Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Faces of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday brings back memories, pleasant ones, of days gone by. I think of the cheerful faces on children as they come up the aisle towards the altar, waving palms overhead, as we all sing "Hosanna!" Some years, the children included were my own, other years they were just children of the church, a few years, grandchildren. But it never wavered... the faces were the same.

Looking at the picture I shared, I am struck by the thought that the faces have always been the same, all the way back to that original Palm Sunday. As Jesus entered the city, the crowds shouted, "Hosanna!" as they celebrated the arrival of the Messiah. Palm branches were waved about and placed on the ground, creating a path into the city. The children still laughed and smiled as they waved palms, just as they do today, centuries later.

While it is celebratory, it is not a casual result of chance. Much preparation occurred before hand, including the ministry of Jesus, when the Disciples arrived, and much earlier, with sharing prophecies in the temples.

And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” 
Mark 11: 8-10


Sunday, March 31, 2013

We Rejoice at What the Women Did Not Find

Following the crucifixion, the days were most likely quiet and somber. The years spent following Jesus, hearing about the hope and witnessing the miracles... all over? just like that? All that was left was to honor the memories by taking care of the body. Surely the women moved with heavy hearts as they took spices to use on Jesus' body.

But when they arrived, the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. What on earth? what did this mean? They ventured inside, probably feeling uncertain and perhaps, even scared. Once inside, they were confused because they didn't see the body. But two men stood there in shining garments.

Then as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! (Luke 24:5-6)

How they must have marveled and rejoiced, as they ran to tell the Disciples who were in hiding, mourning the loss of a dear friend, perhaps even questioning their dedication, and fearful they would soon be targets themselves. Peter ran quickly to the tomb and saw the empty linen cloths, amazed at what had happened. Surely he was also remembering that he had denied Jesus three times, just as predicted. The others did not even believe the women.

Later, some of the Disciples were walking down the road when Jesus walked with them. In their sorrow, they did not even pay enough attention to realize it was Him, even though He spoke all about Himself! They sat at the table... perhaps even thinking back to the Passover meal they had shared just a few days before....

Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. (Luke 24:30) 

Suddenly, they realized that this was Jesus and ran to tell the others in town! Jesus appeared to them again and when they doubted, showed His hands and feet as proof.

Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:46-47)

Yes, Jesus is risen. And for us, this makes all the difference, between a well-known prophet and a Savior. We serve a RISEN Savior! Hallelujah!

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One of my favorites of the season is this song by Don Francisco, He's Alive! We heard him sing it live when we were in college, and Keith sang it many times since then. It's a powerful song. Please listen to it.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sunday's a Comin'

This is the last day of Lent, the day after we remember the crucifixion. It is still a somber occasion, even though we know the ultimate outcome.

Years ago, I heard a preacher do a sermon titled, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a Comin’” that I always think of this time of year.  We hate the agony of the cross on Good Friday, but it’s good that we remember it. We need to acknowledge and consider the depth of the sacrifice made on our behalf.

However, in the back of our minds, unlike those that witnessed it, we know that “Sunday’s a Comin’” and that Jesus overcame death, coming back to life on the third day.

But what of those that were there? Judas felt so awful for betraying Jesus that he threw the coins  at the priests, and then hung himself in shame. 
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.       (Matthew 27:3-5) 

Those guarding Jesus on the cross saw everything that happened when He died and realized that they had killed an innocent man, the Son of God.

Jesus was taken down from the cross, then placed in a borrowed tomb. 
 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. (Matthew 27:57-60) 

The disciples feared that they would also be killed now that Jesus was gone. They hid together, waiting to see what would happen.

The Pharisees tried to save their reputation. 
The chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”  (Matthew 27:62-64)

And Pontius Pilate went to great lengths to make SURE that the tomb was secure! 
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.    (Matthew 27 65-66
Yes, it was indeed a somber and frightening time for all those that knew and loved Jesus. Those that had betrayed Him, especially the religious officials, were probably nervous. The disciples were devastated and feared for their own safety.

When things seem darkest, then and now, God provides and uses unseen possibilities we cannot even imagine.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Sacrifice

Many give up something for Lent, but unless it is truly a sacrifice that brings you closer to God, it is meaningless. What did God give up for Lent? He gave up His Son. Jesus game up His life. There is nothing more I could add that would touch you more than reading the scripture for yourself.

The Scripture of the Crucifixion
Matthew 27:33-54
 And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: "They divided My garments among them. And for My  clothing they cast lots."

Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, "I am the Son of God." Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthan?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!"

Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, "Let Him alone; see if Elijah will come to save Him."  

 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

So when the centurian and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the tings that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!"


Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Hint of Things to Come, Maundy Thursday, part 2

Go to Part One, In Remembrace, Maundy Thursday, part 1

Part 2

On the first day of Passover, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Jesus and His Disciples prepared to take the Passover Meal together. As usual, an unblemished lamb was sacrificed for the meal. But although the disciples had no idea, this year, there would be two sacrificial lambs. 

During the meal, Jesus said something that didn’t make sense to them… at the time.  “Before I suffer?” “Until the kingdom of God comes?” What could He mean? Things were going so well. Just days before, He rode into town amidst shouts of praise, “Hosanna!” 

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.”

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.”    (Luke 22:14-18)

Then He told them that one of them would betray Him. In addition, another would deny Him three times before the morning. They were stunned and unbelieving.  Yet it was true. 

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: 21-22)

In Remembrance, Maundy Thursday, Part 1

Part One
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26: 26-27)

This did not all make sense, but Jesus often spoke in ways they did not understand until later. In Luke’s Gospel, it is recorded that Jesus told us when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, “that we do so in remembrance of Him.” He broke the unleavened Passover bread, telling the disciples things they did not yet understand. We do this now, remembering the sacrifice made for us, when we take communion. As we do, we ask forgiveness for our sins and weaknesses.

And he took 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.”  (Luke 22:19)

Music has a way of expressing things for us in simple terms. There was once a musical called, “Celebrate Life!” written by Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red, about the life of Jesus. It was new when I was in high school and our youth group went to various churches performing it with actors, musicians, and speakers. It is still relevant today.

The song about the Last Supper, this Passover Meal, is by far not only my favorite song from that musical, but one that is special on it’s own.  If Jesus were to write a song telling us what to do, this just might be it. Do these things, in remembrance of Him.
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Part 2 of my Maundy Thursday message is, A Hint of Things to Come, Maundy Thursday, part 2
The words to the song are below and here's a link so that you can enjoy the music. In Remembrance of Me
In Remembrance
In remembrance of Me eat this bread, In remembrance of Me drink this wine
In remembrance of Me pray for the time, When God's own will is done.

-In remembrance of me heal the sick, In remembrance of me feed the poor
In remembrance of me open the door, And let your brother in, let him in
Take eat and be comforted, Drink and remember too
That this is my body and precious blood, Shed for you, shed for you
In remembrance of me always love. In remembrance of me don't look above
But in your heart, in your heart. Look in your heart for God
Do this in remembrance of me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Of Preparation and Prophecy

As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.”     Mark 11:1-3

Palm Sunday, the day we celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, didn't just happen by chance. No, even small details such as the use of a donkey colt had to be arranged. Like many others, they were coming into the city in order to celebrate Passover.  Coincidence? I think not.

It reminds me that Mary rode a donkey into Bethlehem... when it was time for Jesus to be born. And while the disciples did not realize it then, this trip would end in a most unexpected way, one that changed history. But there's more...

 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey."       Zachariah 9:9
Long before the birth of Christ, His entrance was foretold in prophecy. This seemed odd to people hoping for a Messiah that would enter like a mighty kind to rescue them. This king would surely ride a fine horse, wouldn't he? Yet, they were told it'd be on a lowly donkey.  It wasn't even a normal donkey, but one that had never been ridden on. I guess you could say that it was pure, just as the one riding it.  Donkeys are beasts of burden, so appropriate for carrying the One that would bear the burdens and sins of all mankind.

But the Messiah did arrive on a donkey, and to the cheers and celebrations of the crowd... the same crowd that turned on Him just a few days later. He came to observe Passover with the disciples, and did so much more... so very much more.