Jesus said to her, “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?”John 11:25-26, ESV
Before His own resurrection, Jesus stood with Martha at her brother’s tomb and proclaimed that Lazarus would rise again. At that moment, the situation looked bleak, to put it mildly. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, so who really would blame Martha for thinking that the hope of resurrection was for another day (the last day)? Yet, we find that Jesus was pointing Martha not to the horizon but to Himself, “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.”
Four days in the tomb were proof that Lazarus couldn’t raise himself, and the reality is that–dead in our sins–we can’t raise ourselves either. That requires the power of God and the person of Jesus, who invites us to believe in Him and experience His resurrection life–a life that is dead to sin and alive to God. That isn’t just about a different destination. It’s also about a different path with different priorities and passions than we had before we believed in Jesus.
That life–Jesus’ life–is available to everyone who lives and believes in Him. In Jesus’ conversation with Martha, we learn that the hope of the resurrection is for the last day and for this day. The resurrection isn’t just what we sing on Easter Sunday. It’s how we live today and will live all the “todays” to come. So, the question for us today is the same as the one Jesus asked Martha so long ago, “Do you believe this?”
We have reached the end of Matthew, which, on Good Friday, seems like it should come with a spoiler alert: Jesus comes back to life! In just twenty verses, we read about the resurrection of Jesus, the responses of some key people, and the Great Commission. There are many things in this chapter worthy of our focus, but I would like to point out two crucial things.
6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.Matthew 28:6, ESV
Jesus did it. He actually did it. Three days after dying on a cross, he rose from the dead, and his tomb was found empty. He defeated death, and he is alive today.
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.Matthew 28:17, ESV
As we go through this weekend, where do you have doubts? Major holidays can feel like a chore or like going through the motions sometimes. Maybe you doubt Easter’s value. You know the story – death, burial, resurrection – but is it true? Is it just a story? Maybe you doubt that it even happened. Doubt is normal; we see that even some of Jesus’ followers doubted his return despite seeing him in the flesh. Turn to God. Even if you are without doubt today, God can renew your belief and excitement in the true meaning of Easter. Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again – by this we are saved.
The scene is a somber one. Jesus, beaten and bloodied, had arrived at Golgotha. Even the formation of earth upon which they stood—the “Place of a Skull”—was foreshadowing of the death to come. Offered a cup of bitter wine, Jesus would not drink it. Instead, he would drink the cup of God’s wrath poured out for the sin of the world, the cup he had prayed to be spared from only a few hours earlier (Matthew 26:39).
There he hung, crucified and humiliated. Mocked, derided, and reviled: ““If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross”…He saved others; he cannot save himself.” In the words of my family’s favorite children’s Bible, “Jesus could have just climbed down. Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop…But Jesus stayed…It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love” (The Jesus Storybook Bible).
The sky became dark, and Jesus cried out to his Father. There was no response—only silence. Once again, Jesus “cried out with a loud voice,” but this time, it was to give up his spirit. And with one last agonizing breath, Jesus died.
My prayer is that you’ll enter into the sorrow of this scene as we turn our gaze toward Good Friday. To be sure, on Sunday we will celebrate with reckless abandon the good news that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive. But first, Jesus died. You see, grace and mercy are freely given to you—but that doesn’t mean they are cheap. The sinless Son of God bore the full extent of God’s wrath for your sin.
It is good for us to feel the weight of that—but don’t linger there too long.
Sunday is coming.
I am the person who reads the Bible and looks at the way people do things and think, “How could they miss it?” Especially when reading the gospels. In this passage, we meet Barabbas, a murderer and rebel. He is the worst criminal in jail, and Pilate has given the Jewish people the choice of who he is going to release, Jesus or Barabbas. Now the logical choice to us here is Jesus, but in God’s plan, our logical choice is not always his choice. Jesus is standing here silent, knowing fully he had not done anything wrong and hears the crowd call for Barabbas to be be freed. At this moment, God had to treat Jesus like Barabbas so that God could treat Barabbas like Jesus. Jesus willingly stood in the place for a criminal who will more than likely reject him.
As we are at the midway point of Holy Week and are looking toward Resurrection Sunday, the question is who have we written off as not worthy of Jesus’s love because of what they have done? Have we written ourselves off? Jesus willingly went to the cross for you and for me. There is nothing any of us could do to disqualify us from being able to accept the gift of life. Jesus even went to the cross for the person we think will reject him. Who in your life needs to hear that Jesus loves them no matter what they have done? Seek these people out. Find the “unlovable” people, and share the love of Jesus with them.
Beginning with Judas’ betrayal, it all played out just as Jesus and the Scriptures had predicted. Throughout the night of His arrest, we hear Jesus pointing to the will of God and to the word of God–that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Meanwhile, the chief priests and the council sought false testimony instead of proclaiming God’s truth. Jesus prayed three times for God’s will to be done even in the face of unfathomable suffering; Peter couldn’t even admit that He knew Jesus. When the rooster crowed, everything was just as the Scriptures said it would be and just as Jesus said it would be.
At every moment, Jesus stood squarely in the center of the Father’s will, perfectly in line with the Scriptures, as He moved toward the cross. Meanwhile, the disciples slept, Judas betrayed Him, the chief priests made a mockery of justice, and Peter swore that he didn’t know this Jesus everyone was talking about. Sound familiar? We stumble around in apathy, rebellion, injustice, and fear, but Jesus stands squarely in the center of the Father’s will, ready to make a way for us to stand with Him. 1 Peter 2:22-24 says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
Today, if you’re in Jesus, then you can stand with Jesus. Let us die to sin and live to righteousness. Let us speak the truth, return evil with good, and trust the Lord in all things. May His will be done.
I don’t like storms. Not even a little bit. As I write these words, the possibility of storms in the forecast has me repeatedly checking the radar and refreshing the forecast. I do not intend to be out in the elements or even out on the road when the storm arrives. If I can avoid a storm, I will.
In this passage, it is clear that a storm is coming. Jesus warns the disciples of his nearing crucifixion, then the chief priests and the elders gather to plot against Him. Jesus is anointed with expensive ointment and tells the disciples that he is being prepared for burial. Judas negotiates the price of his betrayal and then responds to Jesus’ prediction incredulously, “Is it I, Rabbi?” Taking the bread and the cup, Jesus pointed to the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sins, and then, much to Peter’s dismay, Jesus predicts his denial.
Over and over again, in the face of the gathering storm, Jesus moves forward–not compulsively checking the forecast but resolved in love to secure our salvation. So, whatever storm–metaphorically speaking–you find yourself in, you can trust that Jesus isn’t looking for somewhere safe to run. He’s a safe place for you to run.
Jesus will return. And this time, he returns as King of the world–a King who carries out the final judgment on humanity.
All nations will be gathered before Him (vs 32) and he will separate the sheep or followers from the goats or unbelievers. Those who were followers inherit the kingdom, or Heaven, and those who do not are sent into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (vs 41).
There’s a distinction between Sheep and Goats. Sheep will follow the voice of their shepherd. Goats will wander and go their own way. Are we the sheep or the goat? Do we follow the voice of our shepherd, or do we follow our own path?
Jesus isn’t telling a story or one of his famous parables, he’s speaking in terms of what will happen. This is a prophecy and a promise.
The Jesus Administration is different from the governments and administrations in our world today. He’s not focused on the powerful, the influential or the wealthy. Jesus’ concern is for “the least of these.” And he makes a clear distinction between his followers and those who are not.
His heart is for people–it’s always been for people. And Jesus followers will serve and care for the least of these. Not because their works get them into heaven, but because their works will naturally flow from their faith (James 2:14-26).
We want to be the sheep, those who care for others, for the least these. We want to have a heart for the people like Jesus does.
In 2004, Tim McGraw released a Grammy award-winning song entitled, “Live Like You Were Dying” (go ahead and sing the chorus to yourself—you know you want to). A few years later, actors Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson co-starred in a movie called “The Bucket List.” Though the two releases weren’t related to one another (as far as I can tell), the theme behind them was similar: what would you do now if you knew your days were numbered? How would you live today if tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed?
This is essentially the question behind two of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 25:1-30. The first, under the heading “The Parable of the Ten Virgins” in my Bible, is about a group of bridesmaids waiting for the groom to arrive so they can go into the marriage feast. While none of the bridesmaids know when the groom will arrive, five of them wisely brought oil to keep their lamps burning, while the remaining five foolishly left their oil behind. Five were prepared, while the other five were not.
The second parable, “The Parable of the Talents,” is about three servants whose master entrusted his property to them. Two of the servants increased their talents by reinvesting what the master had originally trusted to them. The third, however, buried his talents in the ground. When the master came to settle accounts, the first two were prepared for the master’s return, while the third was not.
To bring this full circle, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Whether the Lord calls you home in death or he comes again to gather his people, your days are numbered. How are you living today knowing that tomorrow is not certain? Are you prepared now, eagerly trusting Christ at this moment? Are you wisely stewarding the time, talent, resources the Lord has entrusted to you? The Lord is returning. The wedding feast is being prepared. The master is coming to settle accounts. Let us be found faithful today, for we do not know what tomorrow holds.
If you are around me on a regular basis, one thing that you might notice about me is my unique gait as a I go about my day. Most people know when I’m approaching by the sound of my scurrying steps. Some people call it “running around,” but I prefer to call it “walking with purpose.” I walk with purpose around the office, at home when I’m doing chores, and even when I used to go grocery shopping. Moving at this pace not only ups my physical efficiency but it keeps my mind focused on the work at hand and allows me to block out distractions. Sometimes, my swift gait leads to timely accomplishments and crossed off to-do lists, but sometimes, when I’m focused on the wrong things, it accomplishes nothing.
This passage of Scripture speaks of the day we all look toward with a sense of exhilaration. We know that one day Jesus will return and dwell among us. We speak of this moment often as we long for the day He will come back. We don’t know when this will be or how long we will have to wait, but we know it will absolutely happen. However, as we wait, we have a choice to make. We have to choose what to put our focus on.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.Matthew 24:44
So my questions for you (and for myself) are these . . . Will you walk with purpose as you wait for the coming of our Lord? Will you allow yourself to be fully invested in your calling to make disciples, love one another, and serve our God? Will you walk with purpose toward a closer relationship with your God, blocking out the distractions the enemy throws in your path? Will you be intentional in choosing your focus, choosing to focus on the coming of our Savior and the kingdom work to be done rather than tasks leading only to earthly satisfaction? How will you choose to wait, and will you be ready?
In my lifetime, I have survived the world ending several times. Well, not the world actually ending but at least someone’s prediction. Harold Camping published a book titled 1994 and predicted the world would end somewhere in that year, and it didn’t happen. He then changed his prediction to 2011, and once again, the world went on. I also survived the 2012 Maya Apocalypse. Oh, I forgot to mention that I survived the end of the world that Pat Robertson predicted would happen in 1982 and then his second failed prediction of 2007. Then I survived Jerry Falwell’s and Tim LaHaye’s predictions among others about the year 2000. I’m sure by now you have gotten my sarcasm (at least I hope you have). Many people have tried to undertake a prediction of the end of times with some unfortunately claiming revelation from God.
Matthew 24 is a passage that deals with the end of times. Some have even taken aspects of what Jesus said here and used them to predict the end or to even point to specific events and things that have already happened saying they have pointed to the end soon to come. I really wish I could tell you today when the end specifically was coming. But I can’t. One thing I can tell you for sure is that anytime you hear someone give a specific date, you should consider them a false prophet. What? Because Jesus said no one but the Father knows when they day will come (vs 36). Although I cannot explain to you in exact detail what everything in these first verses of Matthew 24 mean. There are a few things we can know. First, things will be difficult. God never promised an easy life for believers. Second, there is an end coming some day. But more importantly, there are a couple great promises in verses 13-14.
But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Matthew 24:13-14
Those who endure to the end will be saved, and the gospel will be proclaimed to the whole world before the end. I hear these promises, and I am reminded to not give up. Even when it is tough, you press on as a believer. Turning your back on God is always a losing proposition. Continuing to believe always ends in a win. Also, sharing the gospel must always be a priority. We ultimately know that the Lord’s return is the only thing that will make everything right. Therefore, the best thing we can do is help share Jesus with the world so that the Lord will come.