CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE RESURRECTED CHRIST!

Christ has just risen. Whom do you expect him to see? How about showing up at the Sanhedrin? Or to Pilate? That isn’t the way Jesus operates. We learn about Jesus  by seeing the people He meets up with.

MARY MAGDALENE

Christ had cast seven demons out of Mary. Her devotion went beyond helping him in life–she and other women wanted to help him in death. Peter and John saw the empty tomb, and left in a hurry to report. Mary lingered. Jesus comes to her in her sorrow. Disillusioned, she does not even look up when asked why she is weeping. When the stranger calls her name, she knows. She is honored for her devotion by being the first to see the risen Christ. In her grief she is still giving to her Lord. In your sorrow, minister to your Lord even then. He will not disappoint you.

THE OTHER WOMEN

The first two groups to see Jesus are women, the less important of their day. The disciples showed how much they respected them, refusing to believe. They had come to pay homage to the dead–and they ended up worshiping the living Lord. Jesus had much more regard for them than the disciples. It is never in vain to silently serve our Lord.

PETER

Satan had sifted him and he was devastated. High hopes turned to failure. Now the words stung, “You will deny me three times.” And his own words, “I never knew the man.” No chance of recovery; his Lord was dead. He raced to the tomb when the women spoke of meeting angels in hope against hope. Perhaps on his way home the risen Christ appears. Jesus is caring for one of his soldiers, wounded in battle. There is a place for failures in God’s program. Jesus comes not to rebuke but to reinstate. Christ gives hope to this sifting sand–and he becomes a rock. Weeks later Peter boldly proclaims the resurrection against the threat of persecution. Have you failed the Lord? Believe that he comes to you. Angels told the women, “Go tell his disciples and Peter.” He has you on his mind.

EMMAUS DISCIPLES

For two men, the seven-mile trek from Jerusalem to Emmaus was the longest it had ever been. They told the stranger, “We had hoped…” Death buried their longings. Scripture had clearly pointed out the suffering and the glory, but they were conditioned only for the glory road. Guess who’s coming for dinner. They invite the well-informed visitor. At table he blesses the bread, their hearts began to burn–and he’s gone. He comes–through Word, through sacrament–to chase away gloom and reveal his glory. Believe him in the mystery of his presence–and watch him lift your hopes.

THE DISCIPLES MINUS THOMAS

Evening of the first new day. Christ appeared to Mary, the other women, Peter, and the Emmaus disciples. Ten disciples are still cowering in darkness behind locked doors. They had probably heard that Jesus might be alive, but they did not believe. They were not expecting him, and they sure hoped no one else would show up. Guess who does. Right through the locked door. What do you expect from the Lord who had been denied by his own, betrayed, forsaken? Instead of rejection they receive a blessing and a fresh commission: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21,22). How gracious of Jesus to call scared disciples who had lost their “sent.” No superstars on the Jesus team, only people like us, needy, fearful, doubtful–but now equipped to serve as powerful witnesses.(Longer blog than usual).

THE DISCIPLES INCLUDING THOMAS

One week later–same time, same house, same shut door. The still not too confident band gets another appearance from the Lord. This time he heads straight for Thomas. At the last meeting two were missing–one doubting and one dead. Thomas was a slow starter but loyal. Jesus did not commend his unbelief, but he converted it to faith, and Thomas declares powerfully, “My Lord and my God.” How kind of Jesus to pursue us in our darkness when clouds make it difficult to see. Thomas died as did all the disciples except John in a martyr’s death.

SEVEN AT THE SEA

Guess who’s coming for breakfast, the third encounter with a group of disciples. They have had a miserable night of fishing. It’s morning. I would not recommend asking dismal fishermen, “Have you caught anything?” Jesus does. Instructions from shore bring a huge catch–153. John recognizes Jesus, and Peter swims to shore, where a three-fold question erases the agony of denial. Jesus didn’t need to hear it–Peter did, and Jesus converted his loss to a gain–at the last breakfast!

FIVE HUNDRED

Paul, reviewing the encounters to establish the fact of the risen Christ, says that “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are alive, though some have fallen asleep” (I Cor.15:5). Marching orders. He will conduct a world-wide campaign from heaven. Either Jesus is dreaming, or this group is going to disciple the nations!

JAMES

Paul alone tells of an encounter between Jesus and his brother. They had lived under the same roof, “but his own received him not” (John 7:5). It took a personal appearance from brother Jesus, now a conqueror of death, to bring James to accepting the authority of the One he knew well. This pillar of the New Testament died a martyr’s death proclaiming his brother, his Lord!

THE APOSTLES AT ASCENSION DAY

In the final commissioning, Jesus reminds the apostles of the scope of the mission (the work), the nature of the call (be witnesses), and the promise of equipment (the Holy Spirit). Then he left. Read the book of Acts. They proclaimed the resurrection with authority. It worked. He was not a dead memory but a living, exalted Lord. His address changed from Nazareth to the Right Hand!

PAUL

After rehearsing Christ’s encounters as proof that he rose, Paul concluded, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:8-10). Do you know any people for whom you pray but find it difficult to see them in the kingdom? God’s power is greater than our doubt. He can take the hardest pagan and make him or her the softest sheep on his flock.

ME

But I say, “Last of all, he appeared to me.” Without his grace, I would not be experiencing his love today. He has convinced me that he is alive and Lord over all. I live daily in the joy of his presence. I say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

UP FOR A HOLY WEEK QUIZ?

I did a family quiz for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Great discussion starter for Holy Week with family or friends. Will send four pages of answers if you ask.

  1.  Name two prophecies that were fulfilled during Holy Week.
  2.  Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  3.  What does “Hosanna” mean?
  4.  What did Jesus do during Holy Week?
  5.  What day did Jesus have a healing service?
  6. Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?
  7. How did Jesus baffle the religious leaders in the questions they asked him?
  8. What different groups of religious leaders were arguing with Jesus during Holy Week?
  9. Why did the answer of Jesus regarding taxes stop the religious leaders: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:15-22).
  10. Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?
  11. How did Jesus describe the end times?
  12. How does Daniel, the letters of Paul, and Revelation support Christ’s end-time picture?
  13. Why did the leaders not want to arrest Jesus during the feast? Why then did it happen?
  14. Why was Jesus anointed by a woman at the home of Simon the leper?
  15. Why did Judas agree to betray Jesus?
  16. Why did Jesus “set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem?” (Luke 9:51).
  17. What did Jesus know about Jerusalem?
  18. What was the Passover meal? How did Jesus fulfill the Passover?
  19. Why did Caiaphas tear his robes when Jesus spoke about his return? What is the significance of that?
  20. When did it turn dark on the cross? How long was Jesus on the cross? From when to when?
  21. Name the seven words from the cross in order.
  22. Why did Jesus say to John, “Behold, your mother?”
  23. What was more difficult for Jesus on the cross–the physical or emotional suffering?
  24. Why did Jesus say, “I thirst,” when the battle was over?
  25. What was the significance of the hyssop branch used to give Jesus a drink?
  26. What was going on at the same time that Jesus was being crucified?
  27. What is the significance of the curtain being torn from top to bottom when Jesus died?
  28. What women were at the cross?
  29. Who buried Jesus? What is the significance of that? What time was Jesus buried?
  30. What is the significance of the guard placed at the tomb at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees to Pilate?
  31. How many earthquakes took place between the crucifixion and the resurrection and why is that significant?
  32. How many appearances did Jesus make after his resurrection and to whom? What did the resurrected Christ speak about?

                         

THE BURIAL OF JESUS–A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN

Billy Graham was given a beautiful funeral. No one attended the funeral of the Son of God. He didn’t have one. He almost didn’t have a burial, an important matter for Jews. A burial normally happened within twenty-four hours of a death. They were usually laid to rest, not buried underground as is done today.

 

In the case of a crucifixion, family members would request the body. Those without families were left for the birds, then thrown in the Valley of Gehenna, the smoldering garbage dump outside the city. Joseph spared the body of Jesus from such humiliation. Imagine the work of taking his body down, carrying it to the tomb, and cleaning the battered and bloodied body, then anointing it. Who did it?  Not the family, nor any of the Twelve. They were hiding. They were not thinking death, so neither did they think burial.

 

The man who buried Jesus. First, his name is Joseph, mentioned in all Gospels.  Second, he was rich, fulfilling scripture that “he was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (Isaiah 53:9). Third, he was “a prominent member of the Council” (Mk.15:43).  Everyone knew him, which makes his action all the more courageous. Jesus died on a public thoroughfare. Fourth, he “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” (v.43). John says that “Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (Jn.19:38).  Perhaps the death of Jesus upgraded his commitment.

 

The word would certainly get out that he had buried Jesus, ostracizing him from fellow-leaders, who may have killed him for it.  Mark and Luke say that (fifth) he was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” Just as there are a group of saints who surround the Christmas story who believed in God’s coming reign, we can put Joseph in the same group.

 

Luke describes him as “a good and upright man” (23:50).  This would not characterize most Council members. Jesus called them hypocrites, snakes, and whitewashed tombs who appeared righteous to people but were  “full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:28). The rich man from Arimathea was an exception.

 

Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation, the day before one of the most important Sabbaths of the Jewish year, the Passover Sabbath. Jesus was never more helpless than on the cross and after his death, and Joseph and Nicodemus stepped forward to carry out the task. Some say Nicodemus was cowardly because he came to Jesus at night, but he chose to come out of hiding and show his love for Jesus, which certainly meant he was no longer “the teacher of Israel,” one of the most prominent positions in Israel.

 

Joseph and Nicodemus were operating under two pressures, time (they had slightly more than two hours before sundown to bury the body without breaking the law for working on the Sabbath), and the pressure of their true motives being identified.

 

Joseph secured permission from Pilate, purchased a linen cloth, while Nicodemus purchased about seventy-five pounds of spices, enough for the burial of a king. They met back at the crucifixion site, laid the cross down, extracted the body from the nails, and carried it on a public thoroughfare during the busiest time of the year to Joseph’s personal tomb. They did a quick work of anointing and wrapping the body, then placing it inside the tomb.

 

The significance of Christ’s burial. The burial is recorded in all four gospels.  Why? First, it confirms the truth that Jesus really died.  A common myth to discredit the resurrection is that Jesus did not die but was only unconscious and resuscitated.  Unconscious people are not buried. Second, Paul says that the burial of Christ is like our baptism. We are identified with him both in his death and in his burial.  Just as Jesus was dead dead, so we die with him, and are in fact “buried with him through baptism into death” (Ro.6:4).

 

What joy Joseph must have experienced when Jesus rose from the dead. Imagine him returning to his tomb (if still alive) and thinking, “Jesus stayed here.” But not anymore.

 

I am moved by God’s sovereign action in the midst of people doing what they are going to do. Soldiers carry out their responsibility—and two prophecies are fulfilled. A kind man provides a tomb—and another prophecy comes to pass. Do you have something that Jesus can use? Unnamed friends offered him a donkey. A boy said, “He can have my lunch,” and thousands ate. A religious leader said, “He can use my tomb.” We will meet him in heaven for his kindness and courage–and Nic!

HOLY WEEK QUIZ

I did a family quiz for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. Great discussion times. Here goes: (pa@harvestcommunities.org for answers)

  1.  Name two prophecies that were fulfilled during Holy Week.
  2.  Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  3.  What does “Hosanna” mean?
  4.  What did Jesus do during Holy Week?
  5.  What day did Jesus have a healing service?
  6. Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?
  7. How did Jesus baffle the religious leaders in the questions they asked him?
  8. What different groups of religious leaders were arguing with Jesus during Holy Week?
  9. Why did the answer of Jesus regarding taxes stop the religious leaders: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:15-22).
  10. Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?
  11. How did Jesus describe the end times?
  12. How does Daniel, the letters of Paul, and Revelation support Christ’s end-time picture?
  13. Why did the leaders not want to arrest Jesus during the feast? Why then did it happen?
  14. Why was Jesus anointed by a woman at the home of Simon the leper?
  15. Why did Judas agree to betray Jesus?
  16. Why did Jesus “set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
  17. What did Jesus know about Jerusalem?
  18. What was the Passover meal? How did Jesus fulfill the Passover?
  19. Why did Caiaphas tear his robes when Jesus spoke about his return? What is the significance of that?
  20. When did it turn dark on the cross? How long was Jesus on the cross? From when to when?
  21. Name the seven words from the cross in order.
  22. Why did Jesus say to John, “Behold, your mother?”
  23. What was more difficult for Jesus on the cross–the physical or emotional suffering?
  24. Why did Jesus say, “I thirst,” when the battle was over?
  25. What was the significance of the hyssop branch used to give Jesus a drink?
  26. What was going on at the same time that Jesus was being crucified?
  27. What is the significance of the curtain being torn from top to bottom when Jesus died?
  28. What women were at the cross?
  29. Who buried Jesus? What is the significance of that? What time was Jesus buried?
  30. What is the significance of the guard placed at the tomb at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees to Pilate?
  31. How many earthquakes took place between the crucifixion and the resurrection and why is that significant?
  32. How many appearances did Jesus make after his resurrection and to whom? What did the resurrected Christ speak about? 

                         

4 LESSONS FROM “I THIRST”

 

JESUS LOOKED TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS

He first said, “Father, forgive them.” Then he said to the criminal next to Him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Then he made provision for his mother, turning her over to the care of John.  “After this,” he spoke words of personal need. Jesus modeled perfect love from the cross by looking to his own bodily needs last.

 

HE ASKED FOR A DRINK AFTER THE BATTLE WAS OVER.

John writes, “After this Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished…” (19:28). In the heat of battle, one cannot yell, “Time out,” and grab a drink. That Jesus now confesses thirst is an indication that the fight is done. He has stepped on the head of the serpent and crushed him: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities, making a public display of them” (Col. 2:14).

 

HE SAID IT IN FULFILLMENT OF SCRIPTURE.

According to John, Jesus spoke the words as a link with what had been prophesied about him. At no point did Jesus ever lose control. Caiaphas did, and tore his robes in anger. Pilate did, and tried to wash a guilty conscience with water. The crowd did, and shouted, “Crucify him,” like bloodthirsty dogs tearing at their victim. But the Victim never lost it. He knew what time it was (John 13:1) and what he needed to do. History was on schedule. The King was about to be crowned.

 

JESUS SAID, “I THIRST.”

The One who created Niagara Falls, who made the lakes in the Rockies, is now dehydrated. Humanity sinned and a human had to die. Jesus was a man, a thirsty man. He had poured out his soul to death, and He deserved to be thirsty. He had just cried, “My God, my God, why…?” That was the worst kind of dehydration, the most awful exposure, the most painful and gut-wrenching separation.

 

He was fulfilling the Scripture, “For my thirst they gave me vinegar” (Psalm 69:21). The soldier understood him to be asking for a drink of liquid. He gave Him some of the sour wine, the cheap stuff given to soldiers as part of their rations. Earlier it had been offered to Jesus and He had refused it. Why now? Because his work was over. He did not want to be drugged earlier, because he chose to be in full awareness of what he was doing, even in the severest pain. He needed to “taste death for everyone.”  He had his taste, and now he asked for a final drink before the end. When he received it, he gained sufficient strength to cry out, “It is finished.”  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He did what he had come to do–and he was done.

 

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

CHRIST IS RISEN! Does He pay a visit to the Sanhedrin? No. He goes to…

 

MARY. Her devotion went beyond helping Him in life—she wanted to anoint Him in death. She lingered after Peter and John left the tomb. So did Jesus. Disillusioned, she doesn’t look up when someone asks why she weeps. When her name is called, she knows. Jesus honors her commitment by visiting her first. In your sorrow, stay focused on Jesus. And He will not disappoint you.

 

THE OTHER WOMEN. The first two groups are women, the less important of their day. The disciples proved it, refusing to believe their report. The women paid homage to the dead—and worshiped the living Lord instead. Know, dear women, that while you may not be on center stage, Jesus honors the depth of your devotion.

 

PETER. The death of Jesus devastated him. Satan had sifted him. High hopes turned under the pressure of a servant girl. The words of Jesus, “You will deny me three times,” gnawed at him. He raced to the tomb, hoping against hope. Maybe on the way home he met the risen Lord, for sure the first day. Jesus ministers to a wounded soldier. There’s a place for failures. Jesus comes not to rebuke but to reinstate. Weeks later, in the face of sure persecution, Peter declared to thousands, “This Jesus…you crucified and killed…but God raised him up…” (Acts 2). Angels said to the women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…” Jesus has failures on His mind.

 

THE EMMAEUS DISCIPLES. The seven-mile walk was grueling. They spoke to a stranger, “We had hoped…” They had not yet heard the news. The Scriptures should have guided them, but despair blinds eyes. Guess who’s coming for dinner. They invite the well-formed visitor, who blesses the bread—and is gone. He had joined them to chase away gloom, to touch broken hearts, in Word and sacrament. Imagine now how they cover the 10k. Resurrection runners have light feet—and heartburn.

 

THE DISCIPLES MINUS THOMAS. Evening of a new day. Ten disciples cowering in darkness behind locked doors. He comes. Instead of correction, they receive a commission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” They had lost the ‘sent.’ A fresh mandate will thrust them out. Flesh-and-blood Jesus eats a meal in three of His encounters. The Man running the universe is Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David. He commissioned people like us—doubtful, reluctant—and gave them the Spirit!

 

DISCIPLES, INCLUDING THOMAS. One week later, same time, same house, same shut doors. The still-not-too-confident band gets another visit. This time straight for Thomas. At the last meeting two disciples were missing—one dead, the other doubting. He was loyal but a slow starter. Jesus did not commend his unbelief—He converted it. How kind of Jesus to pursue us in our darkness. Faith is more than holding on; it is God holding us, even in our doubts. Thomas died as a faith-filled martyr! (Normal length. Pit stop. Resurrection stretch.)

 

SEVEN IN GALILEE. Here’s the third encounter to the group, five of whom are named. The big fisherman is called to sheep, not to fish. Jesus erases a three-fold denial with a three-fold affirmation. Jesus didn’t need to hear it—Peter did. From fishing to feeding—at “the Last Breakfast.”

 

FIVE HUNDRED. Paul wrote that “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…” Marching orders. Either Jesus is dreaming or this group will disciple the nations. Jesus does not see the Church as nervous saints waiting in caves for the Great Escape but as an aggressive mission-minded movement.

 

JAMES. Only Paul tells of this encounter. “His own had received him not,” and James was no exception (John 7:5). A personal appearance turned a resister into a pillar. In his letter he describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Strange way to talk about your bro. Martyrdom by stoning testified to his faithfulness to death. Take hope for your family.

 

APOSTLES, ASCENSION DAY. Scope—the world. Calling—witnesses. Promise—Spirit. Then He left. Did they? Read the book of Acts. He gave them His forwarding address, and they proclaimed the Resurrection!

 

The appearances are divided into two regions—Judea (7) and Galilee (3). Of the seven, the first five were on Resurrection Sunday, the sixth a week later. The final appearance outside Jerusalem came 40 days after the resurrection. Three were with individuals, seven to companies of two or more. All were believers except James, called to faith through the appearance. Why not to other unbelievers? Jesus said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead?” The raising of Lazarus only brought antagonism. Jesus does not force faith. He did not go to those wallowing in skeptic tanks. Herod wanted tricks, the Pharisees demanded signs—to confirm their unbelief. “God raised him up…and made him manifest, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses…” (Acts 10:41), to Peter, not Pilate, to Cleopas, not Caiphas, not to Roman authorities but to humble women, as one man said.

 

PAUL. He did include himself in the list, as one “abnormally born” (literally a “miscarriage”—I Cor. 15:8), revealed not from earth but from the Right Hand. People who knew Saul would have considered him an unlikely suspect for a visit. God’s power trumps unbelief. Take courage for family and friends!

 

  1. Last of all, He appeared to me. I experience His love today, convinced He is alive! I get up in the morning to serve the Living Lord! I hear His voice and follow His commands! I say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” How about you?

TWO THIEVES–TWO DESTINIES

“Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left” (Matt. 27:38). They joined the tirade of insults from close range. Why would they? They probably heard that Jesus could do miracles—and they needed one. They lived irresponsibly; they were dying irresponsibly.

Then sorrow replaced sarcasm. Perhaps seeing the way Jesus died showed him how different they were. By acknowledging the justice of what was occurring, it brought one to a place of trust. In his dying moments he humbled himself.

One thief received the justice he refused to acknowledge. He sneered, “Save yourself, and us,” hanging within feet of the One able to honor his request, but not on those terms. He died as he lived, taking without giving.

Two thieves had a history. They were most likely Jews, religious at one time. Bad resolve turned them toward evil. One knew that he had made a mark, but it was not a good one. He asked Jesus to remember him when He came into his kingdom. Revelation comes with honesty. Incredibly, he could see that Jesus…

  1. was a king;
  2. had a kingdom over which He reigned; and
  3. had power over death. Remarkable insight!

The sins Jesus died for included his. He entered eternity free of guilt for criminal activity. Sadly, the other thief did not come into the light.

The conscience-stricken man spoke to two people—his partner, then to Jesus. He rebuked his friend, then acknowledged his blame. The man who had wasted his life said, “This man has done nothing wrong.” What discernment!

Jesus spoke powerful words: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

  1. When Jesus said “today,” He did not mean in the near future or sometime soon. He meant “today,” and He delivered.
  2. With me—Jesus knew His destiny was not to stay in the grave. A former thief would enjoy His companionship—forever!
  3. In paradise—from a life of wickedness to an eternity of bliss, through the blood of a man who did nothing wrong. He died believing!

Pilate had mockingly put on the cross the only title Jesus ever had: “This is Jesus; king of the Jews.” One Jew at the cross acknowledged Jesus as his king. He had no time to prove his decision. Still the grace of God reached him and drew him into the love of the One whose arms were stretched out on the cross as if to receive him. Moments later he took his final breath and stepped into eternity—to receive the reward that Jesus paid for as they hung side by side. The other one would not share his destiny.

They now reside as far away as darkness is from light. Hell was not made for that thief but for the devil and his angels. He chose to be Satan’s companion rather than a brother of the Son of God. Close to death, one met the author of life as he clung weakly to life itself. The other rejected the offer and slipped into a Christ-less eternity.

If you are drawing breath, it is not too late to embrace the forgiveness won at the cross, which when you die will bring you into the personal presence of the King!