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“Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive?  He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead!  Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?”     Luke 24:5-7

What a mournful, dark time it must have been for Mary, mother of Jesus, as she grieved the brutal and seemingly unfair death of her son.  Jesus had been a good man.  The Bible says he led a perfect life.  Did she know why Jesus had to die?  Did she know the sacrifice He was making?  Whether she did or didn’t, her heart must have felt sick with agony and grief.  Making the time of mourning even more difficult for the women who felt led to embalm Jesus was the fact that they would have to wait until after the Sabbath to do so.  Jesus was laid in the tomb on Friday.  (What we know as Good Friday).   It would be Sunday morning before they would be able to go to Jesus.

How anxious Mary Magdalene and the others must have been to get to Jesus on that Sunday morning!  I envision them going out as soon as the first rays of dawn’s light began to filter through the sky.  Quietly and with haste they would have made their way through town to the tomb where Jesus had been laid, with the sky growing lighter as they proceeded on their way.  By the time they arrived at the tomb, the sky was light enough that they could see the rock covering the tomb had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone!  After the awful things they’d witnessed at His death, they were probably suspicious of what the Roman guards or religious leaders had done with Jesus’ body.  As they stood there wondering what had happened to Jesus, two men appeared as dazzling white figures.  They asked the women why they were looking for the living among the dead.  Mary explained they were looking for Jesus and asked what had been done with him.  To their astonishment, they were informed that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as He said He would!

The Gospel of John says that Mary Magdalene was crying when she saw the empty tomb, thinking someone had taken the body of Jesus away.  Then a man spoke to her, asking why she was crying.  She glanced at him and thought he was a gardener.  But then the man said her name, “Mary!”   When she heard him say her name, she realized it was Jesus!  Indeed He was alive!   She wanted to cling to Him, but  Jesus instructed her to find the disciples and tell them He was alive.  Can you imagine how excited she must have been to do so?

Indeed, Jesus was risen from the dead!  He was alive again!  This is why we celebrate Easter.  This is why Easter is such a joyous event!

Not only did Jesus die to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, allowing for everyone (you, me, everyone!) to find forgiveness with God, He rose again so that everyone would know there is life everlasting for those who believe in the Jesus the Christ and claim Him as their Lord and Savior!   What joy there is in Jesus, our risen Lord!

After attending a very somber service on Good Friday to commerate Jesus’ death, it felt so good to celebrate His life as the Risen Lord at the Easter service this morning!   His life is our life!    Praise be to God.

The service ended with one of my favorite praise songs “Jesus Messiah”.  I’ve never felt so joyous singing it as I did this morning, in praise and celebration of what Easter is all about.

My greatest hope is for everyone to know the love of Jesus and experience the true joy that can only be found in Him.

Happy Easter, everyone!           To read more about the resurrection of Christ, read John chapter 20, Matthew chapter 28, Mark chapter 16, or Luke chapter 24.

Today Jesus died upon the cross.  It’s so hard to believe!  Just days ago Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, with crowds gathering along the route singing his praises.  Today he was led through the streets, as a criminal, with crowds shouting, “Crucify him!”   Jesus’ crime? There was no crime.   Jesus simply claimed His identity as the Son of God.

After being beaten, bloodied, mocked, and spat upon, Jesus was forced to carry His cross to the hill outside of town known as Golgotha – Hebrew for The Skull.  At one point He was so weak that a man from the crowd (Simon of Cyrene) was called forth to carry the cross for Him.  When they reached Golgotha, Jesus was raised on the cross along with two other men who were known criminals and also sentenced to death by crucifixion.

It must have been a scary time.  Those who were there said the crowd was a loud and riotous.  If anyone wanted to protest Jesus’ death, they were probably too scared to do so.  Even Pilate, the governor, questioned Jesus and found no cause for punishment.  Yet, he was afraid of the riotous crowd and gave in to the demands of the religious leaders demanding that Jesus be crucified.

Witnesses say that by noon the day had become totally dark. The darkness lasted until 3:00 at which time there was an earthquake and the thick curtain hanging in the Temple to cover the Most Holy Place tore apart.  The Most Holy Place was a place where only the High Priest could enter at the designated time to atone for the sins of the people, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and God’s presence rested.  It was at this time Jesus said from the cross, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words He breathed His last.   (Luke 23:46)

How tragic these events must have been for those who loved Jesus, especially those who witnessed the events.  Jesus’ mother, Mary, was in the crowd.  She watched her son die a slow death on the cross.  Surely this wasn’t how it was supposed to be!  He was a special child born to her by the power of the Holy Spirit.  She raised Jesus with her husband, Joseph, a carpenter, in humble surroundings.  Scriptures say Jesus led a perfect life.  How, then, was He crucified with criminals?

Mary and the other women with her watched as Jesus’ body was taken from the cross.  Joseph, a member of the High Council (not Jesus’ father), did not agree with the decisions and actions of the other religious leaders.  He had asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body.  He tended to Jesus by wrapping Him in linen cloth and placing him in a new tomb.  The women followed the man to the tomb.  Then they went home to prepare ointments for embalming Jesus, but by the time they had done so, it was the Sabbath, so rested all day as the Sabbath required. (Luke 24:52-56).   What a sad and mournful time this must have been for them.

There is much more to this story.  To learn more, read Luke 22:47 – 23:56, John chapters 18 & 19, Matthew 26:36 – 27:66, or Mark 14:43 – 15:47.

The journey to the cross begins tonight.  As the sun sets in Charlotte, I wonder if it was about this time that Jesus and His disciples gathered for what would become known as Jesus’ last supper.  They met in the upper room of a home to observe Passover with the traditional Passover meal.  The disciples had no idea of what was about to happen, but Jesus did.

The evening began in an unusual way when Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and assumed the servant’s role, greeting each of the disciples by washing their feet.  He taught the disciples that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve others, and they should do the same.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Peter, “If I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.”  That’s an interesting use of words, for in just hours, the blood of Jesus would be shed for all, allowing us to be washed clean of our sins so we can indeed belong to Him.

Earlier in the week, Caiaphas, the high priest and other religious leaders began to meet to discuss ways to secretly capture and kill Jesus.  According to the book of Matthew (26:14-16), Judas went to the leaders offering to betray Jesus to them.  They would pay him 30 pieces of silver to do so.  Jesus knew the betrayal was about to take place.

Jesus knew He had little time left with the disciples before He’d be led away and eventually crucified.  He spoke carefully to the disciples, foretelling of the betrayal that would lead to His death.  He also called Judas out as the one who would betray Him.  Just as a parent gives last-minute instructions and information to his children before departing, Jesus gave the disciples important instructions and information.   Many of the things he said didn’t make sense at the time, but would have significant meaning in the days to come.

It was during this Passover meal that Jesus told the disciples this would be his last meal until the Kingdom of God came.  (Luke 22:18)  He then broke the bread, saying to the disciples:  “This is my body, given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”   Then Jesus took the wine and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you – an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.”   (Luke 22:19-23)   The communion we observe today is based on these instructions from Jesus.

After the Passover meal, Jesus went out to the gardens on the Mount of Olives and began to pray.  “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”   (Luke 22:42)

While most in Jerusalem slept through the night, Jesus spent hours in prayer and agony, knowing of the torturous fate that awaited him.  Although His disciples accompanied Him to the gardens, He spent this time alone with His Father in prayer.   An angel appeared and strengthened Jesus.  (Luke 22:43)  Eventually Judas arrived with Caiaphas and the other religious leaders.  They took Jesus away in the dark of the night to Caiaphas’ home where they held a mock trial for  the purpose of arresting Jesus with a crime that they could deem punishable by death.  These men claimed to be the highest and most respected of the religious leaders, yet they didn’t recognize the Son of God when they literally held Him in their hands!  By the end of the trial, the religious leaders would mock, beat and spit on Jesus. The journey to the cross began.

Bible scriptures telling about the Last Supper and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:

  • Matthew chapters 26-28
  • Mark chapters 14-16
  • Luke chapters 22-24
  • John chapters 13-21

Since I did not break from ‘fasting’ on Sundays, my 40 Days of Lent ended on Palm Sunday.  Yesterday I was able to eat sugar again.  As anxious as I’ve been to eat foods I’ve missed, yesterday wasn’t about the food as much as it was reflecting on what has changed in the past 40 days.    (For information about Lent, see my previous post titled, “Season of Lent.”)

Lent is 40 days.  Forty is a number associated with transition and change in the Bible.  I begin Lent in prayer, offering my efforts to the Lord and offering myself to be open to whatever transition or change needs to occur in the 40 days of Lent.  So what is my take away this year?

1) I lost weight.  Giving up foods with sugar cut out extra calories from my diet, and  also reduced my fat intake since many sweet foods are also high in fat.

2) Ridding my taste buds of sugary sweet things allowed the natural flavors of other foods to come through making them more enjoyable.

3) I made healthier food choices and now have improved eating habits.

Those are the physical changes.  God worked in my faith life, too.  Two verses started coming to mind:

Galatians 5:22-23   The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, pece, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Luke 9:23   Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “If anyone would come after me (wants to be my follower), he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.   For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  (NIV)       

The words underlined above are the words that jumped out at me from those verses.  As I strived every day to resist and avoid sugary foods, I kept hearing the words ‘deny yourself’, and take up your cross ‘daily’.  I was reminded that I had to push aside my self’s desires, seek self-control, and do so every day.  Did my self-control come from within?  No, it was something I sought from God.  The Bible clearly states that self-control is of the Spirit.  Can I exercise my own level of self-control?  Yes, but it’s limited, not at all the measure possible through God.

Soon it wasn’t just about my food choices.  I started exercising self-denial and striving for self-control in other areas of my life, too.  Less tv led to increased productivity.  Less wasted time yielded more time for more important things.  As a reward, I afforded myself time for things I often want to do, but don’t have time for.

How do these changes make me feel?  Better!  It’s great feeling physically healthier, and it’s even better to be more disciplined with my time.  Actually, it’s not my time, but God’s – and my time is limited here earth, so I need to be a good steward of every moment I have.

Also, please note that you don’t have to observe Lent to make a 40-day offering to God.   If you feel a desire to make an offering to God by changing your behavior and want to see what changes God might make in your life, you can do so at any time! Nothing would please God more than for you to come before Him seeking to make a 40-day journey together.

If you’d like encouragement for this, or have reflections of your own to share, I’d love to hear from you.  You can reply to this post, or contact me by email or Facebook:  Renee Myers.

God bless you and happy Holy Week!

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