John 19:28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ words “It is finished” are an important reality of our life in Christ. I thought about their importance to the personal drama of my own “first” Easter with Jesus. It felt so big, so dramatic, so epic…and so complete…but it had just barely begun.
I wonder why it’s so easy to look at epic moments in our life of faith as finales when beginning right there on that cross, our hope lies in exactly the opposite being true. That’s the truth of Jesus words “It is finished.” Easter was not an epic finale but The Crescendo of a New Beginning.
John 20:11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white,seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”(which means “Teacher”).
Remember the chorus of a country music song from awhile back?
I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of…
This Scripture reminded me of that chorus and how easy it is to miss a new encounter with Jesus because of mistaken identity or because we’re looking in all the wrong places. We think we know just what to expect of him, but…
Jesus may not always always look like what we’ve imagined he would…or even should…look like. We may find him in places and situations we never expected we would see him. That would certainly describe this early morning encounter between Mary and Jesus. Look how her awareness of the world changed when he spoke her name.
This is Easter morning, 2016, the most important reminder of your spiritual life. Remember hearing Jesus first speak your name? That was Continue reading
John 13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
It’s easy to understand the disciples discomfort to see Jesus kneel before them to wash their feet. They were his supporters. Their support, faithfulness and fervor were for him as their Lord and Teacher. Now it was almost like Jesus was purposely switching places with them as he knelt there to show his support for them with his Perfected Love.
Jesus knew they were not yet able to see this truth: their love was going to be perfected too. Everything would depend on their remembering this example Jesus set before them that night. That would be where they would find the courage to face him again. That would be their assurance that only the support of his Perfected Love could begin the perfection of their own love by overcoming the humiliating reality that their fear had triumphed over faithfulness and fervor.
Matthew 21 [excerpts] 1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me…8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna [a Hebrew expression meaning “Save!” which became an exclamation of praise] to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
For a moment as I read about Jesus entry into Jerusalem I thought how his heart must have swelled at this reception. Then I remembered he knew what was in the heart of man. He also knew the conflicting emotions of his future from “thy will be done” to “take this cup from me.” It’s much easier for me to imagine Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem by a cheering crowd than to realize he knew he was facing a gut wrenching human choice as well. This day begins The Week of Reality as Jesus completes his identity with our humanity to give us the opportunity to complete our identity as sons and daughters of God. “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Isaiah 40:3 – 5. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for The Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together…”
This passage looks very different today in the solemn thoughts of this road leading to the most significant event of the Bible, Easter morning. That’s what makes that one little preposition, “in” so important.
• In – expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.
“In” December Isaiah’s words were a warning about not allowing the distractions of Christmas to become my something else. Today that little preposition “in” has become The Reassurance that God IS the something else even “in” those distractions. It could read…
• Look, things are changing. I’m leveling the playing field to give you a better line of sight and access to me. I am “in” those ups and downs and dangers that threaten to enclose you and become the something else. Look for the changes “in”your path that show the glory of who I am…and the reality of who you will be “in” the midst of that place. You’ll see!
I began this Lenten journal on Ash Wednesday with what seemed like the bitter end: Judas betrayal of Jesus. The reality of his story is a reminder of the beginning he missed. Repentance is a “who” to repent to instead of a “what” to repent of. Isn’t that just what Easter is all about? Out of the Ashes of what we “were,” we are being Blessed…
• Blessed By knowing it’s not our spirit that sustains us. Self has Fallen Through the Cracks of life and in the process caught a glimpse of a promised new kingdom of heaven.
• Blessed By realizing that in the Unfamiliar Reality of the emotions of mourning God is replacing the need to cope in unbearable circumstances with the release of comfort.
• Blessed By an undeserved and unearned inheritance and an eternity to explore and understand what submissive, yielding and obedient is. Meek is the mystery of God moving us into position to fulfill his plans as we learn the difference between Be-ing vs Choosing.
• Blessed By Jesus using something as basic and daily as our body’s craveing for nourishment to remind us there’s Another Kind of Life to crave: long for, yearn, desire, want, wish or need – a life of righteousness.
• Blessed By the mercy of Jesus and The Perfected Golden Rule: “Do unto others…as I have done unto you.”
• Blessed By the power God and the life of Jesus to create pure hearts by chiseling away stony pieces to bring us One Pebble Closer to being able to see God.
• Blessed By peacemakers who go Beyond Just Fixing to create opportunity for those in conflict to explore the reality of truth as God means it to be: a path to unity not separation.
• Blessed By a new perspective on Jesus words and the fullness of one Greek word. What once seemed focused on “persecuted” now includes “blessed because they “pursue” righteousness.” In Each Case theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It’s not over yet!
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Recognizing that people could be persecuted because they pursue righteousness is hard to bring to a daily level for me. I need some definition.
• pur·sue seems pretty positive – to follow (someone or something)…: follow, run after, chase…
• per·se·cute seems pretty negative – to subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of…religious beliefs; oppress, abuse, victimize…torment, torture; martyr…
Those are dictionary definitions but here’s a third word I checked too. The surprise for me was that the Greek word the Bible translates as persecuted [#1377 diṓkō] included both those definitions I looked up. Strong’s Greek Concordance says:
• used positively (“earnestly pursue”)
• used negatively(“zealously persecute, hunt down”).
• In each case, 1377 (diṓkō) means “pursue with all haste (“chasing” after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend).”
It was that word diṓkō and that last point, that brought the fullness of Jesus words into perspective for me. Life is both positive and negative.
…When the negative side is circumstances, events and people that “pursue with all haste (“chasing” after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend)” and persecute you…
…When the positive side is that you continue to “pursue with all haste (“chasing” after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend)” righteousness.
In Each Case there is a promised blessing – the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Wanting everything to be fixed is not the same as being a peacemaker. I wish that were all it took.
Jesus is acknowledging there are some of his children who are gifted Beyond Just Fixing. They are peacemakers. They are able to create a unique connection between God and a world where separating one person’s truth from another’s has become the essence of conflict.
The peacemaker’s gift is not the ability to provide therapy, preaching or give good advice. They are able to create an opportunity for those in conflict to explore the reality of truth as God means it to be: a path to unity not separation.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about hearts and how God changes them. That’s what led me again to Ezekiel 36:26 & 27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
I think Ezekiel’s words are what Jesus is honoring with this Beatitude. Purity of heart is a slow but sure promise of the power God and the life of Jesus to chisel away at a stoney heart, pebble by pebble, and replace it with life and his Spirit.
Consider this idea. Find a lovely glass jar you’d be comfortable to have in a prominent place in your home. Either buy or gather a supply of small pebbles to have on hand. Every time you feel God tug at your heart, put another pebble in that jar. It may or may not be a big event but it’s an important one to remember; another pebble has fallen loose.
God is at work changing your heart from stone to flesh and you’re One Pebble Closer to purity and the blessing of seeing the reality of God.