by Andrew Hillard
Reading through the Gospel of Luke, it’s been our goal to get a clearer vision of who Jesus is. We’ve seen Him teach as one with ultimate authority and serve as one with matchless love. We’ve seen Jesus lay down His life for our sins and then rise from the grave in victory. As Luke’s Gospel comes to an end, what we’ve seen of Jesus may even seem like it’s too good to be true. As Jesus’ disciples were talking about how He had appeared to Simon and then on the road to Emmaus, Jesus Himself suddenly stood among them. They were at first startled and frightened by His appearance, but as He showed them His hands and His feet, their reaction shifted from fear to joy. When they truly saw Jesus, we read in Luke 24:41 that “they still disbelieved for joy.” Looking at Jesus, seeing His hands and His feet, it seemed too good to be true. At first, they disbelieved for joy (v. 41), but soon they worshipped with great joy (v. 52).
There are still those who would say that the good news of Jesus Christ dying and rising to save sinners is too good to be true. The idea that in Christ God calls you His child may even seem too good to be true. Without a doubt, it is far more than we can ask or imagine, but that is the Jesus we see. That is the Jesus worship we worship with great joy! That is the Jesus we proclaim to all nations! This weekend, let’s pray that the joy of seeing Jesus will move hearts from disbelief to worship!
by Shaun Caudill
Read the instructions first. I have been told that my whole life, but I don’t always practice it. I just want to get the project finished. I look at the pictures or read a couple of the main paragraphs and I feel like it is going to be a simple breeze to accomplish. It can be a very unpleasant experience when you think you know what you are doing only later to find that the project has become a total mess. If only I would have read the instructions first and followed them!
This is exactly what happened on the first Easter. Jesus had risen from the tomb, the women had seen and talked to Jesus, the disciples saw the empty tomb, however none of that seemed to sink in with the rest of Jesus’ followers. What should have been an exuberant celebration was instead marked with dismay and sadness. On the road to Emmaus, two men were walking and lamenting that their hope in Jesus had failed. On their way, Jesus Himself appears, but they do not recognize Him. When Jesus asked them what they were discussing, they launched into their discussion of despair with Him. After Jesus listened to them, He rebuked them. In Luke 24 it states, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary 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.” Notice Jesus interpreted ALL the Scriptures concerning Himself. Not just the victorious passages, but also the ones where He would have to suffer. There are times that you and I just like to take the passages that make us feel hopeful. Notice I said feel. Every Scripture in the Bible is meant to increase our faith and draw us closer to Him in love and dependence, but we have a tendency to just look at a few and then proclaim that we truly understand God. This is a recipe for a total mess! It is the beginning of a complete letdown of your faith when things are not going the way you believe they are supposed to go. What would happen if you read the Bible (all the Bible) and began to let God show you His entire plan for the world and for you? What if you began to pray to God and ask for understanding over difficult passages instead of just skipping them altogether? What I am suggesting is more time consuming and difficult and may not always give the immediate gratification that you are looking for, but in the end you are on solid ground and full of more hope, joy, and peace because God has told you who He is and not vice-versa.
At the end of this story, Jesus has explained everything and then sat down to eat with them. When He breaks the bread their eyes are opened and they recognize who Jesus is. At that moment, everything changes. “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed…!”” Let’s make a choice and start today to read all the instructions.
by Andrew Hillard
Most of us are finding ourselves with more time at home these days than we are used to. Maybe that means more time to organize and clean that long-neglected closet. Or more time for old hobbies long forgotten. More time with family or more time to call old friends. Or if, like me, you are mourning the early end to the college basketball season, then maybe it means more time to watch old games being replayed on various networks. You may think that’s a waste of time. You may even be right about that, but we’re all coping with things in our own ways. But what I’ve noticed about watching those old games is that when I know how it ends, the ups and downs of the game just don’t have the same effect on me. It’s the same when someone spoils the ending of a book you’re reading or a show you’re watching. Familiarity tends to lessen the effect things have on us.
Does the same thing happen to us as we read Luke’s Gospel? It can. We know how the story ends, don’t we? And so we read about the death and darkness of Friday knowing what Sunday will bring. The danger is that we lose the suspense and the surprise of the story. The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee showed up at the tomb with spices prepared for burial, but there was no body to be found! They expected to find the body of Jesus in that dark, stone tomb, but instead they met two men standing in dazzling apparel, who would tell them that Jesus had risen from the dead! They remembered Jesus’ words, foretelling his death and resurrection, but when they told His disciples, they couldn’t believe it! We could criticize the disciples for not remembering Jesus’ words, but the reality is that everything about the resurrection of Jesus is shocking. When Peter saw the empty tomb, “he went home marveling at what had happened” (Luke 24:12). This week, as Easter approaches, let’s take some of our time at home to marvel at the surprising glory of what Christ has done for us!
by Andrew Hillard
The sky went dark in the middle of the day, the curtain of the temple was supernaturally torn in two, and Jesus breathed His last breath. This wasn’t something that you witnessed and then just went on with life as usual. Some events demand a response. In the moments following Jesus’ death, the centurion cried out in praise, “Certainly this man was innocent!” The crowds that had gathered for the “spectacle” went away beating their breasts, broken by what they had seen. Those who knew Jesus kept their distance at first, but a man named Joseph took action. We don’t know a lot about Joseph. We know he was from the town of Arimathea and that he was a member of the council, although he had not consented to the decision and action that led to Jesus’ death. We know that Joseph was a good and righteous man, who was looking for the kingdom of God. And we know what Joseph did. While other members of the council rejected Jesus, Joseph asked for the body of Jesus, wrapped it, and laid him in a tomb.
The death of Jesus is one of those events that demands a response. The centurion responded with praise. The crowds responded with repentance. Joseph, believing Jesus when others didn’t, responded with action that expressed his devotion. How will we respond?
by Crystal Townsend
Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ crucifixion elicits both disgust and admiration, sorrow and joy, rage and peace. How could something so brutal be equally beautiful?! Jesus, who had just endured a trial resulting in the freedom of a murderer and His own condemnation to death, peacefully treads toward the hill of Golgotha as the crowds are in chaos. His heart is turned to the Father as He chooses to plead, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The crowds observe. Lots are cast for His clothes. Jesus is tormented and humiliated. A conversation begins . . . one that cuts to the heart of the situation.
The first criminal chooses to torment Jesus as he hangs beside Him. He questions Jesus’ authority and power while mocking Him. The second criminal hanging beside Jesus cannot stay silent. He grasps the fact that he is a sinner, being justly punished, and he knows Jesus has done nothing wrong. After rebuking the mocker, he humbly asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The grace, peace, and forgiveness the sinner received was given freely by a Savior who chose to take the punishment for our sin. Who endured a torturous crucifixion for the purpose of redeeming the very people who sin against Him. Who chose obedience even to the point of death in order to glorify God the Father. Who walked peacefully, as a lamb to the slaughter. This portrayal of Jesus’ crucifixion is brutal as we realize our own filth and required punishment, but it is beautiful as we realize Jesus’ willing sacrifice for our redemption.
by Andrew Hillard
Pilate’s judgment of Jesus was truer than he even knew. “Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him” (Luke 23:15). It was true in Pilate’s jurisdiction, but it was also true before the judgment seat of God. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus never sinned. Not once. Nothing deserving death has been done by him. Barabbas, on the other hand, was a murderer, someone about whom it would have been more accurate to say, “Nothing deserving death has not been done by him.” He’d taken the life of one of God’s image bearers, and the wages of sin is death. It’s clear what justice demands. The innocent Jesus must go free, and the murderer Barabbas must be punished. Pilate sees the situation clearly. He knows what is right, but in the face of the crowd’s persistent cries, he backs down. Barabbas goes free. Jesus is handed over to be crucified.
It just isn’t fair! Can you even imagine—an innocent man sentenced to die, while the guilty go free? The good news for us is we don’t have to. Because all of us have sinned. And “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Barabbas may have been the one physically freed because Jesus was sentenced to death, but it is God’s plan that all who trust in Jesus experience an even greater freedom, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus gets what we deserve, while we get what He has earned. And that is even better than fair—it’s grace.
by Andrew Hillard
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone who clearly wasn’t listening? They were hearing your words, but nothing you said really seemed to register. One of the great things we have going for us as we’re not able to gather together right now is technology, particularly social media. We can stay connected with one another even when we aren’t able to be in the same room. We can share our lives and share the funny things that are helping us get through this time. We can check on one another and encourage one another. It really is a blessing. But that doesn’t mean the darker side of social media has suddenly disappeared. In addition to all the positive, our feeds are still filled with negativity and arguing and division, and at times, it’s tempting to engage, to try to set someone straight. We want to win the argument, but we would do well in those moments to learn from Jesus.
Being questioned before the council in Luke 22, Jesus answers their question by saying, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” The first thing Jesus teaches us is that there’s no use in entering a prolonged discussion with someone who already has their mind made up. He isn’t going to engage in this process when He knows they aren’t going to listen. He isn’t willing to enter the conversation on the council’s terms, but He does speak the truth they needed to hear and that we most need to hear when we really want to win the argument. He points us to a much greater victory where we find hope and rest: the Son of Man—the one who made purification for our sins—is seated at the right hand of the power of God.
by Shaun Caudill
“I wish I were not having to go through this moment in my life.” I think most of us have felt this way at some time in our life when things just seemed very overwhelming. We find ourselves living in a moment of our life that we hate and wish we could get out of. In Luke 22, when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was experiencing great emotional strife over what he knew was coming next and prayed the prayer, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” Jesus knew what was coming. Physical pain, people mocking and rejecting Him, almost all of His disciples abandoning Him, His mother watching Him suffer, and on top of all that, God the Father forsaking Him. He did not want to be in that moment, and He prayed if possible that that moment be replaced by another moment that was…easier.
We do not like difficult moments because, well…they are difficult. We hate pain and suffering and really feel that we could do so much more good for our life and for others if we could just control our circumstances and do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But that is not reality or truth. There is also no trust or reliance upon God in that scenario. We forget that we live in a fallen world where sin still has somewhat of a grasp. Sometimes we have a choice to get out of difficult moments, but there are other times that, no matter how hard we try, we are staring at this difficult moment face to face. In those moments, where it seems I do not have a choice in the matter, I need to change my mindset. Instead of thinking about how to get out of the moment, I should try to find where God is with me in that moment. That is why Jesus finished His prayer by saying, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” By accepting His moment, Jesus brought about the ultimate glory for the Father and Himself. He also secured eternal salvation for us and an everlasting intimate relationship with us. God is at work in the world and in our lives. The suffering that we are trying to avoid, God is using to bring about His hope in the world and our perfection, by causing us to draw close to Him and rely upon Him more. Jesus did not want His moment but trusted the Father that if it had to happen, then it would bring about the ultimate good. Will you choose to take your difficult moments to God and walk in faith with Him? Will you trust Him to work in them to bring about His glory and your good?
by Doug Bratcher
Growing up as an only child I never had to stress over things like “who gets the last slice of pizza.” Sometimes when my cousins would come over they would do barbaric things like lick their fingers and touch the last slice so no one else would take it or stuff their face so fast that they were done first, thus laying claim to the last slice. These were not the rules of engagement I was used to, and frankly, it stressed me out! I would love to say that I was above the fray and did not partake of such actions, but when push came to shove I was just like the rest. I’m still not used to them as an adult even with multiple children who constantly want the best, most, last of all things in the house and will feel slighted and pout for hours when things don’t go their way.
I wonder if that is how Jesus felt dealing with the disciples sometimes. I wouldn’t put it past Peter to lick his finger and rub it on the last piece of bread to make sure he got it and no one else did. Right after Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him, the question of which of the disciples is the “greatest” is brought up. Jesus’ reply is simple, profound, and game changing. The one who serves is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, not the one who reclines at the table and is waited on. The greatest is the one who forgoes his last slice of pizza so another can be full. We are in a time right now where it is easy to be selfish. Those are our basic, sinful tendencies. Jesus even turns to Peter after they have asked about who would be considered the greatest (and I would bet Peter assumed it would be him) and tells him that Peter will deny him when the moment comes.
I caught myself saying things that sounded very similar to this just the other day. I said something that sounded like “right now we have to worry about team Bratcher,” and in retrospect, all I was saying was “I want that last slice of pizza” or “will I be considered the greatest”. Now is NOT that time for those kinds of thoughts. The world needs us to stand and be the servants, the givers, and helpers to a hurting world during a dark time.
by Crystal Townsend
When I was little, the neighbor kids and I played together daily. I was the oldest and had a strong sense of right and wrong. I was happy if everyone was following the rules of the neighborhood, otherwise I would call attention to the rule breaker. I clearly remember a day I refused to eat with a friend because she broke my neatness rule and left crumbs in my tent! I’ll never forget the feeling of anger at the ease of her disregard for MY tent rules. The speech I gave in my fury ended with me sending her home. Needless to say, the reconciliation was humbling. I was reminded of my sinful nature and my pride. I was broken at the realization that I so easily chose actions of anger over love.
Here in Luke 22, as Judas begins to be used by Satan for the betrayal of Jesus, I’m struck by Jesus’ actions. He’s not distracted by His anger or emotions. He simply continues in the Passover preparations. He provides for his disciples and leads them through the last supper. All the while, Judas is sitting and eating among them, but Jesus doesn’t send him home. He calmly explains the importance of the bread and wine and the symbolism of his body and blood. Finally, He points out that His betrayer is at the table and that the consequences shall come. Today we struggle with a myriad of different emotions as people let us down or our plans fail, but be reminded of the example Jesus set as Judas’ betrayal unfolded. Choose to take your frustrations to Jesus and not act in anger or haste. Remember the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made out of His great love for us. What a great reminder of the life Jesus has called us to live! A life of love, joy, peace, and patience. What a great reminder of the sacrifice He has made to bring us into the family of God. And just know, I’ve gotten a little better at dealing with injustice lovingly…I’ll hold friends accountable, but I now refrain from reaming them out and sending them home over crumbs!