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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

When I reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, Mary Magdalene always comes to mind. Though we do not know much about Mary Magdalene, the fact that the honor of being the first to see Jesus after His resurrection shows a lot about Jesus and us, about God and us.

There are various stories about Mary Magdalene. Some will say that she was a prostitute. The only thing that we know with certainty is that Jesus healed her of demonic possession. In Luke chapter 8 we see that Jesus delivered Mary of seven demons. We know that Mary Magdalene became a follower of Jesus after He healed her and that she was part of the group that was close to Jesus. She even spent time with Mary the Mother of Jesus.

We also know from John 19 that Mary Magdalene was one of the people who stood at the cross of Jesus and watched Him die. It was an intensely emotional time for her to see the man who rescued her and gave her a new life die on the cross. Then came the first Easter Sunday morning. She was emotionally distraught thinking that someone had moved the body of Jesus because when she came to the tomb, His body was gone, but His burial cloths were still there. She saw two angels who asked who she was looking for and after she tells them she is looking for her Lord’s body, she turns around. Jesus is standing in front of her and asks who she is looking for. Her eyes were filled with tears, she is distraught and can’t think straight. She doesn’t recognize Him at first and tells Him she is looking for her Lord’s body and to please tell her where it is. Then Jesus says her name. When Jesus says, “Mary”, the sound of His voice snaps her into the reality that the man she mistook for the gardener is Jesus. She cries out, “Rabonni” and hugs Him. He tells her He must ascend to the Father, but to go tell the group that He is risen.

It was no coincidence that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. There was never any coincidence in anything Jesus did while He was on earth. His every action and teaching had a purpose behind it. By appearing to Mary first, a woman who He had delivered of seven demons, a woman who was in the lowest part of society before she met Jesus, Jesus shows that God’s love is for all people no matter where they come from in life. God’s life changing power and forgiveness are for all people.

By telling Mary to got tell His followers, Jesus tells her to be a witness. He gives her an assignment that in that culture should have been for a man. Even today in some cultures the testimony of a woman in court does not count as much as a man’s. Jesus gives her an assignment to go tell, to go be His witness. This shows me that in Jesus all people are equally loved, valued, and that in Jesus all people are to be respected.

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Good Friday and Easter Sunday deservedly receive a lot of attention. They are the pivotal events in not only Christianity, but also in History. On Good Friday we remember His sacrificial death for us. On Easter Sunday we remember how He defeated death for us through His resurrection. But what about the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? The day when Jesus’ body laid in the tomb. His followers were in despair. They had lost hope. They thought it was all over and done with and their beloved leader was gone forever.

I have been to the funerals of loved ones and friends. Looking into a casket is perhaps the most solemn experience we face in this life. That and watching a loved one die. I was with my father when he died. He died while I was reading from the bible to him. When my father died, I did not despair. That was because over a year before he died, I was with him while he made peace with God by trusting in Jesus. I had so much peace about where my father went to that I taught my class that evening, but I had the benefit of knowing the rest of the story which is that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection.

There are other moments in life that might we feel all hope is lost. We look at our life obstacles and wonder if there is anyway that we can find that job, get out of debt, experience our loved ones finally getting their life turned around, recover from an illness or any other of life’s seemingly unending problems. We at times are like the followers of Jesus on that Saturday between the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is as if we are on the outside of the tomb lost in despair.

I often wonder how His followers felt that Saturday. What it must have been like for those who washed His body and prepared His body for burial. They had forgotten about how Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead only days before Jesus entered Jerusalem. They had forgotten how Jesus had told them that He would die and that He would be raised from dead. They had lost hope. We do the same thing. We lose hope even though we have the rest of the story. We know that Jesus defeated death. His resurrection proves that He has power even over our worst enemy. When we face life’s difficulties, it is too easy for us to lose hope and not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

On this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I would like to encourage you to think about your problems and then remember that He has all power. His resurrection is the proof that we too will one day enjoy the benefits of heaven, and also that He does have all power. He is more than able to help us to overcome our difficulties.

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On this day, Good Friday, I am taking time to reflect on the death of Jesus and its implications for me and for all of us. Two things always come to my mind as I reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus, my own sin which He died for and His love, His unfathomable love for me and for all. Jesus spoke of this kind of self-sacrificing love when He said, “Greater love has no one than this to lay down their life for a friend.”

There are inspiring stories of people giving their lives for others such as soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save their friends or of mothers in crisis while giving birth telling the doctor to save their baby even if it means the mother losing their own life. When I hear these stories, I am inspired by their examples of true love for another or others. There is much discussion about what love is these days in America. The kind of love Jesus is talking about encompasses not only family/brotherly love but something far greater. Jesus is talking about the kind of love God has for us. He uses the verb agape as He speaks about greater love. Agape is the Greek word for God’s unconditional love. Jesus showed us the unconditional love of God when He died for us. Jesus, God’s one and only son, died for us.

An awe inspiring thought for me is the fact that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him before He was arrested, put through a joke of trial, and was crucified. He knew what was going to happen and went anyway. In John 18 we read, “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” He went out to meet those who were coming to arrest Him. There was a detachment of soldiers that had come to arrest Him which would have been at least 400 men armed with swords and spears. Lethal danger was approaching, Jesus knew it and went out to meet it. He has all power, so He could have stopped it, but He went out to meet it. He knew that He would be tortured and crucified on a cross. He knew that He would die a terrible death and He went out to the detachment of soldiers and allowed them to take Him away to what would lead to His death. Why?

Why? Because He loves you and me. His love is the love of God, self-sacrificing, unconditional, reaching out to those who suffer, reaching out to people like me who are unworthy of His love. This evening when I go to Good Friday Service at church, I will reflect upon and remember that Jesus loved us so much that He died for all of our sins because He wants us to be with Him for eternity in heaven. He died for us to pay our penalty for our sin. We do not deserve His sacrifice, but because of his love, He gave it for us. That is true love.

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One of the mysteries in the bible for me is what happened when Jesus came to visit His mother Mary. She is not listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as being present during his visits after His resurrection. Surely He must have appeared to Mary His mother. She was there when He was crucified. She was there when He was buried. She had been with Him throughout His life as we see various times after His birth that she was with Him such as at the wedding in Cana. I wonder what happened when He came to her.

Think about her life for a moment. She was a young virgin when an angel appeared to her and said, “Hail Highly Favored One…..” and told her she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Savior of the world. She said yes to God’s plan. She gave birth to Him in a stable of animals and then had to flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. She raised Him and cared for Him like no one else ever will. She saw His miracles and was even there for His first public miracle of turning water into wine. In fact she kind of instigated it. Then she is there during His passion and watches Him die on the cross before her eyes. She helped to prepare His body for burial. So why is there no mention of Mary the mother of Jesus during His visits after the resurrection.

While I would not make a claim to know for sure or teach this as a doctrine, it is my thought that Jesus’ first visit with His mother Mary was so highly personal and emotional for Mary that the Holy Spirit did not have it recorded. I have often heard it expressed that God is a gentleman meaning He is polite and considerate. While God does record the failings of Peter and the other disciples, there are certain things left unwritten such as the exact nature of Mary Magdaline’s life before Jesus healed her of demon possession. I believe that the moment Jesus first came to see His mother after His resurrection was so personal and emotional for her and out of respect for that moment it was kept private.

Let’s imagine how she must have felt though. She knew better than anyone why He had come into the world. She knew it from the start when the angel Gabriel told her. She saw Him die on the cross and heard Him give her care over to John. She saw Him buried and then she sees Him after His resurrection. She must have been so full of joy that she could not contain her emotions. Tears of joy that must have flowed from her eyes. Surely she embraced Him with a wonderful motherly hug and didn’t want to let go.

There is something in the bible that convinces me that Jesus must have visited Mary after His resurrection. Mary was with the disciples in the upper room when the promise of the Father came upon them. When the Holy Spirit was sent to those who were waiting, Mary was there with them.  In the bible she may fade from the scene as the focus of the story shifts to what the apostles did as they started the church, but she was there when the Holy Spirit came signaling that she still has a role. She is one person I look forward to meeting one day when Jesus calls me home. I would love to hear the story from her 🙂

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While I do not believe in ghosts, I realize there are people who do. Some might be tempted to think that Jesus’ followers saw a ghost when He appeared to them after His resurrection. There were two occasions when Jesus appeared to His followers that He did something ghost cannot do. He ate food.

In Luke 24- “40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.[f] 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.[g] 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.” Jesus ate food in front of them to show them it was indeed Jesus and He was in His body. On another occasion in John 21 we see, “15 So when they had eaten breakfast” in reference to Jesus eating breakfast with his disciples. He not only ate with them, He even cooked the breakfast of fish and bread that He ate with them.

Jesus showed His followers the proofs of His scars from His wounds and ate with them to demonstrate that He was risen from the dead in His physical body. He displayed the fact that He had defeated death. He took on our worst problem, which is death, and defeated it through His resurrection.

It makes me think about the problems I may face in life from time to time and compare them to the worst thing we will all have to face someday which is death. It makes my problems seem not as monumental. It also helps me to realize there is hope in every situation because the one who conquered death, Jesus, has also made a promise. He said, “I am with you always….”

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Some nicknames are fun ones for people such as Magic Johnson, Air Jordan etc. Some celebrities are known by their first or last name such as Bono of U-2. Some people are called by nicknames they really don’t like but the nicknames seem to stick. One of Jesus’ followers has been known by a one time flaw for centuries. Thomas was a follower of Jesus who had some doubts regarding the resurrection of Jesus. Because of Thomas having doubts we have the phrase Doubting Thomas which no one wants to be called.

Thomas had heard from the other disciples that they had seen Jesus after His resurrection, but Thomas did not believe them. He told the other disciples, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” It is easy for us who are living 2,000 years later and have the benefit of reading the story to perhaps be critical of Thomas and his doubts, but lets put ourselves in his place. Thomas saw Jesus get arrested and knew Jesus had died. Thomas knew Jesus had been buried in a tomb with a huge stone rolled in front of it to close it. It had been an immensely emotional ordeal for all of the followers of Jesus and Thomas experienced it all first hand and now the other followers are claiming to have seen Jesus. How many of us would have had doubts too?

Jesus appeared to the disciples in dramatic fashion to perhaps get Thomas’s attention. We see in John 20  “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas had the proof he needed to respond in faith by proclaiming “My Lord my God!” Jesus replied, “because you have seen you believe. Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.”

How often do we face difficult times and faith seems far from us? How often do we doubt the goodness of God when we go through a hardship? We can stop and reflect on the fact that Jesus took on our biggest problem by defeating death and take encouragement from His resurrection.

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I love to read about the visits by Jesus after His resurrection because they show us more about His character through how He related with people who knew Him. Peter is a great example of how even though we fail, Jesus will reach out to us and give us another fresh start.

Peter had a forceful and impulsive personality. He could be brilliant one moment and make a blunder the next. When Jesus told His disciples that He would die and they would fail Him, Peter proclaimed he that even if he died, he would not fail Jesus. Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny Jesus 3 times before Jesus would be crucified. Peter did exactly that. He denied Jesus 3 times. He had lost face with the other disciples in the process because they knew it.

During one of Jesus’ visits, Jesus met the disciples on the seashore. He was cooking some fish for them. He ate breakfast with them and then restored Peter. He asked Peter 3 times in front of the other disciples the same question- “Peter do you love me?” Each of those times Peter answered yes and each of those times Jesus gave Peter a job- “then feed my sheep” meaning take care of the followers of Jesus. Peter the one who messed up big time was restored by Jesus.

No matter how much we mess up, Jesus will be there to restore us and give us a new start. His mercy and grace are beyond our understanding.

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