Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and the Cross
Isaac had come into the wilderness of “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me” and was staying in the southern part of Canaan.
After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me”. Gen. 24:62, 25:11 GNT
Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, two blind men started following him. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” they shouted. 28 When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. 29 Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”— 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone!” 31 But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew 9:27-31 GNT
If I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless.
If, for example, someone came asking us to intercede for them before some powerful man who was angry with him but did not know us, we would immediately respond that we were unable to intercede on his behalf because we do not have a relationship with the man in question. If, therefore, a person is too ashamed to intercede for another on whom he has no claim, how could anyone possibly assume the role of intercessor before God on behalf of the laity if he does not know himself to be in the intimacy of his grace because of the merits of his life? And how can anyone possibly ask for the forgiveness of another when he does not know if he is himself reconciled?
IT is in this perfect self-realization by contact of our own anguished freedom with the life-giving Freedom of Him Who is Holy and Unknown that man begins the conquest of death in his own soul. This finding of our true self, this awakening, this coming to life in the luminous darkness of the infinite God, can be nothing but a communion with God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Our victory over death is not our own work, but His. The triumph of our own freedom, which must truly be our triumph if it is to save us from death, is nevertheless also and primarily His. And consequently, in all these meditations we will be talking of contemplation as a sharing in the death and Resurrection of Christ.
We need to cling to God and pray: Merciful God, thou hast permitted me to become a Christian, help me to continue to be one and to increase daily in faith
In the great Easter acclimation, the church shares its hope as they yell, “He IS Risen, Indeed!” The tense of the verb is not mistaken – whether it is 33 AD. 700 AD, 1500 AD, or 2022 – Jesus is Risen!
Yes, the action originated nearly 2000 years ago, but it is still present tense. The impact of the resurrection is right now, wherever you are reading this. Peterson’s point about culture not defining us is based on the fact that Christ, the Christ who is Risen defines us. We are His!
St. Gregory shows the important of this relationship extends beyond the individual.It is from knowing the Lord is present that He is Risen means we are Risen. If we do not realize Chirst’s presence, how can we introduce people to Jesus? How can we promise them the healing of Jesus, unless we have experienced the power that raised Christ from the dead in our own lives. We need to live in that experience every moment of our lives.
Merton sees the same thing, in the selection I read from his work – our meditation, our contemplation has to be wrapped up in the death and resurrection of Jesus – for this is where we find His victory that is the triumph resulting in our freedom. Everything is based there, everything exists in that resurrection. That is this moment as well.
This presence of life is why Luther’s echo of the Apostle Paul – we have to cling to Jesus, even as we count on HIs clinging to us. This is the reason Hagar could name a well “the Lord who sees me”, and the well’s name stuck, a testimony to God’s presence in the life of one forgotten. It is the reason the formerly blind men went and told everyone. Christ was with them…
He is Risen. Therefore We are risen.
We need to know this, everything else in life depends on it.
We being all the people in the world.
so if you know… let those around you know as well. He IS Risen!
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 21.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 44.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 10–11.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 399.
Devotional Thought of the Day”
51 Listen to this secret truth: we shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed.
53 For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die. 54 So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!”
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (TEV)
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. Colossians 2:12 (TEV)
4 By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. 5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. Romans 6:4-5 (TEV)
Christ is risen! In old chronicles we read how the faithful in Russia used to embrace each other with this greeting. They had undergone tangible renunciation during the period of Lent, and now that this period was over, they experienced a real, immense overflowing of joy. By entering into the rhythm of the Church’s year they knew quite tangibly that life had triumphed and that life was beautiful. We still celebrate Easter today, of course, but the grey veil of doubt has spread over the heart of Christendom, robbing us of joy. So is Easter obsolete, a word powerless to inspire hope?
A few years ago, I wrote an Easter sermon called “So what”. And as I took the church through the Easter Acclimation, I asked them to respond one more time:
Pastor: Alleluia! Christ has Risen!
Church; HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!!
Pastor: And therefore…
Church: WE ARE RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
The concept worked well, and with Great energy, they responded. It worked so well, we used that call and response for the rest of Easter (which is celebrated for 7 weeks in our church)
But what I would have never expected happened the next year, when I was planning on only doing the traditional Acclimation, and one of my elders, seeing me pause, enthusiastically and loudly proclaimed the “And therefore” and the entire church responded with the “We are Risen Indeed!”
It is now tradition!
And some poor pastor 30 years from now will have to consider whether it is a tradition he is willing to pay the price of changing!
But I love it. It helps drive the meaning of Easter home. In a world where, as Pope Benedict notes, Easter has become obsolete ( You rarely see church attendance go up on Easter anymore, when it was once the only day some would show up) this little tradition is making a difference.
It makes people realize the Resurrection is personal, they have a major stake in it. THeir role in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is talked about throughout scripture, and especially in Paul’s writings (there are more than the ones above)
And what we now know as a promise, and see hints of here and there, it is guaranteed. We will be changed, we are immortal, and our bodies will one day resemble this. We dwell in the presence of God, and death’s defeat is sure.
Easter matters, and however it takes to make that something we realize, for ourselves and can teach with conviction to those who follow is a not a bad tradition to have.
With Christ, you have risen indeed. Alleluia! AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 126). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
How they We Recognized Him
† I.H.S. †
This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.
The walk –
I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.
Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples? Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus? (significant pause)
Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel. She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus. She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body. It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…
Why hide in plain site?
In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.
It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.
And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.
So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered. He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.
The first thing Jesus does is listens. Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him. They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!
Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him. There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony. Think about it! They are telling Him what happened to Him!
But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on. Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.
We do too…
The Revelation of the Word
Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”. He explains what we need to know about Him! The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.
And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.
But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,
The glory of the Resurrection
For Praise God, He is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia
And therefore, we are risen indeed!
And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.
But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.
We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.
And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….
And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him. And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.
They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.
The Revelation of the Sacrament
He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart. For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.
And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes. This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.
Not only was Jesus the Messiah.
He was their risen Lord.
He had entered His glory.
And they were there to share it with Him.
What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.
He lives and because He Lives, we live as well. We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.
That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….
Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.
Where we learn to rejoice.
Where we share in His glory.
The Ministry of Word and Sacrament
This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.
For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you! And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 4In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4 TEV
At first we do not know him, but the voice of the Church tells us: it is he. It is up to us, then, to set out in haste to seek him, to come closer to him. We meet him by listening to the words of Holy Scripture, by sharing his life through the sacraments, by our encounter with him in our personal prayers, by our encounter with those whose lives are filled with Jesus, in the various occupations of daily life, and in innumerable other ways. He seeks us wherever we are, and thus we learn to know him. To come closer to him in a variety of ways, to learn to see him—that is the primary purpose of the study of theology. For this study has basically nothing to teach us if the knowledge it imparts does not refer to the reality of our life. (1)
All day yesterday I saw people putting “He is risen! Alleluia!” on their FB posts, on Tweets, on Memes. And most of the time, I was able to resist the temptation of asking “So what?”
I wanted to avoid the temptation because I knew the responses would miss the reason why I asked. You see, I’ve asked people before, and they look at me, stunned, as if trying to figure out if I was insane, or an atheist, or …
But it is a question we need to ask!
So what He is risen? SO what the cross didn’t defeat him? So what difference does this event make in your life today?
If you don’t know, then tomorrow or maybe by Thursday that post on Sunday will be forgotten, the response said on Sunday with such enthusiasm will be put in the closet until next year, when it will be dusted off again.
Does the resurrection have enough personal value to you that you will post He is risen in October or January? Will you praise God that Christ is risen the midst of 100-degree temps in August when your A/C is broken, or when your family is in the midst of Trauma? What about when everything is going well, and you begin to relax and enjoy your life?
Answering “so what” now will help you know the answer when all around you everything is perfect, or everything sucks.
Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI gets this. He is one of the most brilliant theologians in the last 150 years. Yet for him, it boils down encountering Jesus, not just alone, but in the midst of the church, in the midst of others who are the children of God. In our prayer life, in our time reading scripture and sharing in the sacrament, but also in our work. St Peter talks about it (as does St. Paul) using the thought that we actually share in His glory, we are welcomed into, and that is the place we belong.
This is what it is about, this walking with God, this knowing Him whom we trust and depend upon, this being humble enough to be spiritual children, rushing into the arms of our heavenly Father.
This is what it means that He is risen. It means we are as well. It means the Holy Spirit dwells in us. It means we are the people of God, the ones He died and rose to share His life, His glory, His peace with, and whom He loves!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
He has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!
† In Jesus Name †
As we celebrate Easter, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, may you realize your part in it, for the grace of God has brought you to life in and with Him. AMEN!
The earlier sermon… Our union with Christ…
You have already heard a sermon this morning. Rather you’ve seen it happen, you witnessed what my poor words will attempt to describe.
Paul says it this way, in our epistle reading.
You are complete through your union with Jesus.
Complete, whole, perfect, lacking nothing.
What became true for Damon, Madelynn and Rosemarie, and is true for everyone who trusts in the mighty power of God is because of this incredible union, being united with Christ’s death and resurrection.
That is the incredible miracle of God that occurs in our baptism, as we are united with Jesus, and then we die and are resurrected with Him.
Our need for circumcision
The apostle Paul, in this epistle, this letter to a young new church, explains the work that God does in baptism using the illustration of circumcision. He writes,
11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.
He talks about our sin nature here, that ability we have to get ourselves into trouble, that ability we have which feeds our desires, no matter the cost to us.
It’s not just about the sin, it’s not just about the failures, there is something deeper there, that causes us to implode, to choose self-destructive things, to even argue these things are good for us. That self-destructive behavior, that’s our struggle with our sin nature. It is strong and powerful, overruling our heart and mind at times.
And we were unable to do anything about it…no one without God in their lives can, we struggle and struggle and just fall short.
We need help, supernatural help.
That is where Jesus brings the idea of circumcision into this picture of baptism uniting us with His death. The word in Greek for circumcision means to cut around – to carefully, with surgical precision, cut and remove something. That is what Paul is talking about when he says
Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life
In the case of baptism – it pictures our dying, and when we come back to life, there is something missing. That sin nature that so oppressed us, so controlled us, so kept us in bondage.
it’s been cut away, nailed to the cross of Christ,
Paul’s letter to the Romans explains it again
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (NLT)
And to the church in Galatia he wrote,
19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT)
I could go on and on with the ways scripture describes out being separated and cleansed of our sin. But that is only part of the process to the greater blessing, the forgiveness, the separation of you and your sinful nature is but a description of what it leads us into, our new life in Christ.
Our Hope of Glory …
Earlier this week, a friend asked me what my favorite scripture was. My answer without hesitation was this,
9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
This is what Easter is about, this incredible plan God has for us, the very reason for the cross and why the church obeys the command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them to treasure everything God establishes. It is through this work God does through us, that we are made whole and complete, and are given the Holy Spirit to help us live in a such a different life.
To live in a relationship with the God who not only created us, but deeply loves us. To get to know Him, through our talking to Him in prayer and meditating on His word, searching it out as we explore how deep, how high, how wide, how broad this love is that He has for us.
Whose plan for us is to dwell eternally with Him, sharing in His glory, dwelling in the purest love.
This is what this is all about, this being complete as we are united with Jesus. About being recreated as the children of God, about knowing His peace, it is about knowing Him!
And may you always know that peace of God which is beyond anything we can understand, the peace that is ours in Christ Jesus AMEN!
Alleluia! He is Risen…therefore
We are His!
In Jesus Name
As we walk through this life together, may we know the grace and peace of God, for He has made us His own…
He is Risen, and therefore…
There is an old tradition among God’s people, to greet and respond to each other during the seven weeks between Christ’s resurrection and Pentecost with the following words,
Alleluia! He is Risen!
(Some respond “He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”)
Let’s all try that – English and Chinese at the same time
Alleluia! He is Risen!
We’ve added something to that, this year in our congregation. It is that I respond, “therefore” and the congregation responds, “we have risen indeed! Alleluia!”
In each of our sermons, then, we’ve looked at what it means to be the people of God who are united to Christ in His death and in His resurrection. Today is the last day of that series, and in our gospel reading we see the incredible truth,
He is risen and therefore we know we are His!
If there is something that should cause our praises to be heard throughout California, through the world, it is this. You and I are Christ’s, and therefore dwell in the presence and glory of God!
Let’s look at how this is laid out in John’s gospel….
But first I want to hear it one more time.
Alleluia, He is Risen (response)
The Son Gives us Eternal life
In verse 2, we are reminded why Jesus came, what the moment of His glory was all about. It says there,
2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.
But what is eternal life? My first funeral sermon was done back in 30 years ago at a church in Yorba Linda. Since then, I have done hundreds, and I’ve heard people talking before and after the services about what heaven is, or at least asking the same questions.
“Will my dog be there?”
“Will there be golf?”
“How old will I look?”
“Will we know each other?”
Or one of my favorite comments,
“When I get to heaven, I am going to ask God, (or maybe the Apostle Paul) why….
Most of the questions, we can’t respond to, they aren’t dealt with in the passages that describe heaven, like 1 Corinthians 2:9 – which says it is beyond our ability, or the passages in the Book of Revelation, where it talks its perfection.
Jesus describes eternal life here though, in this passage, in a way that is simple and clear.
3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
Eternal life is simply knowing the Father and the Son, to be in a relationship with them, to dwell in their presence, to dwell in their glory. This is what it is, this relationship with God that is described here eight times in these verses, that we are His!
I think that deserves a Alleluia! Or if we translate that – a “Praise the Lord” or in Mandarin (teach English speakers to say it J )
Eight times as Jesus prays we are described as being God’s, either the Father’s or that we’ve been given to Christ by the Father!
- Keep His Revelation
We are God’s people, that has been the plan since before the foundation of the world, it is what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and it is there that we are united to His death, and to His resurrection.
We see that relationship described in verse 6 as well, as we are described,
6 “I have revealed you* to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
We are described here in a way that is incredible. We have kept the Father’s word,
“Kept His word.” Some translations in English translate this as obey, as if God’s word is simply about obeying the Ten Commandments, checking each one off, one by one. The words go deeper than that – the word for kept is to guard, to observe, to value and treasure and protect. In English it goes back to the most secure place in the community, the castle keep, where you put all of your treasure. TO keep something was to secure it, to guard it with every ounce of your strength, for it is precious.
It is the same word as in verse 11, where Jesus asks the Father to protect us by the power of His Name. The word for word is rhema in Greek – God’s declaration, God’s official statement regarding the issue.
In this context, I think of the word, as that which we find in Moses writings, and in the prophets, the statement that God makes to us.
“You will be My people, and I will be your God” or “You will be My people, for I AM your God”.
That is a declaration of God that should be at the core of who we are, for it completely defines who we are.
We are His!
And that is worth treasuring, not just with “a” Alleluia, or a Praise the Lord, but a life filled with praises, a life glorifying Him, as we live in complete awe of His love for us!
- Keep/protect Us
I mentioned before, that the word translated as “kept” was also seen in verse 11 as “protect”, when Jesus prays,
11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;* now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.
This word, keep/protect, brings up the last point of our message, our reason to celebrate today. The power of God seen in our lives again, as God protects us, as God guards us, protects us with the full power of His name.
That is something to have confidence in, to be in awe of, and to contemplate. That God cares about us so much, that we are protected and His treasured people. That He would take the time to cleanse us of sin, to deliver us from the bondages of that sin, and of Satan, that He would free us of our anxiety and fear of death, for we know we have life eternal.
It is from this place of security, this place of peace, this walking with Christ daily that holiness and unity flows.
We are one, not because of our work, nor are we holy because we decided to be holy. We find our unity, our eternal life, in God, in His making us His people.
All because God the Father send Jesus to us, to claim us for we are His.
For jesus Christ was born of Mary, was crucified, died and Alleluia! He is risen! (let them answer) and therefore ( We are risen indeed.)
Hear it as Paul wrote to the churches in Colossae,
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)
So treasure the eternal life you’ve been given, know the blessings of God revealing that you are His children, His people, and be confident, that you are kept in Christ and we are one in Him! To sum it up,
He is Risen, and therefore We are His!
He is Risen! Therefore…
Why are you standing around?
In Jesus Name
May you go out from this place, realizing that the grace, mercy and peace of God is with you, with the understanding that is it more glorious when you share it with others!
The Memorial Acclimation:
The words are familiar…..
“Christ has died! Christ has Risen, Christ will come again!”
At least, they should be to those of us who regularly gather here. We say something like them when we testify of our faith, using the words of the Creed. We sing them occasionally, too, when Chris puts the Memorial Acclimation in the service.
How often do we do those things anyways? ( both every week, twice in lent and advent!)
Yet I wonder if we hear them, when we do?
I think we get that He has died, for we celebrate that constantly. And that He is Risen? (He has Risen Indeed, Alleluia! And therefore We are risen indeed!)
But what about that last part, words similar to those two men, who spoke to the disciples, while they were just staring off into, well as they were staring off into space.
They ended the discussion with these words, “but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Do we hear those words? I mean, not just like hearing them as the sound waves travel in one ear and out the other. But hearing those words, and having them stick to our very soul. Do we hear that Jesus Christ will come again? Do we know it, count on it, live our lives in view of it?
Or do we need to hear the first words of the two men in white….
Men, why are you standing here, staring into heaven?
But why do we stand around like the apostles?
As I read the entire story, recorded by Luke for his friend, Theophilus, I wonder about these apostles, and I guess I am not surprised by their standing around. They weren’t the quickest to understand something.
in verse 2, we see that Jesus, in the forty days he walked with the apostles, had to prove to them in many ways that he was alive. That just seems more unbelievable than believing that someone could rise from the dead in the first place!
In the upper room twice, on the shores of Lake Galilee, appearing to Peter one other time, and I imagine that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 as Paul writes about, some of the apostles were probably there!
Yet he still has to teach them, proving to them He was alive! Even that day, for Matthew 28 says, “Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Matthew 28:16-17 (NLT)
It seems strange, that these men who walked with Jesus more than three years, who saw His wounds, who saw Him heal, who heard Him teach would still struggle to put together everything. Yet in those forty days, Jesus continued to invest Himself in His chosen men.
He went over the same lessons that He taught them prior to the cross, At least four times Jesus talked about the coming of God’s kingdom, and that it wasn’t known until it was revealed. At the last supper it was an issue, and here at the ascension, it still is! “When will we see you reigning over the world Lord?” they asked.
Maybe we still do?
Among the things He kept teaching them, indeed twice in this passage, is that they would be His witnesses. He had to keep letting them know that they would testify of what people needed to know about Jesus, to the world. He actually commissions them to this in verse 2, and then reminds them again in verse 8!
Yet, after all that, they are standing around, staring up into space?
Is it any wonder that we have the same issues today?
If we are like the apostles, what made a difference in their lives will make a difference in our lives, as we become witnesses of His to this world.
You see in the middle of the passage – Jesus reminds them that they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. That the Holy Spirit will come into their lives, and that this is the reason they will be able to tell people about His life, his death, resurrection and that He is coming back.
That is part of what Jesus taught them, about the role of the Holy Spirit. In John 14, Jesus promised,
25 “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)
This includes us by the way, for even as the Apostles were baptized in the Spirit, so were you and I, when we were baptized in Christ. That what these apostles heard and saw, over and over, we too will recall. Prodded by the Holy Spirit, and those messengers that might just say to us, “why are you standing here, looking into space?”
Sharing our faith isn’t about the law – a duty enforced on us, any more than having the grace of God our father, the love and mercy show to us in Christ is. It is what happens when Jesus is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, as we are continually taught about that love and mercy, and the Kingdom of God, and the day we shall see it.
It is what we are commissioned to do, because we are the children of God, sent into places like Cerritos, and Downey, La Palma and Buena Park and Lakewood. Sent to places like China, or the Philippines or Northern California, or even the doctor’s office or Walmart, to be His witnesses.
Even as we are in awe of God’s presence among us, even as we consider that Christ has Died, Christ has risen (wait for it), and yes, He will come again…….even as all that goes through our mind, it is time to stop standing around, and it is time to bring the news of God’s love to this lost and broken world.
We can do it, because we know that we dwell in the peace of God that passes all understanding, a peace in which Christ guards our hearts and minds… and therefore, we don’t have to just stand around!
Alleluia! He is Risen! And Therefore
We Recognize the Lord!
May you become more aware of the grace of God that is yours, the love and mercy revealed in Christ Jesus!
Why didn’t He Reveal Himself Sooner?
Two men, walking down the road together, trying to get home for dinner.
Distraught, emotions all over the place as they try to make sense of Jesus’s death. Emotionally drained, they desperately need rest.
Even as Jesus begins to walk with them, He will comment about the deep discussion they are having, which leads me to one question.
Why does He wait so long to reveal Himself to them? Why?
Or is there a lesson for us, in how Jesus ministers to these men, who are crushed and broken
including perhaps, realizing how God ministers to us?
Our Struggle to Hear God!
It seems sometimes, like everyone has gone, or is going through a walk like these men.
You don’t even have to hear their voices, to hear the stress, the anxiety, the despair as they speak.
The Man they thought was the answer not to just their dreams, but the dreams of a nation. The Messiah, the long awaited anointed one of God, who was to deliver them to change their lives, to fix everything, from their economy to their families.
They had the kind of dreams that we see in one of those California Lottery commercials, as the winner dreams of the new yacht, the chaffered limousine, the mansion up on the hill with the heliport.
Except, the odds of Jesus being the Messiah were about a trillion to one better than the lottery. You see, as they informed “undercover Jesus”, they had based their hopes on the fact that Jesus had done miracles, and had talked with great authority. That He was a leader, confirmed not only by people, but by God himself. Blind could see, people who never walked, completely healed, those who had been dead, raised to life. Even the Samaritans and Gentiles knew hope because of Jesus. It had to be him.
They knew that Jesus spoke for God.
Then, they killed him.
If that isn’t a reason to put your trust in Him, to look for Him to fulfil the promises that were so well known, the promises they heard about in their synagogues ever Sabbath all their lives…
Those hopes, those expectations, everything they know about the Messiah, were crushed. Everything they had hoped for, taken away in a few hours on Friday…
So why didn’t Jesus relieve their suffering, calm their storm by simply revealing His presence?
Yet God hid himself, even though they saw Jesus, they didn’t know Him….
Who Are These Two That Hear the Whole Story?
Beyond that question, I have another question about these two men, walking so defeated, so overwhelmed on the road to Emmaus. Why them? Why do they get to hear Jesus explain they entire Old Testament?
Shouldn’t it be Matthew or John? They will be writing the Gospels…
Shouldn’t it be Peter and James? Why aren’t the leaders of the apostles
Why Cleopas and some guy we don’t even know the name of?
Why did Jesus choose to minister to these two? Having chosen them, why didn’t He reveal Himself sooner? Why did Jesus deliver to them a lecture about the Old Testament, instead of simply revealing Himself so that their pain would cease?
The Story Reveals
When we hear, that over several hours as they walk, Jesus explained that everything from the first five books of the Bible that Moses wrote, through all of the prophets, we have to hear the conclusion that is drawn. Look there in verse 27, the things concerning Him. Jesus explains that the Bible is all about Him. That is what it reveals, or rather, who it reveals.
In this way the Lord shows us the proper method of interpreting Moses and all the prophets. He teaches us that Moses points and refers to Christ in all his stories and illustrations. His purpose is to show that Christ is the point at the center of a circle, with all eyes inside the circle focused on Him. Whoever turns his eyes on Him finds his proper place in the circle of which Christ is the center. All the stories of Holy Writ, if viewed aright, point to Christ.
What these men needed to know, was that Christ’s death was from the beginning, the plan. Jesus had to suffer, Jesus explains, it needed to be done. Over and over that was the plan revealed in the Old Testament. The word of God, the Old Testament Covenant promises, the Old Testament pictures of Christ like Isaac on the altar, the sacrificial system, the picture of the tabernacle and the temple and the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea….
They needed Jesus to be revealed to them, and He was. Not the way we would expect at first. Rather, they learned that God had planned, from before the foundation of the world, to have Christ suffer and die. It was necessary, it wasn’t a detour, but the very way in which we are saved. They needed to understand this, so that they understand the depth of the love of God for His people.
Jesus taught them, He revealed Himself to them, without revealing Himself to them.
They couldn’t let Jesus leave. Not that they realized there was one revelation left that had to happen to them.
He Reveals Himself
That is where the most miraculous moment for these two men, and for all of us like them occurs.
Thanks is given, bread is broken, and even as they lose sight of Jesus, yet they finally know Him.
They realize He is with them, and all of the hopes and all of the blessings come flooding back. These men, moments before, weary, tired and broken, know Him in the breaking of the bread. The presence of Jesus overwhelms them, even as it gives them the strength to climb back up the mountain to return to the apostles. We aren’t talking about a hike from here to the Towne Center – we are talking about walking from here to Disneyland – if Disneyland was uphill.
Why didn’t Jesus reveal himself earlier?
I don’t know. What I do know is that when He did reveal himself, it was the perfect time, they had heard, they knew of His love. They got it, and their life was forever changed. Even as they confirm what the others had seen, had known, what matters in that moment, was Jesus appearing, and how they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
Why don’t we see God all the time? Why do we have to walk these roads, knowing the despair? Knowing the pain, and wondering, “where is God in all of this?”
I don’t know. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is here, with His people. But I don’t know why sometimes we walk that same road, not hearing the testimony of those we would normally trust.
I do know that we have all the same promises that God will redeem His people. We can know Christ through the pictures of Him that are drawn all over the Old Testament, We can hear all the prophecies and know that God has never, and will never abandon His people. We know He walks with us, even if we aren’t always aware of His presence.
We can recognize His presence, here and now, even in the breaking of the bread.
Knowing those promises, that God will use even what was planned for evil for good, that nothing can separate us from Him, that all will work for good, and that He will complete the work He began in us, we taste and see He is good. Our eyes are opened to His presence. We are 21 days out from Easter, yet the season continues. We know He is Risen – just as we have learned this has been His plan…. But because He is risen, we can recognize Him, we can know Him, and rest assured of His love and work that we shall know His peace, even now throughout all eternity.
A peace that goes beyond our understanding – but guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN?
He is Risen Indeed!
May we know the joy that is our because of Christ’s Birth, Death, Resurrection and Ascension as we look forward to His coming again
† IHS †
Pastor Parker Parable; Christmas is like Opening the batteries first.
It’s time for another Pastor Parker Parable!
Christmas is like opening the batteries first on Christmas Eve.
Obviously, I need to explain. Back when I was a child, it seemed to happen every year, Not sure whether by design or simply a coincidence, I would always get the package with the batteries in it among my first packages – right up there with the life-saver books and the socks.
You knew something special was coming, but what it is…. You had no clue.
As I think about it – it must have been by design, for whatever the batteries went to, was the last present you opened that year. One year that I remember, it was cassette recorder, another year, walkie-talkies, one year, it was a battery operated trainset.
But you had to wait, but the batteries were as sign of something even more awesome to come.
Christmas is like that…
It’s a glorious sign that there is more to come…
We look at we know something more is coming…
I always have a slight chuckle when I hear that Christmas is someone’s favorite holiday. Usually because I know that when I ask why, the answers might not have anything to do with Jesus, or at best they will be what I call the “fringe benefits” of Christmas. The gift giving, the family – all at peace for once, the decorations and bright lights. The music, the movies, the traditions.
Comparing that to my favorite Christian holiday seems bleak, because I like to celebrate Good Friday! It is my favorite, it is special because even as we do it, I am reminded that my sin was nailed to that rough old cross. That my brokenness is overwhelmed by God’s desire to fix what is broken, whether it is the relationship with one of my brother or my cousins, (usually because of their breaking my Christmas presents!)
It does seem a bit odd to like the holiday where Christ was crucified more than the one celebrating His birth, until we look at Christmas happening so Christ could be crucified, and then those words we love to hear – Alleluia! He has risen!
But what the present is, the glory that we are invited to share with Christ, that is the present, the reason for His coming, the point at which we find out how deep His love, and the Father’s love is for us.
Christmas – it’s what causes us to look forward to Good Friday and Easter, the greatest presents of all, as we find ourselves united to Christ, and sharing in His glory! AMEN?
Christmas is like the batteries, but the present is seen at the cross, when His love for us is made manifest.
We beheld His glory… not at His birth, but at His death and Resurrection.
In our gospel this morning, we heard of it all, we hear of the creation, of Jesus prior to birth, but then we hear this, the reason that Christmas is Christmas,
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. John 1:10-13 (NLT)
John will go on to say – and we beheld His glory….the glory of God’s only begotten son, the son who came to us, that we could be His sons and daughters, the glory of the one who not only died to make that so, but is risen.
So know this – this one we worship – who is pictured here in this manger, Alleluia, He is Risen… and Alleluia He is with us. AMEN!