Without A Doubt #likeJesus

We call him Doubting Thomas.  The name now applies to anyone who struggles to believe.  This moment of doubt is the one thing Thomas is remembered for.  “Thomas?  Oh, he’s the one who doubted, right?”  What a legacy.

But I think Thomas has gotten a bad rap.  The other 10 disciples had heard the report from Mary Magdalene.  She had seen Jesus and immediately ran to tell the disciples.  You get the impression that they doubted her report.  They had the message from the angel delivered to Peter and John.  They had Mary Magdalene’s eyewitness encounter.   They had heard from Cleopas and the other disciple who’d met Him on the road to Emmaus.  Cleopas tells them Jesus had also appeared to Simon.  But they needed to see Him for themselves.

That same night, Jesus appeared to the disciples.  He showed them His scars.  They were overjoyed.  “It’s true!  Jesus is risen!  We’ve seen Him with our own eyes, heard His voice, shared a meal with Him.  It’s true!”

But Thomas wasn’t there.  He missed it.  They saw and believed.  He didn’t yet see, and so he doubted.

It wasn’t until 8 days later that Thomas finally saw Jesus.  Imagine how hard those 8 days had to be.  All your friends are overjoyed.  All their conversations must have centered around seeing the resurrected Christ, remembering His words now and how He’d promised He would rise.  I can only imagine the emptiness Thomas felt.  He had to want to believe them.  He just couldn’t.  They’d seen the unbelievable, and believed.  He hadn’t.

It appears that this encounter 8 days later with Thomas is FOR Thomas!  Jesus comes for Thomas.  He knows Thomas must see to believe.  He wants Thomas to be able to believe.

Thomas had said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”

Maybe it’s Thomas statement, “Unless I see…  I will not believe.”  Maybe his doubt was stronger than the others.

Jesus does say to him, “Stop doubting and believe.”

But I love that Jesus gave Thomas what he needed to believe.

“Peace be with you.  Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

I have moments of doubt.  I doubt God’s plan.  I doubt God’s power.  I doubt God’s provision.  When I doubt, it’s really God’s character that I’m calling into question.  I don’t think about it that way, but it’s true.

When I doubt God’s plan, I question His wisdom and sovereignty.

When I doubt God’s power, I question His greatness and authority.

When I doubt God’s provision, I question His love and goodness.

But I love that Jesus gave Thomas what he needed to believe.

He gives me what I need to believe too.  He loves me.  He doesn’t want me to doubt.  He wants me to trust Him.  He wants me to know Him, to know His character, and to believe.

They say “seeing is believing.”  That’s true.  That was the case for Thomas.  That is often the case for me.  God proves Himself to me over and over again.

I want my faith to continue to grow, though, so that for me, “believing is seeing.”

That’s what Jesus challenged Thomas with.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

“Believing is seeing.”  That’s what the writer of Hebrews calls faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”   Hebrews 11:1

“Certain of what we do not see!”

Father, continue to grow that kind of a faith in me.  You gave Thomas what He needed to believe.  Thank you for giving me what I need to believe.  I want to be certain of what I do not see.  I want to know you so well that I trust your character completely.  I want to fully believe before seeing.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Piecing Together the Resurrection

The Resurrection account, recorded in all four Gospels, is one of the more challenging aspects of the Jesus’ story to harmonize.

Mark is the stenographer, it is believed, writing for the Apostle Peter.  Peter was an eyewitness.  He had run to see the empty tomb.

John is an eyewitness.  He had outrun Peter, reaching the tomb first.  He saw the rolled away stone, the empty tomb, and the grave clothes neatly folded.

Matthew didn’t see the empty tomb.  He was with the others when the women came to report that the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.  Did Peter and John run back to tell the others, corroborating their report?

Luke was the historian.  He interviewed others to write his account.  I wonder whose account he recorded for the resurrection?  We assume he interviewed Mary, Jesus’ mother, because of stories regarding Jesus’ birth.  Certainly John, who was given the responsibility of caring for Mary, would have told her what he had seen.  Maybe Mary Magdalene had told her also.  They were together at the cross.  Eyewitness takes the position that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Jesus’ mother.  If so, she certainly would have told Mary (though I believe there’s a stronger argument that Salome, the mother of James and John, was Mary’s sister).  And maybe Luke interviewed Mary Magdalene himself.  You would think he would, since no one had a better eyewitness account of the resurrection than Mary.  She saw the empty tomb first, was spoken to by angels, and was spoken to by Jesus.

What challenges present themselves?

John records that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, found it empty, and ran to tell the disciples.  Peter and John ran to the tomb, Mary followed.  They found it empty and left.  Mary then encountered two angels, and then the risen Christ.  She then went to tell the disciples, “I have seen the risen Lord!”

Luke records that “the women” went to the tomb.  They found it empty, and while standing there, were told by two angels, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!”  The women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others) then went to tell the eleven, and Peter got up and ran to the tomb.

Mark records that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb.  They found it empty, and an angel spoke to them, “Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.”  The women told no one because they were afraid.  Mary Magdalene then told the disciples.

Matthew records that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb and found it empty.  The guards had fled, fearing the angel who rolled away the stone.  The angel told them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here, He has risen, just as He said.”  The women then ran to tell the disciples.  As they left the tomb, Jesus met them.  Falling at His feet, they worshipped Him.

To harmonize all of this, you have to take the perspective that just because someone is mentioned in the account doesn’t mean they are the only person there at that moment.

For instance, one angel or two?  In Matthew and Mark, we read of only one angel.  In Luke and John, we read of two.  So we can assume that there were two, but Matthew and Mark only record the angel who spoke.

And how many women went to the tomb?  Matthew mentions two, Mark three, Luke three plus others (he mentions Joanna while Mark refers to Salome), and John mentions only Mary Magdalene.  So there are multiple women at the tomb, and possibly they get separated from one another when Jesus appears to them.

And how many disciples ran to the tomb?  Luke records that Peter ran to the tomb, while John includes himself also, reminding us that he outran Peter.

Does Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene alone, or to her with several other women?  John offers a compelling, intimate encounter that Mary has with the risen Christ, while Matthew records Mary Magdalene and the other Mary meeting Jesus.  It seems these accounts would be one in the same, since both appear to be an initial encounter of the risen Christ for Mary Magdalene.

Did Mary and the women bring the report of the empty tomb, and then a second report that they’d seen the risen Christ?  John, the only eyewitness who wrote an account himself, records it that way.

Eyewitness harmonizes the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection in a way that makes sense and reads easily.  Others have harmonized it differently and offered a compelling perspective as well.

I don’t know that I have a lot of answers about questions that still present themselves regarding the chronology of the events with the four resurrection accounts, but I do have a growing appreciation for Mary Magdalene.

Can you imagine being the first to see the empty tomb?  Can you imagine being told by angels, “He’s not here.  He is risen!”  Can you imagine being the first to meet, to speak with, the resurrected Christ?  Why was Mary chosen for such an incredible honor?  Does it have anything to do with her anointing Jesus and preparing Him for burial, showing her great love for her Savior?

If we do connect this honor to her love for the Savior, are there similar ways that the Savior meets us?  When we become an intimate of His, does Jesus meet us in unique ways that He meets no one else?

Today, the thought of Mary Magdalene’s unique relationship with and intimate encounter of the risen Christ will drive me into His presence.  Jesus, I want more of you.  I want to be counted an intimate of yours!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Love Amplified #LikeJesus

If you want to know what’s inside a person, squeeze them hard enough… and you’ll find out.

In telling the crucifixion account, Eyewitness includes Psalm 22:16-18, 69:21 and Isaiah 53:12.  It begins…

“At nine o’clock, when the soldiers reached the place called The Skull, they nailed Jesus to the cross.”

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus prayed, “because they do not know what they are doing.”

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.  They looked at Him and gloated as they counted His ribs.”

When you put the potent words from the prophecy of Psalm 22 in the crucifixion account, they bring an immediate weight of horror and hatred to the story.

The closest we can come to this picture today are the images of ISIS beheading Christians on the beach or placing a soldier in a cage, doused in gasoline, and burning him alive.

What kind of person captures scenes like these on video to put on the Internet for the world to see?

People consumed with evil.

What a powerfully evil image, “Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.”

On the cross, Jesus stood face to face with an unfathomable evil.

The Jewish people had cried out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

The soldiers mocked Him, spat on Him, struck Him in the face, beat Him.

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.”

I think about what a ravenous pack of dogs can do.  I’ve seen a pack of wild dogs in Africa take a carcass and rip the flesh off it, foaming at the mouth, fighting for every bone.  I had a friend in Haiti have a pack of dogs attack his goat one night.  It was tied up outside his hut.  He heard dogs barking, howling, fighting during the night.  He woke up in the morning to find a tattered rope and the bones of his goat picked clean.  There was nothing left.

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.”

They would seek to destroy Him, to devour Him.  When they were finished, there would be nothing left of Him.

People consumed with evil.

This was Satan’s finest hour.  Just as Satan had filled Judas’ heart, he certainly had filled this “pack of dogs” also.

They were consumed with evil.  Jesus was consumed with love.

“Father, forgive them.”

“Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame.”  Hebrews 12:2

The immensity of their evil amplifies the audacity of His love.

“But God demonstrates His love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

To see and feel the horror and hatred of the cross magnifies the depths of His love.

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered TO SEE the piercing of His hands and feet.”

Do I see?  I will fix my eyes on Jesus.

Oh, what love!  For me!  I’m overwhelmed, buried under the avalanche of Your love set off by the cross.  And I find my heart heavy, crushed beneath the weight of responsibility that it was my sin that brought the pack of dogs to You.

Father, forgive me when I forget the cost of my sin.

Father, forgive me when I have a cavalier attitude toward sin.

Father, thank you.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Jesus on Hell

What did Jesus say about Hell?

Hell’s fire is eternal. 

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.”
Matthew 18:8

Hell’s punishment is eternal. 

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:46

Hell is the second death.  The first death permanently ends our life on earth.  The second death makes our separation from God permanent.

“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:15

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars- they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

When it comes to these bible verses about hell, what is the word used in the original language for “eternal”?

The Greek word used for “eternal” referring to punishment is the same word used for “eternal” referring to life.  It’s used for both in Matthew 25:46.  It’s used in John 3:16, 3:36, and Romans 3:23

Consider John 3:36.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

“Will not see life” sounds definitive, and “wrath of God remains” is contrasted with eternal life, making “remains” permanent.  While it doesn’t say “eternal punishment” it certainly infers it by a “remaining wrath of God.”

“And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
1 John 5:11-12

If everyone eventually makes it to heaven, then “does not have life” doesn’t make sense.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.”
Hebrews 9:27

Die once.  Judged once.  What’s the verdict.

Different forms for the Greek word for eternal are used to refer to “age” as in a period of time, but every time the specific form is used, it refers to eternal.

Nowhere when Jesus speaks of hell do you get the impression that it’s temporary.  The word “eternal” might not be used with it, but the sense of finality is there.

Hell is real.
Hell is eternal.
Hell is permanent.
Hell is separation from God.
Hell is the wrath of God.
Hell is anguish, torment, regret.
Hell is motivation.

“Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment.”
Jude 1:23

Saving Faith #likeJesus

It’s surprising that Pilate didn’t put his faith in Christ.  Standing face to face with the Messiah, he searched for the truth.

“Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own question, or have others told you about Me?”

“Am I a Jew?  Your own people and your chief priests have delivered you to me.  What have you done?”

“My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my disciples would have fought to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  No, my kingdom is not from here.”

“Are you a king, then?”

“Yes, you could say that.  For that reason, I was born.  I came into this world to testify to the truth.  Everyone who wants the truth hears my voice.”

“What is truth?”   

Pilate came back to report to the crowd.

“I do not find this man guilty of any crime.”

“I questioned Him thoroughly concerning your accusations, and I found Him not guilty.”

After being warned by his wife, who’d had a terrible nightmare, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man,” Pilate again asked the crowd:

“What shall I do with Jesus the Messiah?”

“Look, I am bringing Jesus before you to declare that I find Him not guilty.”

“Behold the Man.”

And again, Pilate questions Jesus.

“Who are you?”  “Why won’t you answer?  Don’t you know I have the authority to either release you or crucify you?”

“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from above.”

Then Pilate again spoke to the crowd.

“Behold your king!”

“Shall I crucify your king?”

“I am not to blame for this righteous person’s death.”

So what does Pilate say about Jesus.

•He is a righteous man

•He is not guilty

•He is the Messiah

•He is the King

Where did Pilate’s belief fall short?

What one statement didn’t Pilate make about Jesus?

The Jewish leaders told him, “By our law, He must die because He claimed to be the Son of God.”

Deity.  Jesus…  God.

Pilate never acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God.

Righteous?  Yes!

Not guilty?  Yes!

Jewish Messiah?  Yes!

Jewish king?  Yes!

Son of God?  Crickets

These were things Pilate believed ABOUT Jesus, but he never believed IN Jesus.

Belief ABOUT vs Belief IN.  Huge difference.  It’s not just semantics.  It’s saving faith.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Triumphant #likeJesus

When Judas had gone, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  And God will be glorified in Him.  If God is glorified in Him, He will not delay in His plan to glorify the Son of Man .”

It’s unimaginable to think that the hatred and horror of the cross could be a vehicle that brought glory.  Glory belongs to the victor, not the vanquished.

But heroic courage displayed in defeat brings a different kind of glory.  Jesus would display heroic courage through sacrifice.  He was about to willingly lay down His life for those He loved, even though many would spurn that love.

But we also know, from this side of the cross, that Jesus’ heroic courage was not displayed in defeat.  He was crucified, but He was not vanquished.  In death, Jesus was victorious.  In death, Jesus accomplished His mission.

Death.  Glory?  Yes!

The righteous demands of God’s judgement were met through Christ’s death.  He took our sins and nailed them to the cross.

The Father loves us so much, He willingly made a way, offering His own Son to take on our sin and its just penalty.

Jesus glorified the Father by obeying Him completely.

Jesus glorified the Father by making a way for us wayward ones to return home.

The Father glorified the Son through the cross as well.  Jesus became our hero through His courageous sacrifice, through His death.  In defeat, He took our sins down with Him.  Yes, He was vanquished, but so was sin!   Through His death, Jesus dealt a death blow to the power of sin to condemn us to hell.

The Father glorified the Son through the grave as well.  Jesus heroics grew when, after conquering sin and hell, He then also conquered death and the grave.  Yes, He was vanquished, but not for long.  The grave couldn’t hold Him!   Through His resurrection, Jesus triumphantly conquered death.

Death.  Glory?   Yes!

Death conquers sin.

His glory is our redemption!

Resurrection conquers death.

His glory is our restoration.

The cross, a symbol of judgement, humiliation and defeat, has become a symbol of love, joy and triumph.

Oh, the glory of the cross!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Assisted by Angels #likeJesus

I’m tired this morning.  It’s been a season of high output.  Lots of meetings.  Lots of time with people.  Lots of conversations.  Lots of ministering.  Lots of teaching.   Lots of giving.  Father, you showed up.  You used me.  Students and leaders were energized, equipped and engaged.  Lives were changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful.  I’m joyful.   And I’m tired.

I can only begin to imagine how Jesus felt.  He’d been teaching, serving, healing, battling.  I’m sure He was tired.

What did Jesus do?

He prayed.

Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22 record Jesus crossing the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, where He got away to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Eyewitness records Jesus saying to Peter, James and John, “Stay here and watch with me.  My heart is overcome with sorrow to the point of death.”

While I might feel “dead tired,” I’ve never been overcome with sorrow to the point of death.  I can relate to Jesus’ exhaustion, but not His emotion.

Actually, I can probably relate better to Peter, James and John whom Jesus found sleeping while He was praying.  Their eyes were heavy.  They couldn’t stay awake.

Many times I’ve fallen asleep on Jesus.  While praying, my eyes too became heavy.  I know the reality of these words:  “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

I’d not really noticed before how the Father ministered to the Son during this moment of exhaustion and emotion.  It says,

“An angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.”

This had happened at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry during another season of intense exhaustion and emotion.  It was in the wilderness, where after 40 days of praying, fasting and being tempted by Satan, Jesus was met by angels.

“Then angels came and ministered to Him.”

The angels were sent by the Father to minister to Jesus.  An angel strengthened Him.

The Father knows.  The Father cares.

It makes me wonder.  Does the Father ever send angels to minister to us, to strengthen us?

I know we have the Holy Spirit.  He is sufficient.  He dwells within us.  He strengthens us.  We don’t need angels to be sent on our behalf.  But I wonder, does the Father ever go overboard and send angels anyway?

Jesus was full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, had the power of the Spirit, was anointed by the Spirit…  and yet the Father sent angels anyway!

The extravagant grace of the Father.  He blesses us beyond what we deserve.  He loves us.  He cares for us.

Indwelt by His Spirit…  and He sends angels anyway.  Wow!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM