Archive for March, 2016
“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; believing’” (John 20:27).
He had seen the crucifixion and probably watched as Jesus was placed in the tomb. I get Thomas. He’s a rationalist. For him, the journey ended Friday evening with “It is finished.” What Thomas, and every rationalist like him, must come to recognize is that “It is finished” carries more meaning than you would ever have imagined. What is finished is living under the Law; living without hope; living in fear of death. “It is finished” is but the beginning of endless possibilities.
“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).
The doors have been closed and the disciples are now shut-in by fear. Sadly, this is a vivid description of the prevailing emotion that dominates a large number of professing Christians today. Fearful of any interaction with “unbelievers,” they sequester themselves into “holy huddles” and entrench themselves in foxholes and fortresses to stave off the evil that their paranoia has convinced them is standing just outside the door. Such isolationist movements are a direct contradiction to the teachings of our Lord and scripture. We are an army commissioned to be an offensive movement. Not even the gates of hell can withstand our going out in His name.
“But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb” (John 20:11).
The verb tense of “standing outside” indicates this was not a one time event, but rather, it was something Mary had continually done since Jesus was first placed in the tomb on Friday. She knew death was on the other side of the stone, but even in her grief, she held on to hope with an unquenchable desire. I am convinced that faith is birthed from a spirit that longs for more than what the physical world can offer, for the transcendent, and is willing to investigate. If you don’t want to believe, you can find plenty of reasons not to. If you long to believe, however, you can find the evidence necessary to bring forth faith.
“So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8).
John’s arrival to and observation of the empty tomb brought about a response of belief that had been conditioned into him by both the background of his Jewish heritage and the tutelage of Jesus the previous three years. Being raised in church is an asset when it conditions you to believe and nurtures within you a biblical faith. It becomes a liability, however, when it leads you to settle for a religion based upon the traditions of men; having no formative effect, coupled with a loss of wonder and amazement at the workings of the resurrected Christ.
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36).
In matters of life, faith, and academics no one is a failure. What often occurs is a failure to endure. Persistence gives birth to understanding. The resurrection is proof that endurance will have its day.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalms 1:2).
In describing the righteous, the Psalmist indicates their preoccupation with the word of God. They dwell upon it; think about it; ponder it. As a ruminating animal chews, and chews again, its cud, so God’s children continually bring up His word to the forefront of their heart and mind.
It’s something to chew on.
“When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:33).
When the very best of God is pitted against the very worst of man, ascribing to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion the commemorative title, Good Friday, seems conflicting. That is, until you remember that it became Good Friday only because the church had the knowledge of resurrection Sunday. Let us always be mindful that the bleakness of any circumstance, like the blackness of that Friday afternoon, eventually gives way to the light of resurrected hope.
“Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come” (John 7:8).
Like Jesus’ own brothers, we sometimes have enough religion to get us to church on Sundays, or certain holidays, but not enough faith to shape our lives during the week. A religion that occasionally goes to church/synagogue/mosque avoids a few vices, while condemning those who practice such things is a misleading pursuit down a dead-end street. These characteristics can be found among the professed followers of any world religion and are a fair representation of the very ones who killed Jesus; crying “Hosanna in the highest” one day, and “Crucify him” the next. Jesus died for more than this; that we can have a meaningful and vibrant faith, not a dead and purposeless religion.
“For not even His brothers were believing in Him” (John 7:5).
Their desire for Jesus to showcase himself as a religious sideshow reflects not only their failure to believe, but it portrays the vilest form of disbelief — the kind that is willing to promote Jesus as long as he is “propping up” the experience they want to have and the agenda they want fulfilled. Jesus has no desire, however, to make an offering to the vast panorama of religious plurality for the sake of accommodating the subjective whims of the masses. The faith Jesus is seeking to establish is built around two things — a cross, and disciples who pick up their crosses and obediently follow him.
“Therefore His brothers said to Him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing’” (John 7:3).
His own brothers seem more interested in being his agent than one of his disciples. Their emphasis is on the sell; the promotion; the splash. Instead of a faith that plays in such lowly places as Bethany and Golgotha, their desire is for a religion that will impress the crowds in Hollywood and on Broadway. If not guarded, the conditioning that makes us evaluate, respond, and act as consumers can make its way into our faith and churches; warping our minds into thinking that the pursuit of both is for us and our wants instead of Jesus and his mission.