On Resolutions

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This morning I woke up pretty early.  I read two devotional entries and the first day of a “read the Bible in one year” reading plan.  I also read a chapter in a book on leadership.  I did this because I need to read more and start my day listening to God’s word before I began to share it with others.  I then went and made an omelette of egg whites, turkey bacon and low-fat cheese.  I took my multivitamin and my fish oil.  All of this is because my doctor says I need to eat better.  Then I went running.  I am supposed to exercise.  After that, I went to my local Starbucks where I answered some emails and texts, and wrote about 1500 words on my novel.

All that before lunch.

January 1 must be the most productive day on the calendar.  It is the day when we take on our New Year’s resolutions with gusto.  It is the day that we sit back and bask in the radiant thoughts of what life would be like if we just lived everyday like this.

Sometime in February, our days tend to resemble those of last year and our resolutions are forgotten.

For this reason, it has become trendy to forego the resolution setting altogether.  Why make a goal that you won’t achieve?  Why make a promise that you won’t keep?

Personally, I realize that my reading is going to fall behind some week when things get really crazy.  I also realize that a few reese’s peanut butter cups are going to sneak their way into my diet.  As for that novel?  Well, eventually the main character is going to hover in limbo as I try to get him to come to some life-altering realizations right before his black moment.

Still, I’m making my resolutions.

Why?  Because today has been a good day.  It has been a productive day.  I would like to string along as many good, productive days as I can.  So what if a day, or a week, or a month (you are a pessimist aren’t you?) fails to reach my newly set standard?  It would be better to try and succeed some of the time then not to try at all.

Welcome to 2014.  Make the most of it.  Aim for the best.  Embrace the adventure.  Spoiler alert:  You will fail in your resolutions.  Then you get to try for them again.  Keep trying.

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The Lighthouse

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I found a lighthouse the other day.  To get to the lighthouse, I had to drive down an unfamiliar road, past a refuse incinerator, two recycling plants, and a scrap metal buyer.  I had to drive until I reached a dead end at a beach park that no one in their right mind would desire if they sought a beach or a park.  I then had to park and walk through the park, past a smashed and burned picnic table and no less than two hypodermic needles.  Reaching the water’s edge, I had to navigate a rough shorebreak, walking carefully between waves crashing against the rocks and the roped off property of a tourist show that’s location defies reason.  After navigating the tricky shoreline, I found it amongst the weeds.  A lighthouse.  It was automated.  No charming lighthouse operator that Pete’s Dragon had taught me to expect.  Just a locked tower with a whirling light on top.

I searched for a better path out of the place, but the Coast Guard has clearly let the surrounding land go.  The weeds are high and thick, with large rocks and old concrete blocking any possible path.  “What are they thinking?”  I wondered.  Do they not realize that people like to see lighthouses?  Do they not realize that they need to make it easier for people to enjoy the lighthouse?  In the past week I have mentioned this lighthouse to two friends who each live near it.  Neither had even heard of it.  What is the Coast Guard thinking?

Their website regarding this lighthouse says exactly what they are thinking, “The light is an active aid to navigation and is not open to the public.”

There it is.  The lighthouse does not exist for tourist to come and gawk at it.  It does not exist for picturesque landscapes or vacation photos.  It exists to navigate ships.  Big ships.  Serious ships.  Ships that without navigation will meet disastrous consequences.

Serious work and comfort seldom go hand in hand. The Coast Guard has chosen to ignore comfort and ease for the tourists and instead focus on navigating ships.  The Church must forego its own comfort for the sake of her mission.  Christian, you must leave your comfort zone and be about the work of the Lord.

You are a lighthouse, not a resort.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14

Is The Easy Way The Best Way?

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As you may know I recently made a big change in my life.  I left my position as pastor of a rural church in southern Missouri and relocated to Oahu to plant a church.  The change is difficult, but it is most difficult on my 9 year old son, Caleb.  Caleb was only three when I began my ministry at First Baptist Church of Birch Tree, MO.  His first friends are there.  He was quite comfortable there.  He was a top student at the school and was surrounded by familiarity.  Then, everything changed for him.  We moved here.

Here, they do not know him as a top student.  His school is just over 7 times larger than his old one.  He is just one more student until he can prove otherwise.  The way they do things is different and he is trying to learn a lot of new methods and rules.  He does not know anyone.  Nobody knows him.  And according to one of his complaints, “they don’t even play kickball here.”

The first week of school was marked in our home with tears, imaginary stomach aches, anger, and defiance.  This was not the way for me to start a day.  Seeing my son struggle was enough for me to wonder if I had made the right decision to come here.  I am resolved to face the struggles of church planting in a different culture, but I begged God to make this easy on my son.  My biggest fear is that his difficulties would lead to resentment and there would be one more angry preacher’s kid in the world.  Then something happened.

Our prayer partners came through in droves to pray for Caleb.  We shared the emails with him and he really liked that so many people thought his struggle was worth praying for.  We also began to pray with Caleb before going to school.  Suddenly, things began to look up for Caleb.  He made a few friends, he figured out the rigid homework system, and his class did in fact play kickball.  One tearless morning we mounted our bicycles for the ride to the school.  “Wait,” he shouted.  “Aren’t we going to pray?”  Right there in the middle of our street, my son wanted us to stop and pray before he went to school.  I thought about that all day.

What I have realized is this.  The answer to my prayers is not that things got better for Caleb.  They did, but that does not make life easy for him.  The answer turned out to be that Caleb learned a little about relying on God.  The difficulty that I feared so much that he would face has actually strengthened him.  I have to learn something.  I have to understand that God loves my son even more than his mother and I do.  God knows what my son needs and He knows what is best.  He will give what is best even if that looks like struggle here on Earth.  God will give him that because of what it can make him.

Knowing this, why would I pray that God would make it easy on him?  Why would I pray for it to be easy on me.  Easy is not always best, and I want what is best.

Worth The Cost?

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Recently, Edvard Munch’s pastel, “The Scream” sold at auction for just under $120 million.  This leaves many inthe art and business world alike asking, “Is it worth it?”  The consensus seems to be no.  For art critics, there are far more memorable works.  None would place the Scream at the top of the list, which is where it is if price is the qualification.  Art critics claim that the Scream is faddish and not likely to maintain its popularity over time.  Investors point out that the chance of a good return on such a high  investment is very slim.  That is the real deciding factor here.  $120 million has been paid, and to answer the question of worth is a matter of the benefit or return that will come on that investment.  In other words, you pay if the benefit is greater than the cost.

Throughout the book of Luke, we are told of the high cost of following Jesus.  At the end of chapter 9, we learn of three men that wanted to follow Jesus only to learn that the cost was too high.  You may very well be surprised at the cost and in light of it have to ask, “is it worth it?”

The Story

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58, NKJV)

This man makes a big claim, to follow Jesus wherever He goes.  This is like us saying, “I surrender my life to Jesus,” or “I have died and now live in Him.”  This man gets a surprising response, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (58)  That is, there is no promise of earthly wealth or comfort.  We tend to make big claims as well, but would we make them if we knew the cost may be our comfort?  Is it worth it?

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60, NKJV)

This man is willing to follow Jesus, but has something else to attend to first.  His father is probably not lying dead in the house waiting to be buried.  In those days, it was common for a man to work for his father then inherit everything when his father passed away.  What the man is saying is let me get things squared away.  Let me get my finances in order.  I just need to work enough so I can serve God.  (sound familiar?  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this, and even said it myself)

The response:  Let the dead bury the dead.  “You go and preach the Kingdom of God.” (60)  In other words, your gospel ministry is the top priority.  So, the decision for this man is, do I trust Jesus enough?  Following Jesus requires that level of trust.

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62, NKJV)

This man says, “I will follow, but…”  There is always something else that we think demands our attention.  For this man it is family.  But for others it could be anything.  Any goal, work; anything that we say, “I would do anything for Jesus, if it wasn’t for…”

The response, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (62)  You cannot be focused on your Gospel ministry and something else.  When someone looks back with a plow, the plow goes off track.  Looking back does nothing for the work they look towards and it spoils the work of the plow.  Putting the hand to the plow and looking back benefits nothing!  If you think you can both follow Jesus and take care of all those other things you are sadly mistaken.  You will probably spoil both.

Where are we in this story?

To many of us, these statements make complete sense.  Why shouldn’t we have comfort?  Why shouldn’t we get things squared away first?  Why shouldn’t we be able to balance Jesus with other important things in our lives?  Yet, Jesus says that the cost of following Him is all these things.

We struggle to grasp that, so instead we substitute cheap religion.  We invest a little time, a little money, avoid a few things in our lives, say a little prayer and call that following Jesus.  Let us be clear:  Jesus set the cost much, much higher.

We must identify this cost and be honest about it.  What comforts can we not do with out?  Is it our standard of living, our security, or our health?  What things do we need to take care of first?  Are we waiting for kids to be grown and out of the house.  Are we waiting to retire?  Are we trying to get things paid off?  Finish this sentence:  I would follow Jesus now, but…”

There is your cost.  Now you must ask, is it worth it?

Another Look At The Story

The cost of following Jesus is everything, but the return is more than you can imagine.  Some will say the cost is too high.  Some will say that this isn’t the cost.  They will settle for cheap religion where the return is just as cheap.  Others will truly surrender all for Jesus only to find that he really does give more than we could possibly imagine both here and in the here after. Luke doesn’t tell us what happened to these men, but we know what happened to some others.  Paul said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8)

Is it worth it?  Yes.  Will you count all as loss?

This is Jesus; Hear Him!

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Have you ever said the wrong thing?  Several years ago, I was on a mission trip to El Salvador.  We were touring a region of the country visiting with several local churches.  One day, we visited the pastor of a church and saw his home.  We saw the fruit trees, the garden, and a few chickens.  Three chickens to be exact.  We left to tour the town with an invitation to return for dinner.

When we returned, we all sat outside and had a wonderful, Salvadoran meal of chicken, soup, tortillas, and some fruit.  We ate this mean in the pastor’s yard surrounded by the fruit trees and a couple of chickens.  That’s two chickens.

As we ate, one member of our group said, “I didn’t see a grocery store in the village, I wonder where they went to buy this chicken?”  She then began to prod the translators to as our hosts where they went to buy the chicken for the meal.  Everyone sat quietly, stifling smiles.  Our team member was a little embarrassed to learn that the family did not purchase the chicken.  They butchered their own that afternoon.

We have probably all been in that situation.  We blurt something out without thinking, only to be embarrassed when we do.  It happens.  It happened to the apostle Peter quite a bit and in one case, shows us a little about losing our focus.

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)

Some have said that what happened at that moment was one of the most significant moments in history.  It is as though we have come to the intersection of Heaven and Earth.  There, it was possible to see Jesus in His glory, as we might see Him in Heaven.  Peter would later use this incident as proof that he was not just following a fable, but that Jesus was truly God.  It was here that some realities about who Jesus is became clear.

Seeing Jesus in His glory proved to Peter that Jesus is not just human, but God as well.  He is fully God and fully human.  Further, this moment proved the eternal nature of Jesus.  Jesus often talked of Moses and others from the Old Testament as though He knew them personally.  He claimed that Moses knew of His coming.  Seeing Jesus in His glory at this moment showed that eternal reality.  There He was, speaking with Moses and Elijah in the Heavenly realm.  Finally, as Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah about his coming death in Jerusalem, we realize that His death was a part of the plan; a part of the purpose of Christ.  So, it is at this intersection of Heaven and Earth that we see the humanity and deity of Jesus, the fact that He exists eternally, and that His death was a part of His messianic purpose.

Of course, those things might not have been obvious the exact moment Peter saw them.

32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. 33 Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. (Luke 9:32-33)

Peter, who has been napping, suddenly wakes up and does what Peter does best:  he says the wrong thing.  He commits a faux pas; a big one.  He suggests worship for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  This is a mistake that is made throughout history.  He wants to worship what seems good, but that is idolatry.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 36 When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen. (Luke 9:34-36)

Now, Peter, James, and John stand in the presence of God and get one instruction:  Jesus is the Son: Hear Him!

Make no mistake, what is being said here is that Jesus is set apart from all others.  He is not a creation of the father as you and I are, but rather He is the Son.  He is unique.  There is nothing like Him.  He is not just a teacher or a good example.  He is not just a prophet.  He is the Son of God and as such, we are to follow Him.

Now let us look at this from Peter’s perspective.  Consider ourselves in his place.  Luke seems to make and excuse for him.  He was asleep.  He had just awoke (note: he was awake, so he really is without excuse) and saw something he did not understand.  We have all been there.  We wake up from deep sleep and have to take a moment to know what is going on.

As I read this, I think this explains a lot of our problems as modern Christians.  We are lazy in our walk and spend most of our time napping.  Think of it this way: We taken in much more than we give out.  Just listen to how we talk about worship:  “I didn’t get anything out of that!” “I don’t like that song, I do like that song” “I don’t like that preacher.”  We make everything about ourselves and what we get.  We gorge ourselves spiritually.

Think back to Thanksgiving.  You ate and ate and ate.  You took in and took in until what?  You fell into a turkey coma.  That is what happens to us as Christians.  We take in and take in.   We stuff ourselves and fall into spiritual comas.  Then something happens.  The Spirit speaks.  God moves and suddenly we wake up and miss the point.  Instead we desire the event and we miss the point completely.

Sure, we can go into some advice about staying awake, but the most important thing to note here is the words of the Father:  “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35)  It is as though God is telling us to ignore everything else.  Here is Jesus, follow Him!  Nothing else is good enough.  Nothing is close enough.  Jesus is it!  Listen to Him!

Ultimately, Christian, you must focus on Christ alone.  Several years ago, a popular movement swept through Christianity called “WWJD:  What would Jesus do?”  It was an interesting question and a very weak movement.  It was weak because people became more interested in saying “What would Jesus do” than they did in actually following Jesus.  At some point, we must realize that Jesus is it and follow Him!

In Surveying the New Testament, I have learned that the largest collection of the words of Jesus is found in the book of Matthew.  Matthew wrote five sections of discourse; teachings of Jesus.  I want to challenge you this week to set aside some time to read those five sections.  They are:  Matthew 5-7, Matthew 10, Matthew 13, Matthew 18-20, and Matthew 24-25.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Let us hear Him!

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

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Some years ago, USA Today ran a story of a woman who had just attended a big evangelism crusade.  At the end of the crusade, she went forward just like many others,prayed a prayer, and accepted Jesus into her heart.  She was told that she was saved and she should never doubt that she was saved.  Later, a reporter asked her, “what does it mean to accept Jesus into your heart?”  “I don’t know,” she replied, “But I sure feel good about myself!”

The summer that I graduated seminary, I spent a week as a counselor at our association’s children’s camp.  During one of the services, a little boy came forward in the invitation, and I went to speak with him and pray for him.  I asked the boy why he came forward and he told me that his mother had died and he wanted to pray for her.  I prayed with the little boy and asked God to give him peace and help him through this sad time.  Then he went back to his seat.  Later that night, I was scolded by the camp director for not filling out a decision card for the boy.  I explained that the boy had not made any decision, he just needed to pray about his mom’s passing.  Later, I learned that the camp director filled out a card for the boy.  As far as I know, the boy’s pastor was informed that the boy had accepted Jesus so he baptized him a couple weeks after the camp.

As a youth pastor, I once had a youth group in which every teenager told me they had been saved.  Not a single one could tell me what that meant.

I can go on and on with similar stories.  It seems that people in church tend to make religious statements (like being baptized or accepting Jesus in their heart) without understanding those statements.  Our words seem almost meaningless when we say Jesus is Lord because we rarely stop to consider what that means.

 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ Luke 9:18

Imagine it is early in the morning.  Jesus has been up for a while, spending time in prayer.  As his discipled get up and break camp, they begin to gather around him.  It is one of those moments that it is just them and Jesus.  The crowds haven’t found them yet today.  These are times when Jesus would probably answer their questions and ask them questions designed to get them to think and wonder and learn.

So He asks, “What are the crowds saying about me?  Who do they say that I am?”

So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” Luke 9:19

Apparently the crowds have a lot of opinions as to who Jesus is.  Some think He is John the Baptist.  That seems odd, since Jesus and John the Baptist had been in the same place at the same time once, but we need to see this from the crowd point of view.  John the Baptist had gone from something of an enigma to a local hero on a legendary scale.  John had preached that the Messiah was coming.  John had seemed like a prophet; the kind that had not been around for about 500 years.  Then, John had done something crowds tend to love: He openly criticized an unpopular politician.  Of course, in doing so, he got himself beheaded, but you can imagine how that made the crowds think about him.

It seems a lot of people were enjoying the idea that maybe such a great prophet had come back.  Herod couldn’t keep him down.  For those looking for political salvation, this would be a great story.

Not everyone was into that story though.  Some thought that Jesus was such a great prophet He just might be Elijah.  Now, Elijah (or a prophet like him) was said to come back before the Messiah.  So some think that maybe the ministry of Jesus is letting them know that salvation is just ahead.

Some are not willing to commit.  They think Jesus is a great prophet, like the great prophets we read about in the Old Testament, but not much more than that.

It is interesting to think about what everyone else thinks, but Jesus has a much more important question.

He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Luke 9:20a

Who do you say I am?  Now the question is not just guessing about the crowds, now it is personal.  Not only is it personal, but unlike when you are just in a group of people making guesses, this time there is a right answer and wrong answers.

Who is Jesus?  The disciples probably got very quiet.  You know those tricks you used in school when you tried to make sure the teacher did not see you?  I wonder if the disciples tried a few.  He could be one of these great prophets, but He claims to be more.  He could be making the way for the messiah, but He claims to be the Messiah.  Who is He?

Then Peter has an answer!

“Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:20b

You are the Christ!”  That means Messiah.  Peter is saying, “you are the one!”  This is a bold move of Peter.  Do not think that this is a guess based on everything that Jesus had done.  Jews believed that the Messiah was going to redeem them; save them.  It was safest to wait until this one in process before you decided someone might be the messiah.  Peter very definitively says that Jesus is the Christ!

And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one,  Luke 9:21

Just when Peter gets the right answer, Jesus tells them to keep quiet.  That strikes us as odd.  It seems that when you learn something as monumental as this, you want to make it known.  Yet, Jesus tells them not to say anything about it.  Why?  There are many theories as to why, but one I consider is that people did not understand what the Messiah was to do.  Many expected a Moses who would lead them out of bandage, or a Joshua who would reclaim their land, or a David who would establish them as a great nation.  However, the Messiah had to do something completely different.

saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.’ Luke 9:22

The Messiah had to suffer.  The Messiah had to be rejected.  The Messiah had to die.  The Messiah had to be raised again on the third day.  To say that Jesus is the Christ, would mean to accept these things.

Can you imagine being in this conversation.  I don’t mean in the crowd with the thousands listening to Jesus teaching.  Can you imagine being in that small group, seated around Him as he begins to ask you questions?

And He asks, “who do people say I am?”  Well, people say a lot of things.  Some think Jesus was a great teacher.  Some think He was inspired by God.  Some think He showed a great example with His life.  Some think He is nothing more than a fairy tale.

Then Jesus asks, “Who do YOU say that I am?”  Suddenly, the room gets very quiet.  Apparently Jesus didn’t learn the Sunday School teacher rule that if you call on someone it makes them uncomfortable.  We wonder, what is the right answer?  Suddenly someone get’s it.

“You’re the messiah!  You are the Christ!  You are the son of God!  You are the one that will save us all!”  Hey!  That is it!  That is the right answer!  We all nod in agreement, maybe even say a few ‘amens.’

But then, we have to get quiet again.  “Do not say anything” because there is something you need to know.  If you think Jesus is the Christ then you need to understand that along with that comes suffering, rejection.  It may cost your life, and He will be all you can hope for.  It is one thing to say that Jesus is the Christ or that Jesus is Lord or that you believe in Jesus.  It is another to follow Jesus even at the expense of your own life and say your only hope is Him.

When you declare Jesus as Lord, you are placing your comfort, your reputation, your life, and your hope on Him. That is the choice before us.  We have watered this down because it seemed impossible to accept.  After all, if I have to choose between two things and one of those will mean my life, I don’t make that choice.  When Peter made this statement, other Gospel writers tell us that Jesus said that Peter knew that only because the Holy Spirit told Him.  That is why we should never think of this as an impossible choice.

When the Holy Spirit reveals to you who Jesus is; when you see His love, His greatness, His truth; when you see that your sins were paid at the cross then you realize that there is nothing worth having that could keep you away.  Then when someone says, “but you might suffer,” you say, “ok.”  When you someone says, “but people will not accept you,” you say, “I only care if Jesus accepts me.”  When someone says, “this will mean your life.” You say, “I only want a life with Jesus.”  That is what it means to have your hope in Him.

So today, seek Him.  Ask Him to reveal Himself and when you see Jesus for who He really is, you will say “He is the Christ!” and follow Him with everything you have.

He Is Alive; Believe!

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Today, it is easy to go through the motions of church and Easter.  But let us imagine what it was like that first morning.  There were plenty of things to be done, but everything was turned upside down by one event.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (John 20:1)

It was the first day of the week, and it was time to mourn.  Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows how this would feel.  There was that initial shock and sadness at the time of death, but now a few days later, it is time to mourn.  They were going to prepare the body and mourn.

In order to mourn properly, they needed things to go as planned.  Their main concern was how they would get that big heavy stone moved from the tomb.  However, when they arrive the notice two things.  The stone is already moved, and the body is not there.  Jesus was not in the tomb

This throws everything off.  Now they will have to find the body before they can get on with the process of mourning.

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”(John 20:2)

The women go to get Simon.  They needed to tell the others that something was wrong.  No one knows where the body is.  We do not know what Peter was thinking.  Did he remember that Jesus had promised to raise from the grave?  He may have remembered this and it probably terrified him.  Peter had last seen Jesus as he was telling everyone that he did not know Him.  Now, if it were true that he could rise from the dead, what will that mean for Peter?

Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. (John 20:3-4)

So Peter runs.  John runs too, and makes a point to tell us that he outran Peter.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. (John 20:6-8)

They go in the tomb.  That’s when they see what is going on.  The body is not there, for sure, but what is there is startling.  The grave clothes are wrapped neatly in its place.  This isn’t the work of someone moving the body.  They would have taken the body still wrapped up.  This is not the work of a grave robber.  Anyone trying to steal the body (as hard as that would be) would not have taken the time to fold the clothes.  It becomes clear:  Jesus is alive.  They see this before them and believe.

For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. (John 20:9)

Scripture teaches that Jesus must rise from the grave. They did not understand everything yet, but they knew Jesus was alive.  They knew this would change everything.  They would later understand that this was always part of the plan for God’s glory, but now, they just knew that Jesus was alive and that changed everything.

Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. (John 20:10)

They didn’t stay at the empty tomb.  They had to return to their lives, but their lives were never the same again.  No one could have imagined what lay ahead.

Just like Mary, John, and Peter, we have our own expectations.  Many of the concepts of this story have become just an expression for a holiday.  We approach Jesus as though He was just an idea in our head, a wild hope for something else.  When we really take time to consider the death and resurrection of Christ, we react with confusion, some with fear, but face to face with a risen Lord, the reaction is belief.

Since Jesus is alive, believe!  When you hear of resurrection, you may be confused.  When you think of death and meeting Jesus, you may be afraid.  Yet, when you see the reality of a risen Lord, you will believe.  Today, you can go through the motions of celebrating Easter.  You can do the church thing, you can visit family.  And tomorrow you can be the same.  Or, you can come to terms with the fact that Jesus is alive and never be the same again.  See your risen Lord and believe!

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