This Can’t Be the End

Luke 23

Luke 23 38 NIV
What is it about cliffhangers that people enjoy so much? Writers of television series, movies and series of books know the power that a good story with a delayed ending has on an audience.
Several years ago I went to go see the movie “Catching Fire” the second story of the Hunger Games trilogy. At the conclusion of the very last scene, as the screen went to black, the lady that I was sitting next to exclaimed, “What!?! That’s it?!?” Even though I had read the books, I had forgotten how this particular book ended and I admit that I was also taken aback. So much so, that the next day one of my students was reading the book and I had to borrow it to reread the last chapter to confirm that the movie held true to the book.
Equally shocking was the ending of “Avengers: Infinity War”. How was the universe going to function after The Snap? I would have to wait an entire year to see how the story would come together in the final installment of the Avengers series in Endgame.
Neither of these experiences compares to the reality that people who knew and followed Jesus would have gone through at the time of his death. Was this it? What about the promised Kingdom? What about his anticipated rule and reign over all the earth? This couldn’t be it! But if we stop reading at the end of Luke chapter 23, then we put ourselves in the same position as those first believers.
But hang on just a minute. A really good story teller hides in his or her stories hints and clues of what’s to come. In “Infinity War,” Dr. Strange states that there is one scenario in which Thanos can be beat. It’s this single line that gives viewers a teeny tiny glimpse into what could come next.
Jesus is NOT that obtuse. Thank goodness!!! In fact, Jesus makes it crystal clear what will happen and the order in which it is to happen. In his conversations with his disciples Jesus plainly tells his disciples that he has to go, but that he will return for them. In John 14 Jesus reassures his men that what might seem like the end, is definitely not the end.
So when we read in Luke 23 verses 50-56 of Joseph of Arimathea claiming the body of Jesus and the women who had traveled from Galilee to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, we can take confidence that while it was a very dark day, the Light will shine once more, because Jesus really is KING of all.
Bethany Ligon

Rejected by Men

Mark 15

 

I have a friend. His name is Edwin.  Edwin was a pastor and teacher who shepherded hundreds of pastors and members of his congregation. He preached to thousands under stadium lights. He lived in a gorgeous house surrounded by a sea of green grass in Peru. Edwin is a studious man who came to believe that God is One. He then wrote a letter to the head director of his denomination exclaiming the newfound truth that was revealed to him!

 

The head director proceeded to read his letter aloud, televised to the entire church. He explained to the church that Edwin had abandoned them and was now committing adultery with another ‘woman’ (church). Rumors flew throughout the denomination. The head director told the church that Edwin was initiated into Satanism by Anthony Buzzard.  Edwin’s best friend for 28 years told him that he was going insane thinking he was the ‘New Martin Luther’.  “In one single day”, Edwin says, “I lost all of my friends.” He was rejected.

 

Jesus was also rejected by the crowd of people that had just welcomed him into Jerusalem a few days before. Picking up in Mark 15, Jesus is rejected by the city whereas Barabbas, a murderer, is embraced. The townsmen shout “Crucify Him…CRUCIFY HIM!” Sadly, rejection is a familiar feeling for Jesus.

 

Jesus was rejected by his family members.

We learn in John 7:5 that “not even his brothers believed in him”.

 

Jesus was rejected by people who claimed to love him.

Two of his most beloved friends, Judas and Peter, betray and deny him.

 

Jesus was rejected by his community.

Jesus was “without honor” in his hometown of Nazareth and now the community that just welcomed him triumphantly on a colt has disowned him.

 

Jesus was a revolutionist.  He came to establish a new world government – to bring about a new convent not just for Jews, but Gentiles too! And a side-effect of radical change is rejection by some. We all face rejection at times and it always hurts.  When we are rejected we feel like we are not wanted, loved or even valued.  If we are not careful, we can even begin to reject ourselves. But I challenge you this, the next time you face rejection from your friends, classmates, coworkers or even family members, find peace knowing that we are not of this world. Jesus died an excruciating death on the cross not so that we can fit in with the world, but so that we can be a light to our peers even when it feels awkward, intimidating and uncomfortable. Be strong and courageous, friend!

 

After Jesus was rejected in the most dehumanizing way possible, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, symbolizing the sacrifice Jesus paid so that we can have a direct relationship with our Father, God. There are no divisions between God’s perfect peace and us. I want to belong to God, not the world.

Oh, and my friend, Edwin? He is now a pastor who preaches the truth of our One True God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Edwin, his wife and children now live in a one bedroom home in Peru where Edwin and his wife, Aleida, lead a home-ministry.  He also mentors ten other congregations and pastors in Peru who have learned from Edwin and believe in our One True God.  This year, Edwin and Aleida travelled to Ecuador and Chile to spread hope of the Kingdom of God.  Edwin was rejected by men, but embraced by Christ.

 

This week you will hear tidbits from a different member of the 2019 Peru Team who ministered in Peru this summer as we finish Mark.  Thankfully, the narrative of Jesus’ life doesn’t stop here…Monday is coming.

 

-Amber Cain

 

Photo: Edwin & Aleida’s home ministry

edwin home ministry

He Has Conquered

JOHN 16

John 16 33

Theology is one of my favorite things to study. It’s fascinating because people have read the same 66 books for 2000 years and have created millions of different explanations for how it all fits together. For example, there is a belief in certain Christian groups that has been labelled “Christus Victor” or “Christ is the conqueror”. This view believes that our sin was atoned for by Christ being the ransom for our sin. By being killed and rising again to life – sin, death, and the devil lost all right to those who trust in Christ. This view has some strong language of support (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6). And of course, Christ’s victory is made clear in John 16:33.

 

It’s important to note the situation Jesus is talking about here. He is letting the disciples know that he is going to die. (John 16:16) Moreover, he is letting his disciples know that he is going to the Father. (John 16:28) And for the first time, the disciples get it. They are finally understanding what he is telling them. But he lets them know, “You will all desert me.” But even knowing they will all leave him, he has been telling them all these things, about the Counselor coming, about Jesus being the vine and the branches, about Jesus and the Father and the Spirit abiding in believers, he is telling his disciples this so that they would have peace.

 

The words of John are in Greek, but he thought like a Jew. In the Hebrew language, “peace” is shalom. Shalom is not an absence of conflict, but a flourishing of life (usually accompanied by an absence of conflict!). Jesus even makes this case himself, “so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world.” Right there back to back, we have peace and suffering. Shalom and conflict. Jesus is letting us know that we will have struggles. I may sound like a broken record with yesterday’s reading, but it’s important. When those people hate you for doing what is right and for trying to be like Jesus, then we need to find our shalom in him. We are called to take courage in him.

 

Why?

Because Jesus has overcome.

And this is before the resurrection.

 

The Messiah has beaten the system. Jesus in the Gospel of John is different, in some striking ways, from the Jesus of the synoptics in regard to his death. He insinuates that he is willingly going to the slaughter. He tells the people that he will lay down his life (John 10:15) and take it back up (10:18), as that is the missions given to him by his Father. Jesus is not afraid to die, asking God for it to pass, but knows that no one takes his life from him by force (19:11) but that he lays it down (15:13). Jesus knows that he is going to win; he says “if I am lifted up, I will draw all people to me.”(12:32) In this Jesus makes a pun about his own death: “lifted up” in the Greek could mean the metaphorical “lifted in Glory and honor” and also the literal “raised up, i.e., on a cross.” Jesus knows that his crucifixion, far from being the moment of defeat, is the moment of triumph and success. In his crucifixion, he removes sin from his followers as a sacrifice and he buys us, the slaves of Satan, as a ransom to become children of God.

 

I am not asking you to have the same unadulterated confidence; that would be too much. I am asking you to trust in the one who we already know was victorious. Jesus was asking his disciples to trust in him as he was about to be sentenced to death. How much more should we trust that Jesus will care for us knowing that he has been raised to life.

If you are going through a trial, something that the world is throwing at you, keep this in mind: Jesus has already won. Not could win, not even will win.  JESUS HAS ALREADY WON.

 

Christ is, for now and forever more, the conqueror. 
-Jake Ballard

For You

Matt 27 31

Matthew 27

Matthew 27 gives an account of the death of Jesus Christ. Within this chapter, Jesus is tried before Pilate, flogged, mocked by soldiers, beaten by staff, crucified, and buried. This sounds like a quick series of events if you’re simply reading the text but simply reading doesn’t compare to the reality of that day. After reading the story of the crucifixion once more, I am amazed. I am amazed by the obedience that Jesus exhibited while encountering an unimaginable amount of pain and suffering, yet he did so willingly for it was in his Father’s will.

 

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open” (Matthew 27:51-52).

 

“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54)

 

Surely he was & surely he is.

 

“At the cross, at the cross I surrender my life.

I’m in awe of you. I’m in awe of you.

Where your love ran red and my sin washed white,

I owe all to you.

I owe all to you, Jesus.”

-Chris Tomlin

 

What Love. What Grace. What Sacrifice.

The veil was torn. Jesus truly paid it all.

 

 

-Kayla Tullis

Joy to the World – Up From the Grave He AROSE!

Luke 24

JOY to the WORLD!

In yesterday’s devotion, Jesus died.  And the world –  the centurion, the sky, the women, the crowd – took notice and responded.  Even the crowd that had not been Jesus’ followers, some of whom may have earlier shouted, “Crucify Him!”, now, “beat their breasts and went away” (Luke 23:48).  There was something very different about this man Jesus and the way he died.  Though they did not understand at the time that he had died for their sins – and not only theirs – but the sins of the world.

If Luke’s gospel story had ended there, we could still be forgiven people today – able to have a relationship with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus carrying our sins to his death because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  BUT – there is even MORE good news to come in Luke 24!  A great gift of God is set before us – eternal life in Christ Jesus our RISEN Lord.  Without a risen Lord there would be no future hope for a resurrection for his followers.

When the women brought news to the disciples that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.” (Luke 24:11,12).   He was going to search it out and find the truth.  Likewise, the two on the road to Emmaus had many questions and were confused about what they had seen and heard.  Jesus walked with them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27).

Today, news of his resurrection and the resurrection to come still brings great joy to his followers.  There are those who say it sounds like nonsense.  There are those who are questioning.  Be like Peter and seek out answers.  Like Jesus, dig into the Scriptures and reveal them to others.  Declare the good news of Jesus’ birth – but then so much more – his death and resurrection.  Share the Joy!

-Marcia Railton

The Christmas Story Continues

Luke 23 47

Luke 23

Questioning Pilate

Curious Herod

Accusing chief priests

Mocking soldiers

Appealing Pilate

Shouting crowd

Desperate Pilate

Mad mob

Defeated Pilate

Fortunate Barabbas

Condemned Jesus

Cross-carrying Simon

Mourning women

Guilty criminals

Crucified three-some

Forgiving Messiah

Sneering rulers

Informative sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

Insulting felon

Compassionate criminal

Welcoming Jesus

Saved criminal

Darkened sky

Torn curtain

Committed spirit

Last breath

Amazed centurion

Dead righteous man

Seeing crowd

Generous Joseph

So much could be said and written about any one of these elements of Luke 23.  Much of Luke and the gospels – and even the Old Testament – point to this moment in history: the Crucifixion of the Son of God.  Which character do you identify with most today?  Which adjective describes you this year?  What do you find the most amazing?  How does this chapter of Jesus’ history add to the Christmas story of Luke 20 we discussed earlier this week?  In an effort to become more Christ-like, what characteristics do you see in this chapter that you want to work on this week?

Keep Reading and Growing

-Marcia Railton

The Death of a King

Wednesday

Romans 5-8

There are a handful of ways to think about the meaning of the death of Jesus. From a Jewish point of view Jesus was killed because he was a false prophet. From a Roman point of view, he gathered a large following that was counter-cultural to Roman authority, so they executed him. Or if you’re a muslim, Jesus wasn’t killed at all on the cross. Almost all people recognize that Jesus actually did die, but the question is why? The New Testament has several different ways of understanding why Jesus died. These include, Jesus died to destroy the works of the devil, to satisfy God’s need for justice, to justify us apart from Torah or the law, and to give us eternal life. However, the most ubiquitous reason the New Testament gives as to why Jesus died, is that he died for our sins.

“Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us from this present evil age…” Gal.1.3-4

“…he bore our sins in his body on the cross…” I Pet. 2.24

“God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – Rom. 5.8

“…when he had taken the cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin’” – Matt. 26.27-28

The reason Jesus’ death is so significant is because it solves the problem of sin. Sin is a barrier between us and God, it is impossible for us to be in the presence of God because he is holy and perfect and we are not. Jesus’ death satisfies God’s need for justice. The cost of sin has been paid for by Jesus. So through Jesus we can have a renewed relationship with God through Jesus. Apart from Jesus, God sees us as worthy of wrath and death, he sees all our mistakes and rebellion. But in Jesus, he sees us being right before him and clean and pure. Because of Jesus we are able to be in the presence of God. Jesus’ death is the means by which we can enter the kingdom. Hope, forgiveness, contentedness, and so much more can be found when someone accepts the gift of Jesus’ death for them.

For someone to be restored to God and to be a part of the kingdom when it comes, they must accept Jesus’ death. Through Jesus’ death all can live.

-Jacob Rohrer-