A while back, in the midst of cleaning the house and preparing meals, our toddler son brought in a beautiful bouquet of little yellow flowers from our backyard. He proudly walked up and held them out to me with a broad smile and his chest puffed out. He had picked these just for me and he was overflowing with anticipation for me to take his gift. I had been so busy and tired that day… as had pretty much been the case for every day previous that year as my husband was traveling much for business. But, something about the way he approached me caused me to pause. I knelt down and smiled warmly as my heart was reminded of a dream the Lord had given me years prior.
In this dream, I saw streetlights at night along a beautiful park. These stately lights then turned into burnt matchsticks that were bent over and smoldering. And from there, I could see dandelion seeds taking flight from the smoldering matchstick as the wind blew. At the time of the dream, I was preparing for the missions field and a foreign culture. Yet all the while, I had a strong sense that this dream would apply to a later time, but had no idea what it could mean. Then, after marrying my husband and moving to the Middle East with our precious ten-month-old son and our precious toddler daughter in toe, something struck a cord within my soul.
I was burnt out, feeling overwhelmed and utterly out of ideas of what to do with our littles in the day. I needed a break—so I thought. I needed to just get away and recharge—so I kept telling myself. Yet, as I would meet with a wise, older Christian woman about once a month, I was blessed to glean from her insights on life. And among them, she kept pointing out how much the Lord uses us mothers to forward the kingdom of God here on earth. And it is not simply on our “refreshed days”, but often times through our heartache and times of great need for intervention of His divine nature, that we are able to see and experience His presence all the more profoundly.
After another wonderful time with this precious older woman of the faith while still in the Middle East, I headed back to our home to my husband and our now sleeping children. I could not shake the feeling that I was missing out on something. That somehow I was focusing on the wrong things during our time abroad. And then, the dream of the dandelion seeds in the wind came back to mind as I thought of our children.
“Because of Your adversaries, You have established a stronghold from the mouths of children and nursing infants to silence the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 (HCSB)
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was that burnt out instrument and complaining rather than seeking the Lord’s guidance and continual renewal. I was that smoldering match. But, what encouraged my heart—and what was affirmed through prayer in that moment—was the reality that raising Christ loving and Christ following children is vital in combatting the enemies of God. Stay with me here….It is in such seasons of prolonged fatigue and sleepless nights that God was able to show Himself all the more glorious in my own story. It was when I was willing to cry out with my need for Him and claim the truths of His Living Word, contained within the Holy Bible, that I would find a renewed sense of focus, meaning and willful hope. Perhaps you too can relate. It is when I have been willing to say, “this one is so far beyond me, Lord…I just cannot go another step. Please take the lead. I just want to honor You”
It is there, in that very moment that the Lord intervenes in truly miraculous ways that astound the mind and baffle the senses.
“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2 (NLT)
All these memories came rushing back to me as I hugged my son and thanked him for his flowers before he ran back outside to play with our daughter who was already on the rope swing. And as I walked into my husband and I’s master bathroom to place my new bouquet next to the very same type of flower bouquet my daughter had given me just the day previous, my eyes saw something that affirmed it all. Where the delicate little flowers had rested the day previous, now white little puffballs were bloomed in their place.
It was such a profound and meaningful encouragement to my heart from the Lord. Although I was indeed exhausted and trying to take care of two extremely active children, the fact remained—these children are my seeds.
As mothers, and women in general, we have the awesome privilege to not only physically, but also spiritually invest into the lives of our children. And whether it’s a “good day” or “bad day”, they watch us to see how we choose to respond to the circumstances the Lord allows into our day.
“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:33 (NLT)
Ladies, I encourage you this every moment, to ask the Lord above to breathe afresh upon you. He can take any situation and breathe life, hope and direction into it (Ezekiel 37). Acknowledge your need for His guidance, favor and continual mercy amidst the chaos (Psalm 71:20). Ask the Lord to breathe anew upon your soul to refresh you in this time of need—right where you are—so that you may glorify Him even in your fatigue and responsibility (Psalm 138:7). Ladies, please take this to heart, the care and guardianship of the next generation is of highest importance to the Lord (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 113:9, Psalm 127:3, Mark 10:14).
Thus, may we not only be in prayer for this next generation daily, but may we pray for the Lord to equip us to minister, mold and model lives that are sold out to the cause of Jesus Christ. May we be willing to follow the Lord in obedience and speak of His eternal glories to the little ones of this upcoming generation.
“In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” Psalm 18:29 (NLT)
Through the power of His holy name, we have been given not only the victory over hell, but over all forms of confusion, fatigue, inferiority, comparing and all other forms of evil that the devil would love to use to discourage us as mamas, and women in general. Take back what is yours, as a daughter of the Most High; take back the victory that was handed to you personally as Jesus Christ victoriously defeated evil and it’s many forms as He bore our sins upon the cross and gave us His healing (Isaiah 53:3).
“For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. God, be exalted above the heavens, and let Your glory be over the whole earth.” Psalm 108:4-5 (HCSB)
Walk in it. Own it. Ask the Lord to blow upon the current situations in your own life and take His message of hope, restoration, peace and healing to all people groups who are in critical need of encouragement (Ezekiel 19:10).
“May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” Psalm 115:14 (NIV)
“Oh no….it’s happening again! Look, look! It’s breaking news! Oh wow….oh wow…look at the front page…” Said the young twenty-two year old through wide eyes to her friend across the table of a café. She quickly covered her mouth as tears welled in her eyes. The young woman held the side of her own face as she turned her screen around to show her friend the information regarding the recent terrorist attack. Upon reading the latest news feed, the brown eyes of the girl’s friend grew large in disbelief. “Oh my gosh! Look at the streets named; we were just there a few months back during our end of year trip!” Both young women were silent for a few moments as the hot cappuccinos steamed before them. Suddenly the silence was broken in fear, “You know, they are all like this! Once a murdering people always a murdering people!” Both young adults gasped in disbelief as they continued to scroll through photos and updates before they would return to preparing for Bible study.
When we harbor anger, we can feel “justified” or even right with God for holding such a strong emotion due to what another has or has not done. Yet, what we are often unaware of is the fact that the iron clad shackles of hate cause our overarching joy from the Lord to slowly choke out. Rather than seeing things through the eyes of grace and the supreme reality that the Lord is indeed in control; hate begins to slowly close off exposure of our hearts to the Son of God. And the resulting darkness, can be very much at play within ourselves—even while faithfully attending church and Bible study.
Rather than counting one’s blessings and asking how the Lord would choose to use us to be part of the solution, as the Word of God encourages us to do (Psalm 105:1, Psalm 106:1& Isaiah 12:4), counting subsequent blunders becomes the focal point of choice. Such chains have a way of slowly distancing us from the fellowship of true believers and the needed nutrients that is absolutely essential for our souls which is found in fellowship with Jesus Christ alone.
Whispers of injustice, reminders of failed help and a continual song of the faults of others run through one’s mind; further justifying the stance of paranoia, mistrust and vengeance. As a result, the truths of God’s perfect and Holy Word begin to seem less applicable, less relevant and sometimes the individual even concludes that the Bible should to be “put away” while the other influences scream of hate and revenge.
“Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (HCSB)
These swirling emotions continue amidst major blessings, but the individual cannot see them, nor stops to give thanks to the Lord for them. Rather than seeing the ever-present hand of the loving Lord at play in all seasons of life, it is as if this person has sought out each mud puddle along the beautiful path of life…and sat deep within it. Wallowing in pain, forgetting the Lord’s faithfulness and throwing mud at others because they are not wallowing in the same filth. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have all taken turns both sitting in the mud as well as slinging some at times.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of may kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5 (NIV)
Ladies, hardship and trials are real; but so is our VICTORY over them through the victorious name of the Risen King Jesus Christ (John 16:33). We may see horror unfolding in the lives of individuals where the absolute injustice of the circumstances have awaken murderous thoughts, demonic inspired words and divisive mannerisms within our own souls. Ladies, regardless of the circumstances that bring us to the mud pits and shackles of hatred and resentment, may we always check our hearts for bitterness, envy and vengeful thoughts. For if we have allowed ourselves to wear the shackles of hatred for any length of time, seeds of bitterness and its kind, will begin to show themselves in our words, thoughts and actions.
Why does this matter? Why not just laugh it all off in sarcasm? Because, as one who has battled through these very attempts of Satan to steal my joy (John 10:10) allow me to personally speak of the redemption that is available to YOU this very day through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s not enough to simply “know” what the Bible says, we must walk it out…actions speak louder than words.
“14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. 18But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe — and they shudder.” James 2:14-19 (HCSB)
I tell you that God has better in store for you, too! Call out to the Lord for help in the midst of your suffering and feelings of injustice and repent for your feelings of hatred and bitterness. God will not only hear you, but also rescue and redeem you for His great glory and divine purpose!
19My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.
22But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works — this person will be blessed in what he does.
26If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. 27Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:19-27 (HCSB)
Don’t sit in that pit or within those shackles any longer! You were created for greatness and divine adventure (Jeremiah 29:11-14), but it will never be recognized from the limited view of a mud hole or from the darkness of iron shackles. Call out to the Lord and allow Him to raise you up and break the shackles of hatred that have no business on a child of God. Take hold of the freedom available to you through Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior.
“I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.” Jonah 2:6 (NASB)
May we come to realize that sometimes the kindness of God is revealed in what is taken away from us. At times it is the breaking of our dreams of “perfect” or “success” that reveal our true loyalties. Are we devoted to the world and it’s ideas of power, safety and success? Or, are we devoted to the ways of the Lord and willing to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23 & Mark 8:34)—no matter what?
May we come to realize that God, being a perfect and sovereign father, desires what is best for each of us. And at times, that means that we will best learn and grow in our trust through tears. The Bible is filled with accounts of individuals who had to let go of their own ideas and release them fully to the Lord—knowing that He alone is fully trustworthy and good (Nahum 1:7). In the end, may we recall why we are here on this spinning rock. It is not to accumulate goods and items of status for ourselves, but for the honor—given to each heart—to worship and seek hard after the heart of God. And the only way we can please the Father God is through a right relationship through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Risen King (Romans 10:9-10). Thus, if you are reading this today—still replaying the details of something that you have recently heard or read—take it to the Lord in prayer. May we realize that sometimes the kindest thing the Lord can do for us is to break our ideals and perceptions of the world around us in order to free our hands and hearts to then pick up His ideals and world focus, which are righteous, redemptive and holy.
You are precious, you are priceless and you are loved by the One who created your soul. Rejoice in His ever-present love and faithful forgiveness this very day. Ask the Lord Jesus Christ how He might choose to use you and your specific talents to further the gospel of His forgiveness and reconciliation for all peoples—all across this vast globe—for HE alone is worthy (Isaiah 6:1-8)!
“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:7-10 (NASB)
“9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)
Jesus Christ is LORD…this is how you would say it in Arabic…
~~~~~~~~~yaswae almasih hu alrrbb
Jesus Christ is Lord…as Ramadan has begun (marking the month of fasting and prayer for Muslims world wide)…as believers in Jesus Christ, may we PRAY FOR THESE PRECIOUS PEOPLE who are destined to eternal separation from God (Romans 5:8-10, 1 John 4:9)–just as each of us were (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:10 & Romans 8:28)–before meeting our precious and victorious Savior Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10 & 1 John 5:11).
It is so easy to hate those who cause harm…so easy to put our faith aside and react to the chaos. Yet, may we claim the truths of Scripture. May we lift up those grieving and suffering from the most recent attacks in Manchester and Egypt as well as previous attacks in India, California, Germany, Florida and each place around the globe that experiences acts of terror against its people. May we be marked as a people of prayer for each one affected–both directly and indirectly (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 57:15).
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18 (NASB).
Each brutal and horrific loss of life is truly tragic. But as believers in Jesus Christ, may we remember that we do not battle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:10-18). There is NO act that is beyond the grace of the Risen Savior Jesus Christ…
…if so…I surely would not be allowed into the Holy and Pure presence of the LORD (Isaiah 6:1-8).
May we remember that EACH of us has a desperate need for the Lord Jesus…and such acts of terror highlight the crucial need of EVANGELISM to such people…may we call it for what it is…another tactic of the devil to “steal, kill and destroy” … but in that same verse…Jesus Christ said that He came to give us “life and life in abundance” (John 10:10).
The time is now church…let us run to the DARK AND DYING WORLD…with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)…for the devil would LOVE to silence this message of eternal hope from each of our lips…may we fight back…with the same love, grace and eternal perspective that our Lord Jesus Christ showed towards us. The time is now.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,”
2 Timothy 1:7-10 (NASB)
The detachment of soldiers with its commander, along with the Jewish officials, arrested Jesus and bound Him (John 18:12). All of the remaining eleven faithful disciples then scattered and left Jesus to be taken by Judas and those who desired to bring Him to death; just as Jesus had prophesied (John 16:32).
Peter followed at a distance with John, as Jesus was then taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest that year, who was Caiaphas. Time had become a blur for the disciples as each soul-wrenching step of Jesus’ sorry excuse for a trial unfolded. He was beaten, slapped in the face, mocked and spit on (Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 20:28, Matthew 26:28 & Mark 10:45). Jesus was humiliated as He was dressed up with a military robe, made to wear a horrible crown made from twisted thorns and had a reed placed within his hand—as soldiers mocked him while laughing and bowing to their idea of a false king. They struck Him in the head repeatedly (Matthew 27:29-30 Mark 15:17 & John 19:2-3).
Within this depraved display of the rebellion of the human heart against the One whom in fact created all things, Jesus had been sent to Caiaphas, then before the entire assembly of the Jewish leadership, known as the Sanhedrin, where they met at daybreak and brought Jesus before them. The mighty Sanhedrin questioned Jesus as to whether or not He was in fact the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71). The Sanhedrin, as powerful as it was, did not have authority under Roman rule to crucify. Thus, Jesus was sent to Pilate to officially protest for the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. Yet, Pilate found no such cause for death of this “King of the Jews” (Luke 23:4). Pilate, after learning that Jesus was a Galilean, sent Him to be seen by Herod Antipas, seeing as he held jurisdiction there and resided in Jerusalem (Luke 23:6-7). As a result of the cruel treatment Jesus suffered under Herod, Pilate and Herod (whom had been hostile towards one another up until that point) became friends that day (Luke 23:11-12). The badly beaten Jesus was then sent back to Pilate where three times Pilate appealed to the people that he found no grounds by which to kill Jesus—even stating that Herod found no cause to kill Him, hence Jesus had been sent back to Pilate (Matthew 27:21-26, Mark 15:7-15 & Luke 23:13-17).
The Jewish leadership and outcry of the people for Jesus’ death had won out over facts. A terrorist of the day and known murdered, Barabas, had been released to the people—as they chanted and shouted for the death of Jesus and affirmed their desire to have Barabas back within their society in order to ensure the death of Jesus (Luke 23:18-25). Jesus had been led out of the city of Jerusalem to the Place of Skull to be crucified with a criminal on either side of Him (Luke 23:32-33). On the way there, the brutally beaten, whipped and bleeding humanity of Jesus was unable to carry His own death instrument. Thus, a man by the name of Simon, a Cyrenian, was made to carry the cross on which Jesus would momentarily be nailed and killed upon—until the final destination was reached (Luke 23:26).
Once at the Place of the Skull, large nails were then driven Jesus’ hands and feet. This was the most brutal and barbaric killing instrument of that day. And it was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Yet, here was Jesus the Christ, proven to be innocent by even Pilate and Herod, and he was experiencing a criminal’s death. It could not have even been carried out upon a Roman citizen. Thus Jesus, as an innocent substitute for each and every one of the human race, bore the brutal punishment of death upon a cross (Romans 8:28). To speed up the process, at the urging of the Jews, the Roman soldiers were instructed by Pilate to break the legs of those upon the cross to cause the arms to stretch higher above the head, ushering the arrival of death quicker—seeing as the following day was the Sabbath (John 19:31-32). Yet, this was not done to the Lord Jesus Christ as He was not a victim of His circumstances, but rather He had willfully determined to go through the brutal death of humanity in order to ransom His creations (Isaiah 53:9-11, Romans 5:18, Philippians 2:8 & 1 Peter 2:24).
“This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” John 10:17-18 (HCSB)
While enduring the cross and continued atmosphere of satanic celebration, the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing by casting lots (Psalm 22:18 & Matthew 5:44). Jesus had publicly cried out to His Father in heaven to “forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He had also assured the penitent thief on the cross next to Him that “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). When all had been accomplished to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament of the Lord Jesus, He cried out in a loud voice “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).
The crowd gathered below was a mixture of demonic taunting and agonizing screams of horror and pain. When it came time to break the legs of Jesus, He had in fact already died (John 19:33). This fulfilled the prophesy of the Psalms and the prophets (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 & Psalm 34:20). The rocks split and the veil within the Holy of Holies of the Temple split from top to bottom as a result of Jesus giving up His spirit (Matthew 27:51). The punishment for the depravity of all humanity had in fact been paid in full (Matthew 27:45-53, Mark 15:33-38, John 3:16, Galatians 3:13-14 & Titus 2:14).
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)
It was still dark out on the morning of the third day since Jesus’ death. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Salome were heading to the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, where the body of Jesus had been laid three days prior (John 19:38). It was now the third day since His brutal death on the cross. The women, with heads covered and ash covered faces, walked towards the borrowed tomb. It was daybreak and they were coming to place the customary spices upon the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). They began to ask one another whom would open the tomb for them to complete their task; seeing as a large stone had been rolled across the entrance and Roman soldiers had been stationed in front of it to ensure it stay closed (Mark 16:3). Yet, as the women approached the mountain from which the tomb had been carved, there was a violent earthquake! The large stone—which had been secured by the Roman soldiers to avoid potential body snatchers (Matthew 27:64-66)—was no longer in front of the opening of the tomb at all! No, in this hour of daybreak, still from a distance, it appeared to the women as if the massive stone door had been rolled away (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2 & John 20:1)! The women hurried to the tomb, not sure as to what had taken place. But as they entered the tomb, not one of them could locate the body of their crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, two men in glowing clothes appear next to them and the women fall to the ground in utter fear.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead? ” asked the men. 6“He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’? ” 8And they remembered His words.” Luke 24:5-8 (HCSB)
Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women ran back to alert Simon Peter and John of this terrifying and exciting news.
“So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” John 20:2 (HCSB)
Simon Peter and John simply could not believe what was being shared and they set out for the tomb themselves. John outran Peter and looked inside, seeing the burial clothes and no body. Peter finally arrived and also saw the burial clothes and noted that the cloth used to cover the face of Jesus had been folded up and placed separately (John 20:3-7). At seeing this for themselves, both Simon Peter and John returned home (John 20:10). Mary of Magdala remained facing the tomb of her missing Lord. As she wept, she stooped down to see into the tomb and she was amazed at what her eyes beheld! In the place of the missing body of her Lord Jesus, there sat two angels; one where His head was and another angel where His feet were! The angels asked her why she was crying. Mary of Magdala explained that her Lord Jesus’ body was missing and that she didn’t know where to find Him (John 20:11-13).
“14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.
Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”
17“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father — to My God and your God.”
18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord! ” And she told them what He had said to her.”
John 20:14-18 (HCSB)
Jesus Christ’s resurrection over death and the grave is essential to the heart and soul of every individual to ever tread this vast planet. It is the most passionate expression of unconditional love, unyielding loyalty and determined redemption in all of human history. The Creator of all things, was willing to ransom humanity out of the place of depravity and eternal condemnation by taking upon Himself the shame, guilt and suffering due for each foolish, manipulative and sinful thing each and every person on this spinning rock have ever done. And in return—what’s in it for us? A new identity—complete reset. Forgiveness and pardon from every twisted and even unspeakable things we have said, thought or did. It’s all covered by the brutal price He was willing to pay—to show you, and each person alive—that your life has eternal meaning, your days have infinite value, a you are deeply loved by the God who made you.
As Jesus ascends into heaven, the baton had been passed in a sense. Jesus had charged His disciples to now GO into all the world and tell everyone about Him and the NEW LIFE that is available to ALL PEOPLE from EVERY NATION by calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for cleansing and redemption (Joel 2:28-32, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:45-47, Acts 2:21, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:13). And the beautiful thing—this message of radical redemption is still available for one and all for all time. If you have never made a decision to follow the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so this very day and get cleaned, forgiven and eternally set right with Almighty God. You are worth it…Jesus Christ proved it (Revelation 5:12).
Happy Easter, one and all. He is risen! Jesus Christ is risen, indeed!
As the victorious season of Easter is upon us, have you ever stopped to wonder, “Could these things actually have happened?” Well, if so, you are not alone! For the sake of understanding the Easter story from a different angle, we will put ourselves into the shoes of the disciple called Thomas (in Aramaic) who was also called Didymus (in Greek) both mean “twin”. Although Thomas is famous for being remembered as a disciple who doubted (John 20:29), we will see that Jesus always provided comfort and answers to his questions. And, Ladies, may you be encouraged that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will answer all of your questions, too. Why? Because you are eternally worth it to an infinitely loving God (1 John 4:9). The story of Jesus’ Resurrection is the ultimate story of epic and unabashed love as He carried out celestial victory over death and suffering for the entire human race! These are exciting times as we boldly declare, “He is risen! He is risen indeed” (John 20:18)! Allow us to begin!
We now join the other eleven disciples with Jesus in the town of Bethany. Jesus had chosen to return to Judea just after the Jews had tried to stone Jesus (John 10:31-39). Yet, Jesus had told His disciples that He was glad that each of them would be able to witness Lazarus being raised from the dead so that they, too, may believe (John 11:14-15). Thomas had resolved to go back to Bethany to die with Lazarus, given the hostile climate they had experienced from the Jewish leadership just a few days previous (John 11:16). Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, all of whom were dear friends of Jesus (John 11:1-3) was indeed raised from the dead, after four days in the tomb, by a simple shout from the mouth of Jesus (John 11:43). Many of the Jews who saw this marveled and believed in the power and divine nature of Jesus (John 11:45). His fame and following had grown greatly in the land of Judea and the religious leaders had finally heard enough.
The chief priests and Pharisees called for the seventy-one members to assemble, which was called the Sanhedrin (John 11:47). This prestigious council was made up of scribes, elders, prominent men of high priestly families and the high priest of the year, who was the head of the council. This council held much authority under the Roman government, as a tribunal, to govern the Israeli people. Not wanting to loose their political status and power under the Roman government, it was time to shut this Jesus character up for good (John 11:47-48). Jesus of Nazareth had a significant following with now even the confirmed deceased being brought back from the grave to highlight of His divine power (Mark 5:35-43, Luke 7:11-17 & John 11:38-44). The Chief Priest of the Sanhedrin that year was named Caiaphas. As word got to them of the raising of Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb, decided termination of Jesus was the topic of conversation. Yet, as the seventy-one members spoke, Caiaphas prophesied, under the influence of God, that Jesus would die to spare the nation (2 Corinthians 4:10) and unite the scattered children of Israel (Isaiah 53:8, Luke 1:7 & John 18:4). From that day forward, the Sanhedrin plotted of ways to kill Jesus (John 5:18).
“53So from that day on they plotted to kill Him. 54Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim. And He stayed there with the disciples.
55The Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple complex: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will He? ” 57The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it so they could arrest Him.
John 11:53-57 (HCSB)
As the Festival of the Passover was drawing near, Thomas tried to wrap his head around all that had taken place to lead them to this hide out in Ephraim near the wilderness in Judea (John 11:54). He and the other eleven disciples had watched Jesus perform many miracles over the past three years of His public ministry. And now, they waited with Him as they prepared to purify themselves before the Passover in Jerusalem was to begin. (Numbers 9:4-11).
Seven Signs telling of the Messiah:
1.Turning Water into wine (John 2:7-10)
2. Healing an officials son (John 4:49-53)
3. Healing the sick (John 5:8-9)
4. Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:10-11)
5. Walking on water (John 6:19-21)
6. Gave a blind man his sight (John 9:6-7)
7. Raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44)
They had watched as over 5,000 people had been fed on a hillside from only two little fish and five little barley loaves (John 6:9 & Matthew 14:21). They had watched a little girl come back to life at the words of Jesus (Mark 5:40-43). They had witnessed the blind and paralyzed be given back their sight and ability to walk (John 9:6-7 & Matthew 9:1-8). Jesus had forgiven adultery (John 8:2-11), healed bleeding disorders (Mark 5:24-34), cast out demons (Mark 1:21-28 & Luke 8:26-39) and now, most recently, raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-44). They had seen so many things come to pass at the hands of their leader, Jesus of Nazareth, who was indeed the Christ (in Greek) and Messiah (in Hebrew) which both mean the Anointed One (Luke 2:11).
A gentle breeze blew across Thomas’ face. He was lost in thought as the other disciples spoke to one another while Jesus prayed. He recalled with a deep sigh that a death warrant for Jesus had gone forth from the mighty Sanhedrin and any who saw Him was to report it immediately for His capture (John 11:48-53). It almost seemed surreal. He recalled the words declared from the high priest of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, relating to Jesus (John 11:49-53).
The Festival of the Passover was nearly upon them now. Thomas and the other eleven disciples had shared three Passovers with Jesus over the past three years. And this year would mark the fourth. Jesus was preparing with much prayer, to become the ultimate Passover sacrifice; not just for those in Judea and Galilee, but for each and every heart whom would put their trust and hope in His mighty name (Isaiah 53:5). Soon, very soon, Jesus Christ would offer up Himself to pardon the wrong and shameful things that each person alive has done, said and thought. The time had come to reveal the ultimate champion and protector of the human soul.
It was now six days before Passover, and Jesus traveled to Bethany with His twelve disciples. There he stayed with his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It had only been a few days since Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. All was still so fresh in their minds. And now, as they reclined at the table, Mary entered the room with an alabaster box. As the meal finished, Mary kneeled at Jesus’ feet and poured a pound of costly perfume, pure nard, on His feet and wiped it with her hair (John 12:3). The disciples looked at one another in amazement. What were they to think of this? Judas Iscariot was very vocal with his disgust, but Jesus told Judas that Mary was preparing His body for burial (John 12:7).
Many had learned that Jesus was in Bethany and had come to see both Him and the man He had raised from the dead, Lazarus (John 12:9). The chief priests now had concluded to not only kill Jesus, but to have Lazarus killed as well! Seeing as many Jews believed in Jesus as a result of seeing this man. Lazarus was very much alive (John 12:10-11)! The crowd which had now gathered traveled with Jesus, His disciples and Lazarus the two miles from Bethany to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.
“12On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” 14Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15“FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (Zechariah 9:9 & John 12:12-15 NASB)
As the young colt’s hooves crunched atop the palm branches, Thomas looked up to His leader, Jesus, whom was seated upon the young donkey as it plotted along. Excitement and praise were painted across the faces of those lining the path for Jesus to travel into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9-10). All were dressed in their best as they had come for the feast of the Passover. As the donkey’s colt walked closer to Jerusalem, the strong aroma from the pure nard perfume, which had been place upon Jesus’ feet by Mary, could still be smelled in the desert air. With arms raised and others running to lay more palm branches onto the ground, the atmosphere was filled with great anticipation and victory. It was truly one of triumphal entry. The death warrant from the Sanhedrin was still active for Jesus, but no one in that moment could think of anything but shouting for joy! The same people whom Thomas had seen at the tomb of Lazarus, when Jesus raised him from the dead, were now shouting of these very things! At this, even more people ran to Jesus to meet Him, who has power to raise people from the dead (John 12:17-18).
Not only Jews, but also a few Greeks were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They approached Philip and asked if they, too, could see Jesus. His fame had truly spread throughout the land. Philip and Andrew both asked Jesus if He would see them. At this time, Jesus foretold of His own approaching death.
“23And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23 NASB)
Then, Jesus did something no one was expecting. From atop the young colt, He prayed to the God the Father in heaven, “Father, glorify Your name!” At that moment, Thomas, along with the other eleven disciples and all others around Jesus were startled as a voice was heard thundering from heaven!
“I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again!” (John 12:28 HCSB).
With eyes wide, loud gasps and murmuring were heard all around. This was now the third time a voice had thundered from heaven to affirm the deity and Sonship of Jesus. The first was at His baptism (Matthew 3:17), the second was at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and now the third time was here at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover (John 12:28).
“30Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” (John 12:30 NASB)
After conversing with the crowd a while longer, Jesus and His disciples left the crowd as they were growing irritated by His responses. Jesus had performed so many signs and miracles in the presence of the Jewish people, yet many still did not believe. This fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah (John 12:37-40). Even still, people believed, but silently; seeing as they did not want to be cut off from the Synagogue for confessing faith in Jesus (John 12:42-43). They loved the approval of men more than that of God. Yet, Jesus had come to save them, and all of humanity, from disbelief and complacency by displaying His gift of ultimate love that would soon be hung from a cross (1 John 4:9).
“44Then Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. 45And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects Me and doesn’t accept My sayings has this as his judge: The word I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak. 50I know that His command is eternal life. So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:44-50 NASB)
While Jesus was alone with His disciples, prior to the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His time to reveal His Passion for all of humanity had come. He knew that He had been sent to Earth by the will of His Father, and had been given authority over all things by His Father (Matthew 11:27, Matthew 28:18 & John 17:2). And now, it was time to return to His Father in heaven (John 13:3). Jesus then took off His outer robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and poured water in a basin to wash the feet of each of His disciples (John 13:4-5). All the while, Jesus knew that Judas had been plotting evil against Him and that the time of ultimate betrayal had arrived (John 13:2-5). As Thomas and the other disciples reclined around the table, they were curious as to what Jesus was doing. Surely, He was not going to wash their feet! That was beneath such a man of power and prestige. Thomas looked at Philip, who looked at Andrew and Matthew. Simon Peter could not accept this. Yet, Jesus spoke to confirm the need of this very thing.
“7Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.” 8“You will never wash my feet — ever! ” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:7-9 HCSB)
After Jesus had finished this act of servant leadership, He then instructed the twelve that no master is greater than his servants (John 13:16). Thus, seeing as Jesus had demonstrated how to take care of others, it was now their responsibility to take care of one another. Yet, Jesus shared that not all present really loved Him. The disciples looked at one another to see who could possibly be the one to betray Jesus the Messiah. And Jesus spoke,
26Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Therefore Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27 HCSB)
Thomas and the others did not think anything out of the ordinary with this comment. Judas Iscariot was the moneybag holder. They thought that Jesus was telling Judas Iscariot to go purchase the necessary items for the Festival or to give money to the poor. No one anticipated the gravity of what Christ was telling Judas, except Judas himself. At this time, Judas Iscariot received the bread and quickly left. It was now night (John 13:28-30).
Once Judas Iscariot had left, Jesus told the eleven disciples that He would be with them only a little longer and gave them a new commandment. They were instructed to love others as He had loved them (John 13:34). The eleven listened diligently as candles flickers on their table which still held the remnants of dinner and the washing basin. Simon Peter wanted to know why he would not be able to immediately follow Jesus onto His next place. It was simply too much for the human mind to wrap around. Simon Peter then stated that he would lay down his own life for Jesus (John 13:37).
“38Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for Me? I assure you: A rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:38 HCSB)
In sincerity of heart, Jesus then continued to speak to the eleven disciples. He described how to get to the Father in heaven (John 14:6), who is the Father (John 14:11), the power of praying in Jesus’ name (John 14:14), the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18), the gift of peace from Jesus Christ (John 14:27) and many other spiritual truths. All of the eleven listened intently and with great desire to comprehend all that was being said by their Master and Lord, Jesus. As Jesus finished, He spoke plainly and the disciples breathed a sigh of relief. Thomas and the others told Jesus that now they believed Him and knew that Jesus was really from God (John 16:30).
31Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe? 32Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:31-33)
Thomas and the other ten disciples marveled as Jesus then began to pray out loud to the Father. He prayed for Himself, for the disciples and for the believers that would hear the words of the disciples (John 17). The night had grown late and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. The disciples did not know what was to come next, but it was obvious that they were standing on the brink of an eternal shift.
(End of part 1)