“Peace” 3-27-16

Acts 2:14, 22-32          John 20:19-31


          On that first Easter Sunday…as Mary cried “Rabboni” after Christ had called her name…she apparently threw her arms around Jesus.  But…Jesus cautioned her to not cling to him.  He wanted her to realize that a new relationship was in the process of being established.  The comfort that awaited Mary and her friends…that exists for you and me…was far more than his physical presence could ever give.

It is very significant that here…as in the other three Gospels…Christ first appears to the woman Mary Magdalene…not to an apostle…not to the great in society or those with strong faith…but to a particular woman.  Christ appeared first to one who in the culture of the time was oppressed…a woman who had known great sin.  What a great comfort it should be to us that Christ always comes first to the poor in spirit.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  That truth will never change.


            How must Mary have felt at that moment?  She had been on an emotional roller coaster for days…and now she was deliriously at the top.  Off she went on another cross-country run to the disciples.  It must have been very satisfying to say to the disciples…”Say…Peter…John…men…I have something to tell you…I’ve seen Jesus.”

What a day it had been.  Multiple trips to the tomb.  Multiple retellings.  The report of the encounter on the road to Emmaus.  Dark threats and rumors too.  By now it was Sunday evening.  Despite all the excitement…the band of apostles was afraid…and so…in a private room…behind closed doors…they sat together to try to sort it all out.

Suddenly…Jesus appeared to the disciples.  He was in their midst though no one had opened the door.  Hearts raced.  Adrenaline flowed.  Goose bumps appeared on goose bumps.  Jesus greeted them…”Peace…Peace be with you.”  Jesus then displayed his hands and his side.  The disciples were overjoyed.

What a day!  Without a doubt it was the most dramatic day in the history of the world.  But one disciple had missed the whole thing.  Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

Now…we all deal with our emotions differently…and perhaps Thomas’ grief had driven him to go elsewhere to be by himself.  He was not a coward.  He was the man who said…”Let us also go…that we may die with him.”…and he meant it.  He had probably simply broken down under the pressure of the last few days…and his way of dealing with problems was to be alone.  He was not a person to act like he believed when he really did not.  So…when the other disciples approached him saying…”We have seen the Lord!” Thomas answered…

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were…and put my hands into his side, I will not believe it.”  (John 19:25)

Some say Thomas spoke for the whole world…people who say…”Give me scientific or physical proof and I’ll believe!”  I am not so sure.  Sometimes I think the world’s view is more like this…”Show me the facts, and I’ll invent another theory.

Years ago Hugh Schoenfeld wrote a book entitled “The Passover Plot”.  This book popularized the ancient swoon theory.  That theory claims Jesus had not actually died but was unconscious when they placed him in the tomb.  While he lay there…unconscious…the spices and linen bandages provided a helpful dressing for his injuries.  Finally…the dampness of the tomb revived him and allowed the resurrection hoax to take place.  Aside from ignoring the testimony of the Gospels…that the soldiers…hard-boiled professionals…proclaimed him dead…that no human could survive the process of torture and execution as the Gospels describe…this theory creates more problems than it solves.

Others say the body was stolen by either Christ’s enemies or his disciples.  Either alternative is a psychological absurdity.  His enemies would not have wanted to encourage belief in his resurrection…and his disciples could never have accomplished it.  Besides…they not only believed and preached the resurrection…disciples died for it.  Who would die for a lie?

The difficulties of belief may be great for some…but the absurdities of unbelief are even greater.  The liabilities of unbelief are also much greater…for those who reject the resurrected Christ will never rise to eternal life with him but will instead spend an eternity separated from God because of their delusion.

God blessed us with a remedy for Thomas that is also a remedy for us and those we encounter.  The Lord gave Thomas time to think about the situation…eight days to be exact…and Thomas did just that.  He was fellowshipping with the apostles…a week later…

“Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:27-28)

Thomas may have been slow to believe…but he was not slow to grasp the meaning of Christ’s resurrection.  Jesus was not only his Lord…but his God.  The evidence could be felt…it was substantial and clear.  Thomas’ faith rested on a solid rock.

What about us…and those we encounter?  The evidence is still just as substantial and clear.  In believing there is always room for more…it is not a ship of fools.  We have the prophetic sermons…those that Peter quoted…to confirm faith.  We have the testimony of the resurrected lives…as Peter told the crowd.  And…the 20th century American novelist and poet…John Updike gave us strong words of proof in his poem…”Seven Stanzas of Easter”

Make no mistake: if he rose at all

It was as his body;

If the cells dissolution did not reverse, the

Molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

The Church will fall.

And Charles Wesley reminds us so that we can…with joyous music…tell all … like Peter did …in the hymn that’s first in our United Methodist Hymnal…”O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.

My gracious master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of thy name.

Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows to cease, tis music in the sinner’s ears, tis life and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free; his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me.

Yes…the blood of our Lord and Savior…availed for you and for me!

The Lord gave one final blessing on those who do not see and yet believe.  We have great joy now…and will someday share in the likeness of his resurrection.  In the words of Joni Eareckson Tada…a world class competitive snow skier who lost the use of her arms and legs in a skiing accident…from her wheelchair…she says…”I know the meaning of that now.  It’s that time after my death when I’ll be on my feet dancing.”

Let us prepare for the dancing…prepare by using our tongues…to share the joy and peace that come with belief…not just on this special day…but every day…let us share with all the good news.

He’s alive!

Let us accept the peace that Jesus offers…and greet everyone as Jesus offered…”Peace…peace be with you.”



Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 John 20:1-18

On this special day…when we celebrate the miracle of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…the ultimate victory over death…and like the early Christians we boldly proclaim “He’s Alive!” let’s start with a learned observation based on a more recent story.

Dallas Willard…a professor at the University of Southern California School of Philosophy…has written a book entitled Divine Conspiracy.  He calls it a “…guide to living the life Jesus intends for us.”

Professor Willard starts with this story.  ”Recently a pilot was practicing high-speed maneuvers in a jet fighter.  She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent…and flew straight into the ground.  She was unaware that she was flying upside down.”

Now…he offers this observation.  “This”…he wrote…”is a parable of human existence in our times—not exactly that everyone is crashing, though there is enough of that—but most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up.  Indeed we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference—or at least that it is unknown or irrelevant.”

That’s the way it was for the disciples…and Jesus’ followers…during the week we call Holy Week.  Jesus led them triumphantly into Jerusalem on Sunday…riding a donkey colt…just as had been prophesied.  But…on Friday…just as the psalmist had prophesied a thousand years earlier…Jesus cried out from the cross…”My God…My God…why have you forsaken me”…as the soldiers cast lots for his garments.  Later that day Jesus was buried in a tomb…believed gone forever…and the disciples were hiding in fear of the authorities.

The builders had rejected the stone.

Because of that, the disciples did not know whether they were flying right-side up or upside down…just as Professor Willard described people in our world today.  Bearings out of whack!  Don’t know what to believe!  People in leadership positions…or trying to be in leadership positions taking liberties with the truth in order to achieve their goals.

John…the Gospel writer…at the end of the chapter we heard a few minutes ago…wrote these words…”…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  In Mary Magdalene and John himself…we have strong proof of belief.  In their story we have strong proof of the truth…a truth…that we must…as Mary did…GO and tell others.

First…there was John…the disciple whom Jesus loved.   John is one of the most important figures in this story.  He looks into the tomb, sees the evidence, and believes.  While not seeing the resurrected Jesus, he sees what has been left behind; he sees the remnants of divine activity in history in stone and fabric and immediately decides to believe.

In his Gospel…John has provided us with the best evidence he can muster to persuade us that belief is not only a reasonable choice, but a necessary decision if we are going to follow Jesus.  Jesus is not just an idea.  He is a person, God incarnate…in the flesh…in human history, and in coming into history he has left marks that we can see and measure and trust.  The resurrection is the capstone that demonstrates the reality of what has happened since the moment of incarnation.

Though Mary was the first person to have seen the risen Christ….at first she could not see Jesus because of her tears.  She was like the pilot…flying upside down and not realizing it.  Her grief kept her from seeing the joy that was being offered.  Do we sometimes let our reactions to the events in our day get in the way of seeing the joy that could be ours?

Also, she could not recognize Jesus because she had turned her back to him to look into the tomb.  She was looking in the wrong direction.  Do we find ourselves and others doing the same?  Do we turn in the direction of clever politicians… business leaders…television heroes and heroines …athletes…and others…to find comfort and direction…often the wrong direction?

But…when Jesus called…Mary recognized him.  She probably attempted to throw her arms around him…as we would when we encounter someone who we felt had been lost from our life.  Jesus told her not to hang on to him.  Jesus wanted Mary to understand that a deep change was taking place in their relationship…and in his being.  Jesus was going to leave them physically…but would be with them through the Holy Spirit.  He asked Mary to go to the disciples and tell them the good news…that he had arisen and that he was returning to them.  He was returning to create a new intimacy with them…a spiritual intimacy…an intimacy that lives to this day…with you and with me.

Let us pause to note something quite significant here.  The resurrected Jesus first appeared to this woman…Mary Magdalene…not to one of the apostles…not to someone significant in society.  He appeared first to someone whom society had oppressed…a woman who had sinned greatly.  In this Christ demonstrated his promise.  “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  He brought that kingdom directly to Mary.  He’s calling you and me, too…in order to bring his ministry to us…so that ministry is taken to others through us.

Mary was now piloting right-side-up.  She ran to tell the others what she had seen.  She had seen the Lord.

Let me share some of today’s reality and ask if we might apply lessons from Mary in order to fly right side up in our world.

When I was ten years old a boy named Mikhail showed up in my classroom weeks after the school year had begun.  He was one of three children of a couple who were refugees from war-torn Hungary.  His dad had been a doctor in Hungary.  His mom had been a teacher.  All that they possessed when they arrived in Syracuse, New York that fall was the clothes they were wearing.  They didn’t even have a change of clothing.

My classmates and I embraced Mikhail.  His family was embraced by a church.  They were supported and guided in making their transition.  Mikhail’s dad eventually became a nurse in one of the hospitals.  His mom got work as an elementary school teacher.

Mikhail grew to become the chief executive of a very large company…and from his earnings he contributed generously to the church that had supported and guided his family…and to the university that provided him an education.  He died a couple years ago…leaving a significant estate.  His widow is well cared for…and the university and church have received significant gifts from his estate.

The first church I attended when I moved to Greenville in 1981…Aldersgate United Methodist Church…was in the process of adopting a family of refugees from war-torn Viet Nam.  This family of seven had nothing when they arrived…other than the clothing the church had provided them.  The church provided them guidance and support.  This family of seven has grown…two generations have been added…and they are contributing greatly to OUR community.

Today millions of people are now refugees from war-torn Syria…escaping only with their damaged lives and the clothing on their backs.  Nearly 20-million others are refugees from starvation in several lands.

Yet…in our nation and neighborhoods today …a nation that was started by refugees trying to escape the tyranny of a king…neighborhoods prospering because of the toil of people who were once refugees…a nation often claiming a  Christian heritage…many are saying we should not allow any of those refugees to enter our country.

Our neighbor to the north…Canada…is prospering with an entirely different welcoming attitude.

We see reports routinely of children whose primary language is English…who have grown up in our neighborhoods…coping with the loss of their parents and grandparents through deportation.  The only crime those adults committed in all of their years as our neighbors was crossing a man-made line to build a better life for their children and for the community in which they lived and worked.

How many hurting and hungry people did Jesus turn away?  How many of those who were trying to improve their family’s lives did he send away?

It’s about Xenophobia…and people playing off that terrible disease.  Xenophobia is the big word that means fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.  It’s a fear that has no reason for existing…but it does…and some of our leaders…wannabe leaders…and neighbors are playing on that fear to further their cause.

Are we going to be like Mary that first Easter morning?  Are we going to be so fearful that our eyes tear up and we can’t see Jesus wanting us to reach out to these people?  Are we going to look in the wrong direction…toward the noisy…fear-mongering leaders?

Or are we going to take the good news of Christ and his love to our upside-down world?  We have a significant ministry opportunity here…just as Mary had a significant ministry opportunity.

You may ask if I’m suggesting we adopt one of these families.  That’s a major undertaking…but a group of churches and non-profit organizations in the Upstate is working to make that happen.  We certainly could join their effort.

Each of us can…and should…have a more immediate ministry impact.  Instead of being fearful…let’s get to know a refugee or someone who is different.  You’ll find in doing so that your eyes might fill with tears…but they’ll be tears of joy as you hear the stories of the many obstacles these brave folks have overcome and the stories of those who aided them along the way…who showed them Christ…Christ inside them…Christ inside each of us.

Instead of looking in the wrong direction…to those who play upon fears let us speak up and tell them…and those who support them what we think Christ would do…the love he would share…the support he would offer…the hands he would reach out.   We are among those people the fear-mongers are asking to support them.  We are among those who influence our families…our neighbors and those who’ve been chosen to lead us.  Fly right side up and influence them as Christ would have us do.

Professor Willard is right in saying that much of the world is without clear knowledge of whether they are right-side-up or upside-down.  Because of this many will crash in some way.  Despite being in that same condition the disciples’ world was righted…because Mary had gone to them with the message.  She was in personal ministry with them.

Ministry is not a passive activity.  Ministry is not just sitting in a pew on Sunday and at the lesson on Wednesday.  Ministry is not just writing a check.  Ministry is the interaction of persons…each of us with someone else…just like the ministry of Mary to the disciples.

Let us be like Mary…let us go…leave this sanctuary today…celebrating not just for ourselves…and with our family and friends.  Let us do as Mary did…joyously taking the same message to others we encounter.

Let us show how the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone of our lives and our living.

To whom can we go to tell the good news…  to whom can we go to live the good news in ministry with them…to share the Christ inside us?

You see…in each of us…He’s Alive!



Isaiah 50:4-9      Mark 11:1-11


            “Hosanna!  Hosanna!”   The crowds shouted “Hosanna!”  In the Hebrew of the day they were asking the king to save them…just as the woman from Tekoa pleaded with King David (2 Samuel 14:4) and another woman pleaded with another king of Israel at the time of great famine (2 Kings 6:26).

The crowd had heard of Jesus.  Word had spread throughout Jerusalem of his teaching and his miracles.  Days earlier he had raised Lazarus from the dead.  He had given sight to blind Bartimaeus.  Now…there he was…the man they had come to believe was the Son of David…the messiah who would mount a mighty army to overcome the oppressive rule of the Roman Caesars.

Yet…this man they hailed with cries of Hosanna…rode into town on a donkey…not just any donkey…a donkey that had never been ridden before.  In those days a man riding on a donkey symbolized someone who had come in peace…not to lead a mighty army.  Jesus…riding on the donkey…also fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah. (Zechariah 9:9)

The people threw their cloaks on the ground under the donkey’s hooves.  They threw palm leaves onto the ground as Jesus traveled forward on the donkey.  They did the same thing their forefathers had done a century and a half earlier when Judas Maccabaeus had led a revolt against the ruling empire.  He was hailed as one of the great Jewish military heroes.  The crowd thought another revolution leader was there…right there in front of  them.

Let’s stop here…ask and answer a question.  The question is this.  “Why are our ears on the outside of our head and not on the inside?  Why did God make us that way?”           Perhaps we can start to answer that question by asking this question.  “Who would we hear if our ears were on the inside of our head?”

Of course…if our ears were on the inside of our head…the only sound we would hear is ourselves.  God put our ears on the outside of our heads so we could hear God…and others.

The problem with the people in Jerusalem that day is that somehow their ears had been misplaced.  It wasn’t something new for them.  Where are our ears today?  What are we hearing?  Are we listening only to ourselves?  Are we listening only to those we see as just like us?  What are we missing…or misunderstanding when we do so?

The problem of misplaced ears was something that Isaiah understood.  Almost four hundred times in the Old Testament…including the words spoken by Isaiah…we hear the promise of the coming of God.  Through God’s prophets we learned much about how he would come…and what would happen when he got here.

Somehow the Israelites thought it would be all peaches and cream…an easy path forward for them when God arrived…when the messiah got here.  It’s not only that they just didn’t hear… they listened to themselves instead.

Isaiah made it clear that he had been given a well-taught tongue to encourage the tired Israelites.  Isaiah made it clear that God had opened his ears to hear God.  And…Isaiah made it clear that he didn’t back away…didn’t pull the covers over his head and go back to sleep to dream of better…easier ways.

Isaiah spoke about the servant of the Master….God.  Isaiah was speaking about himself…and about the coming Messiah.   Isaiah was telling them that the Sovereign Lord has both the power and the will to deliver his people from their sin through the obedience of his Servant, even if it means the Servant must suffer to accomplish the sovereign Lord’s purpose.   Through the servant God would deliver his people from their sin…even though the people had fallen into sin after they had turned their own ears to the inside of their heads.

Isaiah went on to say no one would be able to successfully accuse the servant of either disobeying God or of falsifying the message.  No one would be able to change the servant’s message by beating him or pulling out his beard to make him stop obeying his Lord.  In fact his accusers would be unable to stand at the end.

Though the servant would face such abuse and ridicule there was certainty…no question about it…the Lord would save him in the end.  That certainty gave the servant the courage to be obedient.

That certainty gave Isaiah the courage to spread God’s word to all…including those who had turned their ears to the inside…those who were groping in the dark.  For them…and to them…he said “Trust in God.”  Yes…even in the darkness.

You and I often live in perplexity.  It might even seem like there’s no way out.  The fact that we’re perplexed and seem at a dead end doesn’t mean we aren’t obeying God.  Faith…trust in God… overcomes the darkness.  Those dark times are what faith is for.   When nothing else in our experience makes sense…when we have no visible path forward and everything seems to be closing in around us…what should we do?

We should take our stand on the revealed character of God…revealed through the Word of God…revealed through Isaiah…revealed through Jesus Christ.   We should keep going in his will…one step at a time.  We should announce to ourselves again and again the promises of the gospel.  This…and only this…is a time when it’s okay if our ears are facing the inside.

The darkness described by Isaiah is the courageous… hard path of obedience to the Lord.  God did not promise that we would never be confused and distraught.  If He didn’t give that easy path to Isaiah…if He didn’t give that easy path to his own son…why should we expect it.   He did promise…however… that he would never leave us or forsake us.  Even when we can’t see Him…He does surround us…guard us and lead us forward.  Listening to the Word of God…listening to Christ rather than to ourselves is a startling way to live…the only way to live…to live…not just exist.  No one likes darkness, and there are so many lights out there to live by…so many voices to hear…even our own.

Making sure our ears are turned outward…not inward…is the beginning.  Knowing that the path will be troubled…that there will be times of darkness… as it was for Isaiah…as it was for Jesus…adds to our strength…and trusting that God is with us…even in that darkness…will assure us that there is a response to our own “Hosanna!”…our own plea to be saved.

On that day…in Jerusalem…the crowd shouted, “Hosanna!  Save us!”  They were thinking that Jesus had come to save them from their political enemies.  What they needed most…what we need most…is for Jesus to save us from ourselves.  Human nature and aspirations have changed very little over the years.  That day that they threw their cloaks under the donkey’s hooves…threw palms on the path for Jesus…and what happened in the week that followed…revealed what still exists today.   We still need saving… saving from at least three things.

  1. We must be saved from a rabid…petty… selfish and fear-filled…nationalism that divides the world into tiny enclaves…nations and territories set against one another.  Jesus did not come to fulfill anyone’s political agenda.  In fact…as our judge, he may condemn such agendas as he did at the temple in Jerusalem.  Amazingly…people still drape Jesus in nationalist flags and assume that he not only endorses their political slogans but will work to accomplish them.  The one who came to Jerusalem came as the king of the entire world and died for all people.  His people…His people…will not be…are not…confined to any one nation.  His sacrificial love will reach beyond all national borders and races.
  2. We must also be saved from a mercurial faith that abandons Jesus at the first sign of trouble.  Jesus does not welcome cheers from throngs along a parade route who will not pray with him in dark Gethsemane or go with him to an even darker Golgotha.  He loves but wonders about those Christians who show up once a year when the cheering starts around Easter.  He needs those who will endure to the end, even when faced with unspeakable suffering.
  3. We must be saved from foolish expectations of personal glory so that we can see God’s power truly brought about on the cross.  God does not win by sending armies into bloody battles but by sending his Son to the cross.  As a king who gives his life for others Jesus reigns with a kind of power that earthly kings…or presidents…cannot match.

As we shout “Hosanna!” today…as we plead “Save me!”…in which direction are our ears turned?

Inward…to our own fears…prejudices…anxieties and uncertainties and doubts.  Or…outward to the hope…comfort…security and love for all that comes from our Lord and Savior…Jesus Christ?

To Fulfill

“To Fulfill”

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29          Matthew 21:1-11


Next Sunday is what we call Palm Sunday…the day that marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Some call it Passion Week.  It’s the time we recognize the last week that Jesus spent on earth as God in the flesh.

In January I was blessed to be among a group of Greenville area Christians who heard the lead preacher…lay persons…and our tour guide tell the story we have just heard in Matthew…in Jerusalem…walking the path that Jesus took on that very first Palm Sunday.

We’d walk a short distance…stop as the guide pointed out a site…and heard someone read verses from Matthew…Mark…Luke…John and the Old Testament…that were appropriate to the place we had stopped.  It was a heartwarming and inspiring experience…to hear the story of our Savior and to walk the path He had walked.  I encourage everyone to find a way to do the same.

However…we don’t have to go to Jerusalem to be inspired…to believe…and to share the great Good News of Jesus Christ.  Matthew’s story should inspire and show us how to share the Good news with others.

Matthew wrote his Gospel to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.  One of the tools he used was the words of the prophets.  More than once he clearly pointed out that something occurred in order to fulfill the prophecies.  Yet today there are still some who are not convinced.

Today…let’s look at some of the events of Holy Week as Matthew described them…and walk away inspired and prepared to share the story with others…so that we may fulfill Jesus’ command to go and teach…and to fulfill our prayer…that we may be for the world the body of Christ

On the Saturday before the start of Holy Week Jesus and the disciples arrived in Bethany…the home of Lazarus.  Lazarus was the man that Jesus raised from his tomb after Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Lazarus joined them for dinner that night…a dinner at which Mary used the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet.  Though nothing occurred to show that his death was imminent, Jesus told Judas that she was anointing his feet in preparation for Jesus’ burial…a prophecy soon to be fulfilled.

The next day…Sunday…Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem.  It wasn’t a quiet walk into the city.  It was a triumphant procession…with Jesus riding on the back of a donkey colt.  Jesus was the first person to ever ride that colt.  It was just as Zechariah had spoken about five hundred years earlier…a prophecy fulfilled.

That afternoon Jesus went to the Temple.  He looked around.  He did not like what He saw.  Traders were in the Temple…buying and selling at high prices animals to be used for sacrifices.  Jesus cleared them from the Temple…telling them as Isaiah had more than six hundred years earlier…”My Temple will be called a house of prayer.”…a prophecy fulfilled.    Instead the traders had turned it into what Jesus called a “den of thieves.”  After clearing the Temple Jesus healed the blind and lame who went to him.

On Monday morning Jesus started out for the Temple again.  He was hungry.  There was a fig tree at the side of the road.  But…as Jesus approached it he discovered that it only had leaves…no fruit.  He cursed the tree…saying…”May you never bear fruit again.”  The tree withered immediately and died.  Jesus told the still questioning disciples that if they had faith with no doubts that they…too…could perform miracles as Jesus did.

It was on Tuesday…while Jesus was teaching in His Temple…that the leading priests and elders went to him.  They challenged his authority to teach…preach…and perform miraculous healing.  He stumped their brightest with a simple question that put them in a political tizzy.  He also shared a pair of parables.   Then he warned them with the words of the Psalm that David had written nearly a thousand years earlier…a prophecy fulfilled.

That night Jesus and the disciples gathered on the Mount of Olives.  He preached to them of the end times to come…when the Temple…standing tall in front of them…would be demolished…when they would be persecuted…the coming of false messiahs.  He told them of other things to come…some things that you and I have learned happened at a later time.  He warned them with the words of Isaiah…from several hundred years earlier…prophecies fulfilled.

Wednesday was a quiet day.  Jesus and the disciples remained in Bethany for a last time of fellowship.  However…that night…Judas…made arrangements with the religious leaders to betray Jesus to them.

On Thursday they prepared for…then participated in…the traditional Passover meal.  This is the meal that has become known as the Last Supper…that we will celebrate this morning.  It was at this meal that Jesus told them it would be their last together.  He told them to eat the bread…as it was his body…and to drink the wine… as it was his blood.   He also told them that one of them would betray him…a prophecy later fulfilled.

Late that night…perhaps after midnight…into Friday morning…Judas betrayed Jesus.  Jesus was first tried by the Jews…then by the Romans.  When the Roman governor…Pontius Pilate…said he found no reason to punish Jesus…but that he would give the Jews the opportunity to choose freedom for Jesus or Barabbas…the crowd chose Barabbas…and told Pilate to crucify Jesus.

As the Psalmist wrote…a thousand years earlier…while Jesus was dying on the cross the soldiers gambled for his clothing.  Jesus…with nearly his last breath…cried as the Psalmist had done…”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…a prophecy fulfilled.

When Jesus’ last breath had been breathed the sky was dark…an earthquake occurred…tombs opened…and the curtain in the Temple was torn in half.  The Roman officer and other soldiers at the crucifixion agreed…”This man truly was the Son of God.”

As we have taken this brief walk through Holy Week with Jesus…my prayer is that we are a bit more firm in knowing that there is clear historical evidence of the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I pray also that we might understand the fear of the disciples more clearly.

          We…in our own lifetimes…have seen what happens when people harden their hearts and pursue their own agenda rather than opening their hearts to the leading of Jesus and the Spirit.

Matthew told us how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies…so that…like the early disciples…we would believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  I pray that our brief walk through Holy Week has reinforced that proof…so that we can be among those who are convinced…who fulfill Jesus’ last command…to go and make disciples…to be for the world…the body of Christ…to fulfill our promise to Him as He has fulfilled his promise to each of us.