Life Theology

Easter Sunday Meditation

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Luke 24:25-27:

And Jesus said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not neccesssary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

It’s early Sunday afternoon, just outside Jerusalem, on a dusty, lonely road to a small village named Emmaus.  Two followers of Jesus are walking and talking, depressed and downtrodden because their Messiah was murdered on Friday and his body lay in a tomb. Or so they thought.

Jesus comes near to them and asks what they were talking about. They stop dead in their tracks, look at Jesus and ask, “Don’t you read the news?” Jesus says, “Tell me about it.”  They say, “Jesus of Nazareth. They killed him. We thought he was our Redeemer. It’s been three days, and he’s still dead. But some women and some of our friends went to his tomb and did not see him. An angel told the women he was alive.” Now Jesus stops, and says, “Don’t you read the Prophets?”

Well, he might have well said that.

He said, in Luke 24:25, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not neccesssary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  Jesus’ resurrection and reign at the Father’s right hand is all the more glorious because he suffered a tortuous death. The plan was not for Jesus to live to a ripe old age, die peacefully, and then claim victory. No, he was pierced and beaten and mocked and crucified as a relatively young age — just as the Prophets said he would be.

But he didn’t stay dead.  If not for today, Good Friday would be Bad Friday. Our sins really wouldn’t be forgiven, and there would be no life after death.  The Apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17).  But he did rise, and with his resurrection, he gives eternal life to all those who believe, that even though we die, we might live.  In John 11, before Jesus called Lazarus back from dead, he told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (vv. 25-26).

Because of this day, Easter Sunday, everyone who believes in Jesus has hope that there will be life after the grave.  And so we sing with the saints of old:

Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.
He arose the Victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah Christ arose!

Heavenly Father, thank you for Resurrection Sunday. Thank you that Jesus did not stay dead. Unlike all other ‘gods,’ you are alive and reigning over creation! God, thank you that one day too, because Jesus rose, I will rise even though I die, and I will live in your presence for eternity.


True Joy is Found in Insignificance

This morning I read about Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on water from Mark 6.  The disciples didn’t understand.  In fact, Mark says that their hearts were hardened.  What the disciples didn’t get was the fact that the God who created water, fish, bread, and the world was sitting and talking with them.

Then I began to think about molecules, atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons and the like.  I’m not scientific at all, but when you let your mind wander into the vast complexities of these invisible structures that make up the universe, you don’t feel important anymore.  Actually, I would argue that it’s impossible to think about such things and feel significant in yourself.

But I didn’t feel this way because of the atoms or protons themselves.  It’s ultimately the result of knowing and loving the infinite God who, with a single word, created those things and everything else — including me — in the universe.

That will make you feel small.  That will give you true joy.


Works that Blind and Bring Sight

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples,

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Good works in the true Christian are designed by God to blind people from seeing me doing the work.  At the the same time, God designs the works to enable people to see his glory.

A person whom God is drawing to himself will see a good work in me and say, “Wow.  I know James.  He’s not that great.  He wouldn’t — couldn’t — do that on his own.  It must be something greater than himself.  Something more powerful, more gracious, more loving.  It can only be God.”


Sometimes (a lot of times), the Truth isn’t Nice

We should learn to love and practice Jesus’ hard truth when speaking to others.  On top of that, you can’t help but laugh when the disciples talk amongst themselves when they are around Jesus.


Servanthood and Sabbath

In Mark 6:31, after the apostles had returned from their missionary journey, Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” This shows the importance of taking time to reflect, get away to isolation, and simply be with God one-on-one. We call this Sabbath. The “Sabbath” in Christianity is not a single day. It certainly can be (and should be!). More than that though, the Lord wants us, especially after arduous work, to take a break and settle our souls in him.

If we read the next few verses, we see that the much-needed Sabbath didn’t work out as planned. “And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (vv. 32-33). Sometimes we plan a Sabbath. Sometimes other people plan to interrupt it. Whose idea was this mini-vacation? It was Jesus’ idea. But when Jesus saw all the people “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things” (v. 34). Jesus certainly didn’t see this as an interruption.

The disciples, however, weren’t as compassionate as Jesus. They were probably angry, frustrated, and irritated. They wanted a vacation! The problem was that their hearts were set on rest itself and not being with Jesus. When our hearts are set on something other than Jesus, we lose perspective and lose our missional mindset. But when our hearts are set on Jesus, whether we are alone with God or surrounded by needy people, our attitudes and intentions will be that of service and not selfishness.

So, look at verses 35-36, and picture the scenario. Peter, the loud, boisterous disciple probably told the others, “I’ll go tell him, already!” Peter, hesitantly walks up to Jesus and says, “Hey, Jesus, there’s no grocery stores around and it’s really late. Tell them to go away and buy food.” The other disciples stand there with their arms crossed, nodding their heads ‘yes,’ like the backups in a neighborhood gang. Jesus says, “No. You give them food.” The disciples probably think, “What the…funny one, Jesus.” But he’s serious. “How much food do you have?” he asks. You know how the story ends. Jesus feeds 5,000 men. Those men probably had wives and children. How many people are we talking about – 10,000? 12,000? 15,000 people?

Here’s the point: You might plan a Sabbath to be isolated from people and hang out with God. But, God might interrupt your Sabbath to give you an opportunity to serve. Don’t see interruptions in times of rest as people getting in the way. See them as God getting in your face as if to say, “Here’s a chance for you to be with me and show others my glory.” The disciples initial response should have been to send Peter (or whomever it was) to Jesus to say, “Teacher, these people look hungry. We feel their need. What can we do to serve them? We want to help. Tell us what to do.” Instead, if you read Mark 6:52, it says of the disciples, “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Even Christians have moments of hardening. Those times are evidenced by selfishness, arrogance, entitlement, and laziness.

Go ahead and plan your Sabbath rests. That’s good to do! But set your heart on Christ and not rest, and you will be flexible when a hungry mob (or a crying child, a hurting friend, a sad spouse, or a troubled neighbor) approaches your desolate place. O how I need help with this! Lord, teach me to rest in you, not to rest in rest. Teach me to be a servant and not to be consumed with myself! Father, teach us all to rest in your Son, that when our Sabbath is interrupted, we may serve and show others how wonderful it is to rest in him.