstacles will keep us from growing in our faith.  Jesus has called us to live an abundant life.  But it is important to realize that this abundant life begins and ends in our relationship with Him.  Every one of the areas mentioned above: our religious observations, our political leaning, our lifestyle and financial provision, even our emotions are to subservient to our knowing and growing in Christ.  The message of Easter is that Jesus is Alive.  Let us live fully in the reality that Jesus is Alive and wants to live in us more fully every day.  Say “YES!” to Jesus’ continuing work in you and you will experience His love in greater and greater measure day by day.

Be blessed my friend and be God’s blessing right where He puts you today.

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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!



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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My personal preference is majestic nature views like the vistas in Yosemite Valley or the view from Clingman’s Dome observatory.  However the morning view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives is impressive indeed.  Such was the view locals and pilgrims experienced as they crested the Mount and viewed the city over the Kidron Valley.

View of Jerusalem from the top of the Mount of Olives.  The golden dome is the Muslim Dome of the Rock which sits essentially on the site Jewish Temple Mount.  Going even further back into antiquity this is also Mount Moriah where Abraham was directed with his son Isaac.  At the last minute before Abraham sacrificed Isaac, God stayed his hand and provided a ram for the sacrifice.  See Genesis 22.

View of Jerusalem from the top of the Mount of Olives. The golden dome is the Muslim Dome of the Rock which sits essentially on the site Jewish Temple Mount. Going even further back into antiquity this is also Mount Moriah where Abraham was directed with his son Isaac. At the last minute before Abraham sacrificed Isaac, God stayed his hand and provided a ram for the sacrifice. See Genesis 22.

Zoomed-in view of the southern side of Jerusalem.  Shot 1 of 4 with each panning a little further to the north.

Zoomed-in view of the southern side of Jerusalem. Shot 1 of 4 with each panning a little further to the north.

Jerusalem, Shot 2 of 4.

Jerusalem, Shot 2 of 4.

Jerusalem, shot 3 of 4.

Jerusalem, shot 3 of 4.

Jerusalem, shot 4 of 4.

Jerusalem, shot 4 of 4.

It was along the path leading down from this point and into the city that Jesus was hailed by the crowd, probably numbering in the few hundreds.  Recorded in the gospels (Matt 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19) they shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosanna in the highest.”  “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  “Hosanna!”  “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.”

It is important to realize that Jesus was still an enigma to many.  Some saw in Jesus the political leader who would rise up and challenge the oppressive Roman regime and lead Israel to freedom.  Others saw a man who made outrageous claims of intimacy with God that bordered on blasphemy.  Many were devoted followers who believed Him to be a great prophet.  And some had even confessed Him as the Messiah, the Anointed One sent from God.  So within the crowd that lined the path and pushed around Him there was religious fervor, political fervor, and a few skeptics who watched, listened, and took notes to report to the religious leaders.

One telling scene during the descent which probably took an hour or more, was that Jesus wept over the city (Luke 19:41).  He knew the opportunity that the people of Jerusalem had, but He also knew that many would miss it.  In the midst of what should be pure celebration, Jesus is saddened by loss those who do not recognize Him will experience.  Unfortunately that is still true for many today.  God is present and alive in the world today, but many still miss Him.  They fail to recognize the time of the Lord’s visitation and their loss is an eternal loss.

That Jesus arrives in an understated manner is part of God’s approach to us.  This approach leaves room for faith.  While some religions believe it is acceptable to coerce conversions, that is not God’s way.  He values the relationship built upon faith.  When we exercise faith in giving up our lives to Him, then the gift He gives is an assurance that He is Who He says He is.

As I think back to my life before I gave my life to Him, I was a fairly religious person.  I think it is important to clarify, I could not see hypocrisy in my life because frankly, I don’t remember my church speaking too strongly against many of the sins I walked in.  I believed in God.  I believed Jesus was His Son.  I attended church almost every Sunday, said confession, and partook of the sacraments.  I tried to be a good guy and follow what the church taught.  What I did not do was regularly read the bible, pray, or live according to all that the bible said about believers.  OK, that sounds like a hypocrite, but from my point of view I was just trying to be like many of the other “Christians” I knew.   I guess I was just like a lot of people in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday waving palm branches and shouting, but not really knowing who Jesus really was.

That changed for me when I finally surrendered and asked Him to be Lord of all my life.  My belief about God and Jesus moved from belief to certain knowledge.  Doing “church” things out of duty morphed into living a life in intimate relationship with the living Lord.  And the Word of God became the source of my inspiration, information, and strength.

Admittedly there have been times when I have struggled to release something, but the Lord has graciously led me successfully through a number of those challenges.  I am sure there are still other opportunities to grow by either giving up something that I don’t really need or adding something the Lord wants me to undertake.  However I am confident that since He has been faithful to lead and help me through those before, He will continue to do so in the future.  Even though He was God’s Son, Jesus prayed and had to lean on God’s strength to pass through some of the tests that He undertook on our behalf.  This is a model for us to follow.

A thunderstorm rolled through early this morning as I was praying about what to write today.  At one point a brilliant flash of lightning streaked across the still black sky just as I looked up.  Jesus had the power to ask, nay command, the forces of nature to obey Him and they would have.  He even said at one point that He had to but ask and legions of angels would respond to His call.  But He did not seek to be spared by any of the means He had at His disposal.  Instead He obeyed the Father perfectly.  He took my place and He took your place on the cross.  He bore my sin and He bore your sin.  The penalty that we were under, He paid.

On Palm Sunday Jesus again set His face resolutely toward Jerusalem.  With raucous celebration around Him he crested the hill at the Mount of Olives and saw the city of His death, burial, and resurrection.  And while He wept, it was not for Himself, but for the city and those in it who would miss what He was doing.  Lord, help us to see, understand, appreciate, and act upon what you are doing in our lives and the lives of those around us – today and every day.  To You be all glory, honor, and praise today and forevermore. Amen!

Be blessed my friend and be God’s blessing to someone today.

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I am moved by how deeply, how passionately God loves us.  As we approach Holy Week I invite you to pause each day and plumb the depths of what God did for us… for you 2000 years ago.  He literally dealt with sin once and for all.  Jesus, God’s Son, performed the most gracious act ever undertaken because He loved and obeyed the Father and because they both love us.  Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

I heard a story about a Railroad switchman many years ago that has stuck with me.  Back in those days switching a railroad from one track to another was accomplished by manually actuating sets of large, open gears that literally shifted the rails from one set to another.  The switchmen were the railroad employees responsible for knowing which tracks went where and how to keep the trains flowing smoothing through the yard without incident.  While this is all automated today, back then it was a task that rested upon the knowledge, quick-thinking, and physical strength of the switchman.  The story told was long before OSHA rules and regulations.

As the story was told to me one particular day a watchman had decided to take his young son to his work to show him the trains and give him an idea of what his dad did for a living.  The young lad was thrilled to see the engines and all new things in the switchyard.  While they are there another railroad employee approached the switchman with a question to which the switchman responded.  His son saw his chance to “explore” and slipped away.  The question it turns out reveals a significant drama unfolding.  A passenger train is barreling into the switchyard and has had a brake failure.  The father’s presence becomes providential in that he understands the gravity of the situation and is able to quickly determine what must be done to save the train and it’s passengers.  It’s fairly complicated, but with a few rapidly executed track switches he can prevent a certain crash and derailment which would injure and kill many passengers.  As the father runs from switch to switch making the necessary changes, he is barely ahead of the speeding train.  At the last switch he arrives with only a moment to look up before he must throw the switch only to realize making the last switch will send the train down the track where his son is seated playing with a piece of coal.  He has only two choices – either save his son and watch many people crash and die or make the switch and watch his son die.

I heard this story before I had children and it was hard to fathom the sacrifice the father made even then.  Today I have four children and it is even harder.  But this gives us a sense of the sacrifice our heavenly Father made in sending His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  Why did He do this?  The answer absolutely blows me away.  He did it because He loves me.  He did it because He loves you.  He did it because it was the only way we could be reconciled in our relationship with Him.

Sin… my sin, my choices to go my way, had put a barrier between the God who loves me and me.  But God never stopped loving me.  He never stopped loving you despite your sin.  In fact He knew we would be separated from Him so He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.  He called a people group to be His chosen people.  Through this group He set up the process where by a substitution, a perfect lamb, could stand in the place of a sinner to take their deserved punishment.  The code of justice was served, the penalty was paid, and mercy was extended to the sinner.  But the blood of goats and lambs only rolled the penalty forward.  It foreshadowed God’s ultimate plan to send His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect sinless life among His chosen people.  And at the right time to become the one, perfect sacrifice for all people, for all time.  AMAZING… AMAZING LOVE!

For the person reading this right now, I believe God put these thoughts in my heart and encouraged you to read this so He can get you this message.  “He loves YOU with an amazing, hard-to-fathom, but true love.  You are so precious to Him that He gave that which was, and is, dearest to Him – the life of His Son, Jesus.  He purchased your salvation at the highest price imaginable because to Him, you are worth it.”

“Father, this day we thank you for your amazing love.  You absolutely overwhelm us with your goodness, your kindness, your mercy.  Although we don’t deserve it, we will receive it with thanksgiving.  And we love you in return.  Imperfect as it is, we offer you our love, our lives, our obedience.  God, please deepen our knowledge of You.  Help us to be transformed by Your Holy Spirit through the reading of Your Word and obedience to what it says.  Jesus, make your life inside of us grow more and more each day.  Let your love do its work in us and through us.  And love others through us today so that they might know You – the Lover of our soul.  Jesus, I pray this in Your mighty and powerful Name.  Amen.”

Be blessed and be a blessing today my friend.

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Only a small percentage of us approach the end of our earthly life with the clear-sighted focus that Jesus did.  Jesus came to this earth on purpose and with a purpose.  The culmination of that purpose was found in Holy Week.  Holy week is the pivotal week in human history and Easter morning is the crux of it all.  Sadly to many are not aware of the wonder of this glorious day or they are so distracted that they fail to prepare for it and miss the precious gift that it offers.  Today I offer a few tips to make the most of Holy Week.

First, if you are not aware, Jesus stands alone as unique among all persons who have ever lived.  Jesus was killed by the ancient Roman custom of crucifixion.  He was confirmed dead and put into the tomb owned by a Jewish leader, Joseph of Arimathea.  Jesus did not stay in the tomb though.  God raised Him up to life after three days.  This really happened.  It was foretold ahead of time by prophets.  Jesus said it would happen.  And literally hundreds of witnesses saw Jesus alive after His resurrection.  Jesus is the only person who has ever lived, died, and lived again in their earthly body.

There are points that critics bring up to try to dispute the fact of Jesus resurrection.  They all need a conspiracy of some sort to show why Jesus body has never been found.  Every single theory falls flat though when the evidence is analyzed.  In his book, Born Again, Chuck Colson who was a member of President Richard Nixon’s inner team explains how he was convinced that Jesus was resurrected.  President Nixon resigned in disgrace when it was learned that he knew about efforts to coverup involvement in certain illegal political activities.  Chuck Colson was in the small group who knew about this.  Chuck was among those that served prison time for their role in the coverup.  The fact that a small group of people faithfully committed to one of the most powerful persons in the world at that time couldn’t keep a secret was very telling.  Colson then draws a parallel to the 12 apostles, Jesus’ inner circle.  These men who were supposed conspirators in foisting the Jesus is Alive story all the while knowing they had stolen His body.  The fact that these 12 men went throughout the world spreading the story of Jesus resurrection.  The final end of 11 of the 12 was martyrdom.  They were executed for their faith and the message they proclaimed.  This is very telling.  A person may, and I emphasize may, die for something they strongly believe to be true.  But to die for something you know to be a lie, it doesn’t happen.  And for all of them to die for a lie takes immeasurably more faith than to believe the wealth of evidence that says Jesus truly is alive.

So point one as we approach Holy Week is that Jesus is Alive.  This brings on the question – So what?  What does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean to me?  I mentioned before that Holy Week is the pivotal point in all of human history.  That is a huge statement, but I believe it to be true from both a sociological point of view and from a personal point of view.  I shared in one of my early posts about my conversion.  This speaks to how my life has been changed by Jesus.  My oldest daughter has recently found new life in Christ and she is writing about it in her blog growingthroughchrist.wordpress.com.  Since Jesus was raised from the dead, everything He said suddenly changes from good advice from a wise man, to words from God.  He is different from prophets.  Prophets occasionally spoke words from God.  They were still fully human and for that reason we can find prophets who make mistakes.  Jesus didn’t make mistakes.

Jesus was the sinless Son of God who came to earth with a very specific purpose.  He lived long enough to prove His deity.  He touched lives mainly within the Jewish people of that day.  But His primary purpose was culminated in Holy Week when He willingly offered Himself up as a sacrifice in our place.  Sin cannot go unpunished.  Sin separates us from God and if not atoned for, will keep us forever separate from God.  Jesus took our sin, my sin, upon Himself when He died on the cross.  Unless you have put your faith in Jesus, that sin is not atoned for.  I know that God works in our lives even before we come to faith.  Faith itself is a gift from God.  Faith is what happens when we trust God.

One last thing before I close for the day.  I have discussed Jesus with a number of people.  The one thing I have found is that no one has ever been able to refute the historical and logical conclusions of the evidence surrounding Jesus life and death.  I am an engineer.  I am wired to think in a logical way.  (Which at times drives my family to distraction.)  When based purely upon well researched evidence, a jury would have to say Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  (For excellent research on this topic read Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict.) In many cases where I have had this discussion, the person I was speaking with chose to ignore the facts in deference to their own world view.  In most cases they held a belief that contrasted squarely with biblical teaching on moral law that they were not willing to give up.  In other words they chose to build a world view that allowed them to do what they wanted and not try to find truth and then go where truth led them.  I have seen this enough to understand the powerful persuasiveness of sin.  But I also know the incredible freedom and joy that I now have through my relationship with God.

This is my encouragement to you.  As you approach Holy Week meditate upon the resurrection.  See if God is speaking to you about a life decision.  Ask Him to give you faith to believe for your next step in a relationship with Him.  If you do not have a church home, check out NewSpring.cc on the internet.  I pray this will be the most amazing Easter you have ever experienced.  God bless you today.

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