When Jesus Enters…

On the day that Jesus rose from the dead, several women went to His grave to properly prepare His body for burial. They were not going to the tomb with anticipation that He might be alive again. They were probably hoping to say one last goodbye.
________________________________

Two men walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus; despondent and discouraged at all they had witnessed over the preceding days. Along the way they have an encounter with a man who asks them what has happened and He then proceeds to talk about the Law, the Prophets, and how Jesus was their fulfillment. Only they do not realize the man is Jesus until the moment that Jesus leaves.
________________________________

After hearing the report from the women that the angels said Jesus was alive again and after the two men ran from Emmaus to tell the disciples about their encounter, the disciples still gathered behind a closed door; afraid for their lives.
________________________________

When Thomas is told by the other apostles that they have seen Jesus, Thomas says he will not believe unless he sees the body himself. He will not believe until he places his fingers in the holes of Jesus’ hands or places his own hand into Jesus’ side.
________________________________

Loss. Uncertainty. Fear. Doubt.

These are the emotions that accompanied Jesus’ believers into that first Easter Sunday. These emotions were the ones experienced by those closest to Him; those who loved Him the most; those who followed Him the closest.

A far cry from the joy and celebration that exists on Easter Sundays now. And it makes sense. We should be more jubilant now. The grave has been defeated. He has risen. We stand on the testimony of believers for 2000 years who have celebrated this day. We can join with others and sing “He’s alive, He’s alive!”

But we must remember that all of those other emotions sometimes still creep into this day. Because life still happens. We still experience loss. We are still uncertain from time to time the path our life should take. We all have fear at one time or another due to a number of different factors. Many times we still doubt.

The resurrection does not promise us that all those things go away. The resurrection tells us that those things will not have the last word.

The resurrection does not insulate us from difficulties. The resurrection points us in hopeful expectation to the time when those difficulties will not exist.

Today, we celebrated the defeat of sin, death, and the grave. Yet all three still exist.

But they do not have the last word.

For when Jesus exited the tomb, He promised to be with us.

To be with us in the loss; in the uncertainty; in the fear; and in the doubt. To be with us in the joy and celebration. To be with us in the trials and the triumphs.
________________________________

I showed up at three separate worship assemblies today. I was not like Mary or Cleopas or Peter or Thomas. I was all set to shout and cheer and jump and clap and express as much joy as I could. However, a quick scan of the rooms I was in revealed to me that doubt and uncertainty and fear and doubt were still present.

Although the emotions were not my own, they were present among those I love. Yet still we worshipped a risen Lord. Still we proclaimed that death will not have the final word.

For when Jesus enters, everything changes.

When Jesus Enters…Saturday

I hate Saturday.

More specifically, I hate THIS Saturday. I hate the period of waiting. Friday has a purpose. An awful, violent, terrible, wonderful, glorious, awesome purpose. Sunday has a purpose. A triumphant, expectant, fulfilling, hopeful purpose. But Saturday? What purpose is there in Saturday?

I hate the period of sitting in the pain.

I have often asked myself, “Why did Matthew and John not add anything about what the disciples did the day after the crucifixion?” I have asked, “Why didn’t Peter give Mark any information about what he was doing that day?” “Since Luke was so interested in presenting a well laid-out history of Jesus and the early church, why didn’t he explore the events of that day?”

Why don’t we know about Saturday?

What kind of shock, sadness, and disappointment set in after the disciples learned of Judas’ betrayal? What happened after everyone ran away from Gethsemane? What did Peter experience after hearing the rooster crow? Where did John go after being entrusted with the care of Mary, mother of Jesus?

I’m not sure why I want to know about that day so badly. Maybe because I want to know if the disciples felt the same way I feel:

I hate sitting in the pain of Saturday.
________________________________________

Back in the Old Testament, Job’s friends show up to mourn with him. For 7 days, they do a great job. They sit in silence with Job. They tear their robes, just as he did; they cover themselves with ashes, just as he did. It was comforting.

But then they opened their mouths and ruined everything.

Sitting in the pain of their friend was the best thing they could have done. No words were needed. No actions could have lessened the pain Job had experienced. All that was needed was silence and sharing the pain of their friend.

Just before Jesus entered Jerusalem, He visited some friends whose brother had just died. When Jesus entered the village, He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew what was about to happen. He knew the joy that was about to be experienced. But when He saw Mary and Martha, His heart broke. When He saw the grief of all those gathered, Jesus wept.

Jesus sat in the pain with His friends. He shared in their sorrow. Whatever was going to happen in the future—even the near future—did not matter. Jesus was present in the pain of the moment.
________________________________________

I hate sitting in the pain of Saturday. Yet it is still necessary to do so. Between the pain, grief, and sorrow of death and the joy, triumph, and victory of resurrection comes the period of pain.

And that is where we sit today. But the story is not complete.

There is still more to come…

When Jesus Enters…Friday

Friday.

The day Jesus died. He was whipped, mocked, spat on, beaten up, laughed at.

For you. For me. For everyone.

The curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Not only were all Jews now able to enter the presence of God; all people were able to experience the presence of God: Jews, Gentiles, Romans, thieves hanging on crosses, disciples who abandoned Him, prostitutes, liars, cheats, murderers, even crooked politicians.

Friday was the day for all of them. It was the day that changed everything for everybody.

It was a day of hatred; but it brought about love.

It was a day of violence; but it brought about peace.

It was a day of judgment; but it brought about mercy.

It was a day when sides were drawn; but it brought about unity.

Friday was a day that changed everything. But the story was not complete.

There was still more to come…

When Jesus Enters…The Garden

“Not my will, but yours be done.”

So powerful. So profound. So inspiring.

And I have turned it into a copout.

When Jesus prayed this prayer, He was not saying, “Well, God, let’s just see what happens.” He was not saying, “I’ll just sit back, do nothing, and let you direct everything.”

Jesus prayed fervently. He prayed for hours. His life was a life of prayer. He spent time with the word of God. He knew God’s will for His life. But still He prayed, “Father, I don’t want to do this.” It was not a simple statement of something He would like to do or not do. It was not like it was a coin-flip decision.

Jesus said, “God I know what your will is for my life. I know what you want me to do. I know what you have been preparing me for my entire life. And I still do not want to do it. I want you to find some other way. I want you to take this cup away from me. I want to be spared of the pain and suffering that awaits me. But…

“Not my will, but yours be done.”

Then He did God’s will and He went to the cross.

When I repeat that prayer, I too often use it as a way for me to avoid struggling with the will of God. I use it to shield myself from when I don’t get what I want: “Oh, it must not have been God’s will.”

I say I want God’s will to be done, but instead I am avoiding actually seeking out what God’s will is.

But Jesus teaches me something different. He knew God’s will. He studied to learn more about God’s will. He followed God’s will relentlessly. Yet He was still able to ask that God be willing to change His will. Jesus did not passively accept something to be done to Him. He studied, He knew, He followed, He asked, and He followed some more.

Instead of avoiding it, I need to be seeking God’s will for my life. I need to study it, pray about it, know it, follow it. And it’s okay if I tell Him I don’t like it. I need to know His will, tell Him my fears, worries, and concerns. And then I need to say:

“Not my will, but yours be done.”

When Jesus Enters…My Heart

Of all the lessons Jesus taught during His final week, the parable of the Sheep and Goats gets to me the most.

“Did you love people?”

That’s not the question I want to answer. Ask me what I believed. Ask me how many times I went to church. Ask me what side I fell on in any number of debates. Those are the places where I am comfortable. Those are the places where I can stand with confidence.

Those are the places where I can separate myself from others and say, “See! I’m better than they are!”

But Jesus’ question calls me to more than “being on the right side.” His question cuts into my heart: have I shown the love of Jesus in the way I have lived my life?
__________________________

Jesus has some harsh words for the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in the last days of His life. He calls them a brood of vipers. He calls them hypocrites. He says they are like whitewashed tombs: well-decorated on the outside, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones.

They believed the right things. They said the right things. In a number of ways, they did the right things.

But they did not love people. It was more important to the Pharisees that they give exactly a tenth of the smallest spice than it was to show love or extend mercy to anyone.
_________________________

Did you love people?

Is it more important for you to be right or to be loving?

Jesus pierces my heart with His question. Maybe I need to spend less time concerning myself with always being on the “right” side and start concerning myself with how I show love to God’s people. Maybe I need to spend less time doing the “right” things and start doing the loving things.

As Jesus neared the end of His life, His message was to ask people how they have treated others. He called out the people who treated others poorly. He emphasized the fact that the tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

He scolded the ones who should have known better and He showed mercy to those who should have been living better.

And then He died for all of them.

He loved people. He loved the least of these. Including me.