Thursday, March 31, 2011

Angels like Lightning

“And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men (Mt 28:2-4).

Jesus did not need the angel to roll away the stone for him. He could walk through walls (John 20:19). The stone was rolled away for Jesus’ followers to have access to the empty tomb. He could have simply appeared to the disciples and declared his resurrection, but they might have thought he was only a spirit (Mt 14:26). Seeing the empty tomb was part of the proof of his physical resurrection.

Jesus is literally physically alive today (Acts 2:34; 5:31; 7:55; Hebrews 1:3).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Avoiding the Truth

The Pharisees were not happy to have Jesus dead and let his reputation die with him. They wanted to make sure that no one could possibly say he had risen from the dead. So they went to Pilate and asked him to place a Roman guard around the tomb to keep his followers from stealing his body and saying he had risen from the dead (Mt 27:62-65).

What lengths are we willing to go to avoid the truth?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Joseph of Arimathea

There is a mysterious man in scripture named Joseph of Arimathea. The only time we see him is during the burial of Christ. We know he was secretly a disciple of Jesus and a wealthy man. He was a prominent member of the council and did not agree with the plans to murder Jesus. Since he was a prominent member, we can assume Pilate knew him, so when he asked permission to take down Jesus’ body, Pilate gave it to him (Mt 27:57; Mk 15:43; Lk 23:41; Jn 19:38). .

Joseph bought the necessary linen to wrap Jesus body for burial. His friend Nicodemus, also a member of the council, brought 100 pounds of a spice mixture made from myrrh and aloes. Together they prepared the body of Jesus and placed it in Joseph’s personal tomb (Mt 29:59).

Though this man was only written about once, and we never hear of him again, he had a part in the fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah 53:9 prophesied about the Messiah, ”…they made his grave with the wicked—but with the rich in his death.” Jesus was crucified between two robbers yet buried in a rich man’s tomb.

When Joseph’s mother gave birth to him, I doubt she had any inkling that her son would fulfill an ancient prophesy. Neither do we know what God will accomplish through us. We are not required to know. We need only follow him and he will accomplish through us whatever he has planned.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Resurrection

Mathew records an amazing event at Jesus’ resurrection, “And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many (Mt 27:52-53). It was like a mini-rapture.

Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

“Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

It’s a good day to look for his coming.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Veil

There was a thick veil in the temple between the Holy of Holies where only the High priest entered once a year and the sanctuary where daily sacrifices were made. The veil was made of blue, purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. It had cherubim and hung on gold hooks and silver sockets. It was a beautiful barrier hiding the Ark of the Covenant which held the mercy seat of God (Exodus 26:31).

The writer of Hebrews explains that God set up this system to teach us that the way into the literal presence of God was not yet available. It was a picture of what was to come (Hebrews 9:1-10). But when Christ came, died and rose again all of that was changed (Hebrews 9:11-15).

That is why when Jesus gave up his life the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. It signified the way into the literal presence of God had been made available through Christ’s sacrifice.

Today is a good day to rejoice that we live in the presence of God (Acts 17:28).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feeling Forsaken

Jesus always knew why he had been born and for what purpose his Father had sent him (John 12:27; 18:37). But when he hung on the cross and his emotions were overcome by the pain and grief he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mathew 27:46).

Our heavenly Father does not always lead us down an easy road. Sometimes his will is fraught with what we don’t understand. When our emotions tell us God is nowhere in sight, he is still with us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Jesus suffered the anger of God against sin, so that we never have to suffer the absence of his presence (Mt 28:20). Either here, or eternally, we will understand why we have had to experience our disappointments. Then we will rejoice greatly at what he accomplished through the emotionally painful times.

While you are waiting for his deliverance, trust him.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Unexpected

As they crucified Jesus they threw his own words back at him, mocking him. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt 17:29).

But that was the very reason he didn’t come down off the cross, because he was the Son of God. Only a perfect sacrifice could be given for our sins. Even as he was dying, they sought after signs and did not believe because God was not doing what they expected.

Paul wrote, “…We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:8-9).

Sometimes God does not do what we expect or want him to do because he is teaching us to trust him. He is weaning us off milk and giving us spiritual meat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Barabbas or Jesus?

It was customary for the Romans to release one Jewish prisoner at the time of the Passover. Pilate gave the people the option to release the one who had healed them, raised their dead and had fed them. Instead they choose Barabbas, a thief and murderer (Mt 27:13-18; Mk 15:17; John 18:40).

Rebellious hearts choose death over life.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, choose you today, whom you will serve…as for me and my house we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

Monday, March 21, 2011


The priests and officers of the temple beat Jesus before handing him over to Pilate (Mt 6:67-28). When the people insisted the Pilate crucify Jesus, Pilate had the Roman soldiers beat him. He brought him bloodied, and wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe to show the people that he had tortured him and still was not able to find him at fault in anything (John 19:1-5). But the priests wanted him dead. His innocence or guilt was not the issue. Power was the issue (John 11:47-50).

It is a dangerous thing to be obsessed with power. It blinds us to kindness, to reason and worse, it blinds us to truth.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judas and Peter

Jesus’ words to Judas, “Friend, why have you come?” must have haunted Judas from the time they pierced his ear drums. The words Jesus had spoken at the last supper must have come rushing back into Judas’ consciousness, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Scripture says Judas tried to make up for his betrayal by returning the money the priests had given him to betray Jesus (Mt 27:1-4). His grief overwhelmed him to the point of committing suicide (Mt 27:5).

Peter denied Christ three distinct times yet Jesus said to Peter, “"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). What made the difference between Judas’ response and Peter weeping bitterly (Mt 26:69-75)?

I do not understand fully the answer to this question. But we do know that Peter loved Jesus, but denied him out of weakness. Judas never believed in Jesus but only saw him as an opportunity to fill his pockets (John 6:64, 70-71; 12:3-6). Peter’s sorrow was that of repentance. Judas did not seek God’s forgiveness, but insisted on taking the punishment onto himself.

None of us deserve God’s grace, but he offers us forgiveness out of his abundant mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Only One Name

After much debate and many attempts to find something of which to accuse Jesus, the High Priest Caiaphas finally asked the pertinent question. “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Mathew 26:57-64).

That is the primary question put before each of us. Do we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?

There is only one Christ, the Son of God. We are children of God, but we are not equal with God like Jesus is. Romans tells us we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17) and we may suffer with him and be glorified together. But there is only one name above all names and only at that name, the name of Jesus, will every knee bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:5-11).

In our celebration of God’s mercy and grace toward us, let us not join in Satan’s declaration, “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Judas' Kiss

“…Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now his betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, he is the one: seize him.” Immediately he went up to Jesus sand said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” (Mathew 26:47-50).

I had not paid attention to that question before this morning. Why did Judas come? Jesus was well known. He had interacted with the priests and officials many times. Surely they would have recognized him without that kiss of betrayal. It seems vindictive, almost like Judas wanted to see Jesus’ reaction.

John tells us that Satan entered Judas when he took the bread from Jesus’ hand at the last supper (John 13:27). Satan is vindictive. His entire purpose is to kill and destroy (John 10:10). It seems that those who once knew God and have chosen to leave their faith become vindictive in their conversations and actions. Without God we are all vindictive, resentful and downright self centered.

Thanks be to our God who brought us out of such darkness into the light of his love and forgiveness (1 Peter 2:9).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Great Sin Great Punishment

Jesus said plainly that all that happened to Jesus happened exactly at the time God had set for it to occur. He tells Peter to put away his sword because he must fulfill God’s plan (John 18:11). He reminds Peter that he could ask the Father to send 12 legions of angels to deliver him, but he chose to fulfill scripture (Mt 26:52). He in essences tells the mob who came to arrest him, “Don’t you think it strange you did not arrest me when you could have easily taken me in the temple on any day I was there? You didn’t because scripture had to be fulfilled (Mt 26: 55-56). Then the disciples forsook Jesus and fled for their lives (Mt 26:56; Mk 14:50) but even that was fulfillment of scripture (John 16:32; Zechariah 13:7).

The Bible tells us in Acts 4:27-28 that all Pilate and Herod did to Jesus was planned by God. All of this was to save us from our sins.

If God did not severely punish sin, he would be an unjust God. We could not be reconciled to God without someone accepting the punishment for our sin. That is why Jesus took the punishment for us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dispising Shame

Jesus had two separate reactions when facing the cross. When talking with his disciples he said, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). Then in the garden he did just that he pleaded with is Father to be delivered. “O My Father, if it is possible, let his cup pass from me” (Mathew 26:39). He struggled between the pain he was going to experience in his flesh and doing what was necessary to save us. But in his struggle he never wavered from wanting to do God’s will. “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, your will be done” (Mt 26:40).

The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to look at Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2). When we face difficult situations we are wise to turn to Jesus. He gave us faith in the first place and he will sustain our faith. It is natural that we despise being looked down on. Jesus despised the shame he bore also. But he focused on the joy that would be produced from the cross. So can we focus on the joy that God will bring about through the difficult thing we face.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Mob in a Garden

The night Jesus was betrayed he went into a garden to pray. I imagine the sound of frogs and crickets filled the air. I can see in my mind’s eye a star lit sky. It was a quiet relaxing place. We know this because the disciples fell asleep.

Suddenly the silence was broken with the sounds of a multitude of people carrying lanterns, swords and clubs. The mob was lead by the chief priests and elders of the people. Why did they think it was necessary to take one man and 12 followers with such force? Most likely it had more to do with curiosity for some, and anger for others than it had to do with a need for numbers. Crowds can be dangerous things (Mathew 26:47).

Our tendency is to think more people makes for right. After all, how can so many people be wrong? But Jesus said the way that leads to destruction is wide and many follow that path; but the way that leads to righteousness is very narrow and few find that path (Mathew 7:13).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weakly Willing

I was listening to Charles Swindoll speaking about trials. He said if we are not in one now, we soon will be. The point is not to make us depressed but to remember that we live in a state of preparedness. We always rest in the Lord, continually knowing his word and trusting in him. If we have this habit, when trials hit we will not easily be knocked off our feet.

Jesus pleaded with his disciples to pray for him just before his crucifixion, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me.” But they were too tired. Their bellies were full and the evening was far spent. It is difficult to blame them when we give into the same weakness. The point is not the time of day we seek God, but the fact that we do.

Jesus was warning us, as well as them, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:36-40).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fear of Denying Christ

One of the fearful passages in the Bible is found in Mathew 26:31-35. All the disciples vowed to Jesus that they would die for him. Yet before the morning had come they had all fled for their lives. If you are like me, your heart jumps to your throat when you read the story. Invariably I wonder, will I also deny him when my life is at stake?

If that is your fear, let me share with you a couple of things that may encourage you. 1) Everyone of the disciples later did die for Christ and did not deny him. 2) The strength to die for Christ comes from God. When they intended to remain faithful, they were trying to do it with their own strength. After the cross they had the power of God to sustain them. 3) Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding for us as well as he did for them (Luke 22:31; Romans 8:26-27, 34; Hebrews 7:24-25).

Be confident in Christ’s work in you. He is able to make you stand (Romans 14:4; 16:25; Heb 2:18; Jude 1:24)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two Gardens

We know from John’s record that Judas immediately left after accepting the bread from Jesus. Then Jesus served the disciples what we now call communion (MT 25:28; Mk 14:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Afterward they sand a hymn and left to go to the garden. Jesus entered that garden for the last time. He would be brought out arrested and would be led bound to his crucifixion.

I do not believe it was an accident that sin first entered the world in a garden and Jesus was sent to his death from a garden. Jesus did not abandon us to our sin.

Which garden will we chose? Will we choose to destroy the garden of our hearts with disobedience as Adam and Eve did, or will we choose to pick up our cross as Jesus did? (Mt 16:24).

Monday, March 7, 2011


Jesus said it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born (Mt 26:23-24). But to Peter Jesus said, “"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). Why the difference?

Peter was weak but his heart belonged to God. Judas’ heart belonged to Satan (John 13:2, 27).

Friday, March 4, 2011

Deceptive Hearts

At their last meal together Jesus told the disciples that one of them was going to betray him (Mt 26:20-21). The disciples knew that the Jews were seeking an opportunity to catch Jesus away from the crowds (John 11:57). So when Jesus said this the disciples were in shock that one of them would betray him (Mt 26:22).

Judas must have been squirming in his skin. Everyone was saying, "Lord, is it I?" It would look suspicious if he didn't ask. But if he did, and Jesus exposed him to the rest of the disciples, what would they do to him? Still he might escape their outrage and make it to the Chief Priests. So he asked, "Rabbi, is it I?" (Mt 26:25). Jesus responded, "You have said it."

Judas must have felt as though every eye was on him, but it was as if the other disciples were deaf. They all were still were too absorbed in their own fears of betraying him. So Judas immediately left unscathed (John 13:26-31).

It is possible to fool others, but it is never possible to fool God.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

He Still Chose

Jesus still called Judas to be one of his disciples even though he always knew the betrayer's heart (John 6:64). If I knew someone was going to turn against me, I certainly would not expose myself to him. But Jesus was willing to go through all manner of betrayal, torture and death, that I might be his child.

He knew that each one of us would fail him, yet he still choose us. He offers us forgiveness though we have even denied his Lordship by choosing our own way above his (1 John 1:9).

He offers us amazing grace, mercy and love.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Thief

Judas had always been a thief (John 12:6). When Jesus first appeared on the scene, Judas must have been very excited. Here was an opportunity beyond his wild imagination. This man was healing the diseased, casting out devils, raising the dead and doing mind boggling miracles. People naturally gave to that kind of ministry. And then there was the possibility that this prophet would actually come to be king. Imagine if he were the treasurer of the entire kingdom (Lk 9:46).

But as the final Passover came near, Jesus began to talk about being crucified. Now Judas must have panicked. It was becoming increasingly obvious that to be associated with this man meant death. Perhaps the rest of the disciples were willing to die, but he certainly was not (John 11:16). Everyone knew he was associated with this rabbi. How was he going to escape with his life?

Then it dawns on him. The Pharisees and chief priests wanted to kill him, didn’t they? Perhaps he could save his own skin and make some money on the side (Mathew 26:14-16). He makes his offer to the rulers and receives 30 pieces of silver in advance. The betrayal is set.

Every heart is eventually exposed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Alabaster Box

In Mathew 26:6-10 we read a very unusual story. A woman comes into somsone's home and pours very costly perfume on Jesus' head. What makes this story stand out is what Jesus said about the woman. "...wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."

Why a memorial to her, and not to him. Why is the focus on her?

What Jesus said has come true. We even have a song about pouring out the oil in the alabaster box. Her actions are a picture of our love returned on the head of Jesus for all he has done for us.

We give our all, because he has given his all for us.