Song for the Living

There is a Light that outshines the sun. There is a Morning that comes and sends Night rushing back, a shadow – a memory – a dream.

You, you who wait with us across the ages – you, who look up at him on the cross and see more than man wearing a crown of thorns, more than a man with nail-pierced hands – follow us into the beginning of all beginnings, the scales slipping from eyes, the Light coming into darkness and the darkness not overcoming it.

Brothers and sisters, this is our story and it is your story. It is the song of the stars, the testimony of all creation. It is His story and He brings us into the fullness of everything – yes, everything – made beautiful in His time.

See sunrise, this first day of the week – the women, carrying their spices and their grief, unsure of how they will even reach their beloved to properly tend to his body. The stone, blocking the tomb’s entrance, is too heavy for them. They will not be able to roll it away, not on their own.

But the stone has already been moved. The heavy lifting has already been done. But by whose hand?

They rush into the tomb, fearing the worst – those enemies, have they not had enough victory here?

His body should be here – right here – wrapped in linen by the hands of those who loved him.

But he is not here.

Who has taken his body? What do they want to accomplish that has not already been done?

And just as the angel said to Mary those many years before, an angel says to the women who love him now – Do not fear!

They tremble, anyway, because the angels gleam like lightning and their Lord is lost again, anew.

But the angels – are they smiling? – ask the question that puts their feet in motion and sets those tiny flickers of hope into full-blown flames.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!

Go, tell His disciples, He is risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee! There, you will see him!

This, this is Spring bursting forth in one swift moment – they are filled with joy, but still afraid. And the Teacher who always took the time to tell another story, to heal another wounded body, to speak love into another empty heart – He, Himself, calls out to them. He makes Himself known – standing there, those arms open, His pain is no more – and what can stop them now? He is alive! When He says go, they go.

Oh, the pounding on the door and their voices crying out snaps us out of our dread-full stupor – we wonder if death has arrived for us, but they carry a message far from it –

I have seen the Lord! And Mary’s face is beaming with delight, clouded no longer.

Two of us throw off fear, backs aching from its too-long hold, and we run to the tomb – we must see for ourselves – yes, empty but for the grave-clothes. What – what can this mean?

And despite our disbelief, despite our shame, despite our failures – our Lord comes to us, just as He promised. Our Teacher and our Leader – the Son of Man – He comes and we are scared and bewildered and desperate to believe. At the right time, we hear those words again – It is I – and the grief gives way to amazement. He is patient, even as we see the miracle of miracles before our very eyes and somehow doubt still – and stretches out His pierced hands to remove all mystery.

He is no longer captive in the grave. He is no longer lost to us. He is no longer conquered by death –
no, He is here. He is beyond the reach of the priests and the Romans. He is beyond the reach of the Evil One.

Truly – truly – this is the Son of God!

And, even in this, after everything He endured – such kindness! How He opens our minds – it is like hearing for the first time when He speaks the fulfillment of our prophets – we wonder how we could have been so slow to understand, so deaf to His Truth. He breaks bread with us, walks with us, waits on the shore of Galilee and fills our nets with fish. He invites us to breakfast, fish and bread by the fire, and invites us into the new Life He gained for us.

This is where we call out to you again, sister and brother. This is where we raise our voices in a shout of victory that breaks the hold of satan on our souls – because from the first, the Father promised it – satan’s head would be crushed. From the first, the Father established it – a covenant, a people who would dwell with their God. His plans stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations- and our Messiah – Jesus, Emmanuel — was chosen before the creation of the world to take our guilt on His own blameless shoulders.

This same Jesus, whose compassion astounded and whose kingdom we yearned to see – He took up our pain and bore our suffering…He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brings us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

He chose to save us from an eternity of mourning, a forever of fear – even though the price was His own life. Even though we were faithless to Him, He has always – always – always been wholly faithful to us. If He kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with Him there is forgiveness, with Him is full redemption. He Himself has redeemed us!

‘So, what shall we say then? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things!? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life…who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

This is how it feels to be set free from fear. This is how it feels to know that His perfect love casts out darkness and nothing has a hold on us any longer – nothing and no one except for Him.

‘For we are convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ And so we do not lose heart, not this time, when we must say goodbye. We know it is only for a moment. As He returns to the Father, He promises the Holy Spirit- Comforter, Teacher, the Spirit of Truth –  will come in His name – and this time, because He has given us His righteousness, brought us near to God again – the very Spirit of the Living God will dwell within us. Always, He will be with us now –  in all of His power and in all of His authority, we abide.

Yes, He is with us, the fishermen and the doctors, the tax collectors and the carpenters, the tent-makers and the mothers, the teachers and the farmers. With you, the preachers and the managers, the housewives and the lawyers, the secretaries and the mechanics. Rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, man, woman – all of us, all of us, we dwell in Christ Jesus and He dwells in us.

And you, you who are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses – throw off everything, everything, that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles! Run with perseverance, fixing your eyes on Jesus – the pioneer and perfecter of faith!

For just as He went away, He will come one last and forever time, and He will bring His kingdom that will not be shaken. The Redeemer will come to Zion and the earth will tremble, the darkness swallowed up at last and for all time.

He will blaze like fire and the sun will fade away to shadow – and still, His words to His people are this:

Do not be afraid.

I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

What will our song be but one of whole-heart thankfulness and awe? If not for Him, we would still be locked in our rooms of defeat, devastated and broken, chained to our sin and to death.

But He came. He changed our ending. He set us free, He gave us life – life overflowing and eternal. And to the Lamb, to the Savior, to the God who came to rescue us—

Be blessing and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!

Yes, worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come!

He will be our light – night will be no more, our weeping will be no more! – and He will be eternal joy – all will be made new – and, still, He will know us by name. Still, we will be engraved on the palms of His hands.

This is the truth that flows from the beginning and always will be – our God reigns in glory, in majesty, in power, in love that endures forever.

Friend, morning comes.

For our Redeemer lives.

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{This was first posted in the spring of 2014…I hope you continue to join me in the coming weeks as we celebrate the power and faithfulness of our Living Savior, who brought us home to the heart of God!}

 

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Because He Is, I Am (Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to Calvary}, Day 30)

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.  “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him.

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

-from John 20

 Mary is red-eyed and bone-tired, hopeless in her grief. Because of her sorrow, she doesn’t recognize the One she believes to be lost.

Until He calls her name – and everything changes.

I love this moment – I love the sudden rush of joy she must have felt, the wonder and peace that made a home in her heart…and it is such grace that this feeling, it is ours today.

For isn’t it when we are searching for hope – unsure of what to do, our hearts frantic and troubled – that He calls our names?

Doesn’t everything change?

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Because He is the bread of life, I am satisfied in Him – so I can have contentment no matter how things around me change.

Because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I can depend on Him. I can trust Him.

Because of His compassion, my yoke is easy and my burden light…my tears are seen, my cares are known, the weights on my shoulders lifted and carried by Him.

Because He is the Good Shepherd, I am found…I belong to Him.

 Because He is Truth, I am set free from the lies that satan locked around my heart.

Because He is my mediator, praying for me, I can live in His name – bold and steadfast.

Because He is the Overcomer, I am more than a conqueror.

Because He is Greater than he that is in this world, I am confident of this: nothing formed against me shall prosper, for He works all things together for my good.

Because He is my strength, I can do all things through Him.

 Because He is the peace-speaker, I am able to stand even when the wind blows…even when the earth shakes…even if the mountains shake and crumble into the sea…

 Because He is the Living Water, I have the abundant-and-eternal-resurrection-perishable-wearing-imperishable-glory kind of life!

 Because He is the Lamb who was slain, I can boldly come before the throne of God – reunited and reconciled with Him.

Because He is the pierced and the chastised, I am forgiven of every transgression.

Because He is the broken body, I am whole and healed.

Because He is the ransom, I am the redeemed.

Because He is the victor over death, hell, and the grave, I am fully convinced: nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.

And because He is perfect love, I live unafraid. Because He is perfect love, I am the beloved.

 Because Jesus is alive, I am an all-things-possible, beauty-from-ashes, chains-broken, reconciled-heart, walking-on-water, nothing-is-too-hard, live-forever-in-His-Light,

at-home-in-His-arms daughter of a Risen King.

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 Worthy is the Lamb who was slain – holy, holy is He.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

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(Phil. 4:11, Phil. 4:13, John 8: 32, Matt. 11:30, Psalm 46, Mark 4, Romans 8, Phil: 12, Hebrews 13:8, John 6:35, John 4, Psalm 68:19, John 10, John 16:33, Isaiah 53, Rev. 4 and 5)

#becausejesusisalive (Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to calvary}, Day 29)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?

 He is not here; He has risen! -Luke 24:1-6

 Maybe some might wonder – why does this story of a crucified Galilean matter? Does it make a difference for my life to know that He rose from the dead?

Is He alive today? Does He still move among us? Is His power still real?

Our lives answer this question with a resounding yes.

We know how Jesus’ resurrection changed the lives of men like Peter, John, and Paul…and I think it is time to share our own stories, too.

Yes, He is still transforming. Yes, He is still healing. Yes, He is still setting us free.

If your story hasn’t yet been changed by Jesus, please know that His love for you is never-failing…and He is the way to come home to the heart of God.

So – what is YOUR story? How would you finish this sentence?

Because Jesus is alive…___________________________.

Will you join in today and let us know how the death and resurrection of Jesus has impacted you? Will you share His story by telling us how He makes a difference in your life?

Update your social media status so that others can know the hope you have found in Him – post a video or write a few words…you never know who might be encouraged by YOUR words today!  (Don’t forget to add #becausejesusisalive to your post! And I would LOVE to see what you decide to share – leave a link here in the blog comments or share with us on the So Beloved Facebook page!)

We have the Good (best!) News today – the light has come into the world and the darkness has not (and will not!) overcome it. Jesus is alive…can we rise up and declare His good works among the nations? May we be a generation that will stand up and say – our God is real, He is good, and He is with us.

 We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. –Rev. 12:11

  (A big thank you to everyone who contributed your voice to this video…we represent different churches, different backgrounds, different cities, even different countries…but we know the same Savior, the same Father, the same Spirit. I am grateful to be a part of this family!)

Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to Calvary}, Day 28: Scripture-Reading…Golgotha

Today, we turn our eyes to the last moments of Jesus’ life as God-in-flesh on earth.

I have done my best to compile a narrative, using all four Gospel accounts, of the trial, crucifixion, and burial of our Savior (references are at the end of each section).

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Then the entire council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”

“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.

“Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.

“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.)

They began to state their case: “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”

So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Pilate turned to the leading priests and to the crowd and said, “I find nothing wrong with this man!”

(But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Then they became insistent. “But he is causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!”

“Oh, is he a Galilean?” Pilate asked.

When they said that he was, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time.

(Matthew 27: 12-14/Luke 23:5-7/John 18:28-31, 34-38)

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Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer.

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. Then Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Finally, they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. (Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.) (Luke 23: 1-12)

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Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas.

As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

“Barabbas,” they answered.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

(The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer.

“Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover.

Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death.

Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”

Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

(Matthew 27:21-26/Luke 23:13-21/John 18:7-14)

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Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

(Matt. 27:27-31)

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As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women.

But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called Golgotha (The Skull), they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.

Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”

Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”

The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”… One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

(Matthew 27: 39-43/Mark 15:25/Luke 23: 26-34, 36-42/John 19:19-22, 25-27)

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At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah.

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!”…Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

And with those words he breathed his last.

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe. These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

(Luke 23:46/Matthew 27: 45-56/John 19:28-37)

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As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea (who had been a secret disciple of Jesus {because he feared the Jewish leaders}) took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council {but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders}, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.)

Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body.

When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover[s] and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

(Matthew 27: 60-61/Mark 15: 42-45/Luke 23:51, 56/John 19: 38-42)

{Last year, I imagined what the disciples might have felt after watching Jesus crucified and buried…Eulogy, Part One and Eulogy, Part Two.}

Love Leads Us Home (following Christ to Calvary), Day 27: Scripture-Reading…the Arrest

As He spoke from His heart on the night of the Passover meal, Jesus prepared the disciples for what was to come. To Judas, He said “what you are about to do, do quickly.” To Peter, He said “before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times.” To all who were there to hear, He said “as I have loved you, so you must love one another” and “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” To the same men, He said this – “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave Me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for My Father is with Me. I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He prayed for the disciples and He prayed for all believers – all who would believe in Him through the message the men surrounding Him on that night would soon take to the world.

And, then, they went to the Mount of Olives and into the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed for God’s will to be done.

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and He said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and He became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

 Then He returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with Me even one hour?  Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”  When He returned to them again, He found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So He went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. (An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.)

Then He came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people.  The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.”  So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave Him the kiss.

Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested Him.  But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.  Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly?  But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day.  But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures. (…this is your hour – when darkness reigns.)” At that point, all the disciples deserted Him and fled. (Matthew 26:47-56, Luke 22:43-44,53)

They bound Him and brought Him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. (John 18:12-14)

Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with Him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know Him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw Peter and said to him, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown Me three times.”

And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit You?” And they said many other insulting things to Him. (Luke 22:54-65)

… the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard Me. Surely they know what I said.”

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped Him in the face. “Is this the way You answer the high priest?” he demanded.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike Me?”

Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:19-24)

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death, but they did not find any.

Many testified falsely against Him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against Him: “We heard Him say, “I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are You not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against You?”

But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned Him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at Him; they blindfolded Him, struck Him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!”

And the guards took Him and beat Him. (Mark 14: 55-65)  

Our Story of Grace: Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to Calvary}, Day 26

In my hand, while morning light streams into the sanctuary, I hold the cup and the bread.  I hear the words I have heard so many times before…this is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.  Can a mystery be called familiar? For I know the taste of the bread, the scent of the grapes so well…but every time, it is a new moment of grace. Every time, it is pure wonder to be invited to His table.

It amazes me, too, when I think of how many before me have eaten this bread and tasted of this cup. How many generations have met in remembrance of Jesus? How far back does this story of grace really go?

Did it begin with the disciples gathered around the table with their heart-heavy Friend?

Did it start with the Hebrew people preparing to walk away from their bondage, the blood of a lamb over their doors so that the angel of death would pass over?

Was the beginning with Abraham standing over Isaac, trembling with the relief that God would provide the sacrifice?

Or was it in the garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve leaving behind their inadequate fig leaves when the Lord Himself clothed them?

I believe that from the moment He said “Let there be light,” God’s purpose has been unfolding.

And we have a place in His purpose.

From those first moments we witness, we see how everything that He spoke into existence was good – and He was creating a home for us. He made us so that we could be His people and He could be our God…even as He knew that the Son He loved before Creation (John 17:24) was the Lamb who would be slain so that we would be able to abide with Him always (1 Peter 1:20).  Yes, this story of ours that began so long ago and leads to the cross…it is the story of grace written by the Author of Salvation.

For because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve could no longer walk with God…but because of the Son’s obedience, He came and walked among us – as one of us. He crossed through the separation that sin had created to draw us near to God again.

He came, image of the invisible, to show us the Father.

We see God in Him- in the Word made flesh – and by His light, we see our own hearts, too.

When I open the Gospels,  I see myself in those pages. I see my own reflection in the voices of the lonely, the cynical, the broken. I see my own sin in the hardened hearts, in the quick-to-judge, those wise in their own eyes.

And this is why I am undone by the words of Jesus. This is why I can hardly breathe when I read about His compassion, His mercy – this is why I can hardly believe I am able to take of His cup, to eat of His bread.

On this journey to Calvary – following His footsteps – I see the way He goes after the lost sheep, the broken hearts, the outcasts, the sinners.

And in His presence, they find what they need – healing of body and soul, heart and mind.

He pursued those who needed Him – and this remarkable pursuit did not end within the pages of Scripture.

Through His death on the cross, He made a way for every heart across the ages to be freed from sin – and this sacrifice reaches through time and still makes us new.  He became our way so that we can boldly come before the throne of grace, into the presence of God.

Break and eat, for this is the bread of life given for us.  Take and drink, for His blood is the forgiveness of our sins. This is re-union with the Father through the sacrifice of the Son. This is the miracle of His Spirit, dwelling within us. This is the hope of Heaven, where we shall see Him face to face.

We are brought Home into the love and heart of God through Jesus.

For me, these are not just words – this is not just a pretty thought or a theological truth. In my own life, I felt – for many years – that I did not matter. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt rootless and afraid.

But His voice called out to me – and He said I could abide in His love. He said I could belong to Him, always. He, Himself, brought me to this place at His table.

And as my life unfolds, day by day, it is by His strength that I stand. Because of His presence – because His Spirit is with me – I am no longer controlled by my fears. I am planted in Him, and nothing can separate me from His love.  On the days when darkness seems to overwhelm the world and anxiety weighs on my heart, I still know that Jesus has overcome – and so I live with the hope of all things being made new, all things made right, all things redeemed and restored.

To anyone who will believe, He is the Open Door to a Home unshakable and eternal.

You, too, have a place at His table. You, too, have a forever-Home in His unfailing love.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really know Me, you will know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” –John 14:1-7

  “…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth….you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.” –John 14:16-20

 “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” John 15:9

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Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to calvary}, Day 25: Scripture-Reading

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:10-11)

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Every day He was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill Him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on His words. (Luke 19:47-48)

The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants, You, Lord, have called forth Your praise?” (Matthew 21:14-15)

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Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch Him in His words…One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,”answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all oyur heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, Teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no toher but Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

And from then on no one dared to ask Him any more questions. (Mark 12: 13, 28-34)

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It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared for the Passover. (Luke 22:7-13)

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 When the hour came, Jesus and His apostles reclined at the table. And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:14-16)

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come form God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and feet as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent Him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:2-17)

After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray Me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays Him!”

They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. (Luke 22:14-23)

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared My bread has turned against Me. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts Me accepts the one who sent Me.”

After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray Me.”

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. Simon Peter motioned to this deisciple and said, “Ask Him which one He means?”

Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Jesus took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:18-30)

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