John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. [NLT]
It’s almost a month since my husband was killed. I have been so blessed and comforted by my family. They have buffered the reality of my loss with their presence. They’ve flown in from around the country to help me navigate the unthinkable reality of death with the basics of life; food, activity and the practical and legal details that are now a part of my life. What was previously “normal” activity has now become a reminder of being alone but they have been the hands-on proof of God’s assurance that is not the case. One by one they’ve returned to their own homes and this week I finally have to face learning to live alone in mine.
It’s scary because I’ve realized I have never actually lived “alone” before. I moved from my parents home to my marital home nearly 63 years ago. I chose this book of John to read and ponder in these next weeks because it was important to my husband and the book of John is where my life of faith began long ago. I wasn’t physically alone then, but it was the place I first read the words that revealed Jesus gives life that spans all time, circumstances and relationships. What was true then is still truth now. “The Word already existed…with God… The Word gave life to everything…and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…” NIV
I’m sure you’re familiar with the triangle image of the Godhead where each of the three points represents one of the three persons; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It’s the image of life for those who, by accepting and acting in accordance with Jesus, have been placed securely within that Perfect Triangle. My life is in that triangle. So is yours. Can you be thrilled by what a drawing can show you about how convincingly God can prove to you that your image really is just like His? Yes!
A simple straight line beginning at one of those thee points and stretching across to an opposite line to establish a connection to that Perfect Triangle always results in a brand new triangle. Something visually happened as I drew line after line always staying within the boundary lines of that Perfect Triangle. As long as each straight line began at one of the, now multiple, points to an opposite line, it always became a triangle without my doing anything more. Each triangle was a different size and had a different shape with different angles but every time I drew a straight line to make that connection three new “points” appeared. The triangles were not a perfect duplicate of the original but without a doubt they visually confirmed a likeness to that Perfect Triangle.
The creator of all mankind chose the simplest of all processes to replicate Himself in those who would be bearers of His image. The more I drew straight lines, the more I recognized how reliable that connection was. Every one of those imperfect triangles began as a simple straight line but by God’s good purpose He chose to verify that likeness even further for His image bearers as each connection was completed. I saw those three replicated “points;” God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, appear over and over as each line became a new triangle within the Perfect Triangle. That was the visual proof that thrilled me.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them;” God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit created within us, every time. Yes!
I Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. NLT
These are lyrics to a song I wrote many years ago. I knew they were important to me then. It was a time when my identity with Jesus was just becoming clear to me and I was so aware, even embarrassed, about what I didn’t know. All these years later, events have turned those old words into a treasure to remind me God is still “looking” out for me. I am a new widow. Jesus has provided an explosion of love through family and friends to help me see myself in this puzzling new role. There is a new reality in that mirror that is critical for me to see right now.
In the mirror I see
Two eyes looking back at me.
Two eyes trying to see
A picture of what I can be.
That is the “flesh” part of life. I’m trying to see a “picture of what I can be” without Ken in that mirror but my reflection is clouded with tears…thank God the song goes on…
Won’t you picture God for me my friend?
Won’t you be my mirror when I pretend?
Won’t you help me to see?
There truly is something more than “flesh.” There is a Spirit of Life that knows I can’t see myself clearly since the death of my husband. I need someone to “help me to see.” That is very real right now. In the midst of unmeasurable pain and grief I have family and friends who are here when my tears distort almost everything I see. Their physical help, prayers and tenderness are helping me begin to glimpse a new “picture of what I can be.” I may never remember all they’ve said and done but I will certainly never forget their willingness to “picture God for me,” sometimes unbeknownst to them. They are showing me the Spirit of Life that assures me there is enough strength, even in grief, to honor the two most important men in my life, Jesus and my husband Ken.” I’ve spoken that phrase many times in the last few days. One friend responded with “one gave His life FOR you and one gave his life TO you.” That’s a God-given truth I can “live” with. Alleluia!
At about 9 a.m. Friday, April 9, my beloved husband of 62 years, Conrad [Ken] Bedient was killed in a motorcycle accident. At the end of those 62 years with tear filled eyes I can testify that instead of time diminishing our love, we understood the reality of our love more than ever before. I was still his bride. He loved me with a love that allowed me to become the woman I am today. Not even death can take that away. I can imagine him standing beside Jesus right now and urging Him to comfort me. I believe that because that’s how Ken lived his life of faith.
I am leaning harder on Jesus that I ever knew possible. I’m trapped by the desperation to avoid any familiar routine because that seems like a denial that my world has caved in and yet sitting here in the midst of no familiar routine is just as bad. Even a simple thing like making the bed, alone, has reduced me to tears. Every familiar part of life is going to be a reminder that I am now alone. I just don’t know how to do life right now.
I find myself sitting with my eyes closed a lot, like I’m trying to shut out the world. I’m heartbroken and shaken to the core. I’m never far from tears and my body is shaking most of the time. Those are the details of my need for your prayers. Friends and our two daughters are here with me. Their presence is the one blessing that reminds me there is still constancy I can count on. I am thankful for them. Please pray for all of us who knew and loved Ken as we try to cope with this unthinkable loss of husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
Preparation has been completed
Jesus is Risen!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is earthshakingly dramatic. It’s the most critical part of our life of faith. That’s BIG! Our hearts are filled all those BIG things today; Praise, Gratitude and Alleluia’s. This is the Day the Lord has made! This is the day that ends weeks of participating in self-directed “remembering” to focus on celebrating Easter 2021. Jesus described Himself as the way, the truth and the life. That was a bold declaration for a man who knew death was ahead of Him. The resurrection was God’s bold declaration that Jesus’s description was truth.
There is another quiet part of the resurrection of Jesus that we need to remember and celebrate too: Jesus’s post-resurrection encounters with His friends. They were revelations of Himself speaking peace to calm their fears, reassurance to dispel their doubts, guidance to direct their futures and giving them His trust that would empower them to live IN their faith. It’s the quiet part of the resurrection that continues beyond this Easter celebration. The Way of crucifixion is Jesus quietly providing access to a new beginning as they ”walk along.” The Truth of “discussing” healed scars is testimony of resurrecting love that can quiet hurting hearts. The Life “together” with Jesus is the quiet part of trust; He is alive IN every part of faith for every day of every week AND this Easter morning. That’s BIG! Alleluia!
Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life has the final word this Easter…
“What are you discussing “together” as you walk along?”
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Real life has provided me an opportunity to remember how wide the separation between what I believe and what my response to circumstances can be. Today I feel like Peter, sputtering my assurances to justify my lack of strength, peace and joy even at the same time I’m convinced of my own repentance. It’s a mystery isn’t it?
Even a life of faith and absolute commitment has moments when facing your own brokenness is a harsh reality. I’ve read these verses countless times before but today Peter’s attempt to reassure Jesus of his love has become more real because it seems like mine too. “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Simon Peter knew the harsh reality of his brokenness. The intensity of his words is almost tangible as he responds to Jesus taking him through that progression of the same question over and over; “do you love me?” Jesus could just as easily have said “I forgive you.” Peter would have expected that forgiveness, and been comforted…but Jesus had something more to give Peter during that early morning confrontation of vows and responses. There was one thing that would ultimately forgive Peter’s lack of strength, comfort his loss of peace and restore his joy too.
Jesus’s gave Peter His trust!
…knowing Peter would complete his vows of love and
“feed my lambs…take care of my sheep…feed my sheep.”
25…But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Ransom; a payment for the release of a prisoner
Thomas shared a real-time relationship with Jesus, but all these centuries later the nickname “doubting” is still the first thing we remember about him. “Doubting is a nickname that doesn’t really fit because as the verses show, in that moment he was absolutely certain. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Each heart of those friends closest to Jesus had been wounded by the betrayal that led to Jesus’s death. For Thomas that wound had festered into doubt. Some of the disciples had seen Jesus, but not him. “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then Jesus singled out Thomas.
The beauty of this story is that Thomas’s doubts have became incidental. Jesus showed Thomas the scars of His own wounds one-by-one for a specific purpose; that his wounded heart might be ransomed from doubt and healed. That makes scars the most important point of this story.
Wounds often leave a scar and healed scars still have a purpose for friends of Jesus today. Scars can tell a story of healing that has the power to ransom someone else’s doubt and lead them to repentance. Scars are not to be wasted. They are the evidence that Jesus heals wounded hearts and gives them a sign to share of the resurrecting love of God Almighty, Alleluia!
8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
These verses reminded me of this screen shot I took last Easter from the live broadcast of Gracepoint Church in Sturgis, Michigan. That empty tomb for those closest to Jesus resulted in fear, not hope. Hindsight has proved God’s plan for the salvation of many, became a reality despite those frightened people caught in desperate circumstances. Jesus’s body had disappeared from that fortress of stone. How could that possibly be anything but bad? “(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)”
That parenthetic verse 9 has become a modern-day lesson for me. As odd as it is to type this sentence; doubt and fear have always been a part of faith, even for those closest to Jesus. Even the “other” disciple, the one Jesus loved, hesitated. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.”…and
“Thomas felt a surge of shock and unbelief…Then he felt regret for having left. Then he felt isolated. He was the only one who hadn’t seen Jesus. He had seen so many things that would have been unbelievable if he hadn’t seen them. Most haunting right now was Lazarus. And then it happened. Thomas was staring at the floor, sinking again under the fear that maybe Jesus had rejected him because of his stubborn unbelief. If so, he knew he deserved it. Then someone gasped. He looked up and his heart leaped into his throat! Jesus was standing across the room looking at him. “Peace be with you”a
Faith is what gives us the courage to come out of our hiding place, confront our fears and doubts and to believe Jesus’s words are meant to shield us today, too – “peace be with you.” These two verses have become my reminder that recognizing the reality of an empty burial tomb is more than evidence of my faith…it’s evidence of God’s faith in me! “Finally” I “saw and believed” and He turned that stone cave into a fortress of hope that “the LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”b
a When it’s Hard to Believe
b Psalm 18:2
John 19:31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
This is the second time the phrase – “the day of Preparation” with that same capital “P“ appears in this chapter. I am convinced God has shown me that capital “P” to teach me something important about the celebration of Passover, and Lent. The capital “P” Preparation is Jesus; the one very real difference between the preparation for the celebration of the Jewish Passover and the celebration of Lent that leads to Easter morning. Both celebrations recognize the need for an annual, dedicated break in time with sacrifice so the heart might remember with thanksgiving and worship what the Eternal, Almighty, Righteous God has done in the past to make new beginning a reality.
• Passover is the dedicated break in time for devout people whose desire is to remember the blood of the perfect lamb that saved them in the past.
• Lent is the dedicated break in time for devout people whose desire is to remember the blood of the perfect lamb that saved them in the past.
• The Passover remembrance begins with the recognition of need for removal of the decay that leads to ruin.
• The Lenten remembrance begins with the recognition of need for removal of the decay that leads to ruin.
• The hope of Passover lies in the Eternal, Almighty, Righteous God’s acceptance of their sacrifice for Him…so He might be pleased with them.
• The hope of Lent lies in the Eternal, Almighty, Righteous God’s sacrifice of Jesus for them…so He might be pleased with them.
John 19 NIV7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.”
The plan of the Jewish priests and leaders had always been clear – they wanted Jesus dead. Pilate’s wife has had a dream and warned him about judging a “righteous man.” His own superstitions have forced him to consider the possibility that Jesus may in fact be a “little g” god.” He can find no sin in Jesus but Pilate is trapped by circumstances. He’s tried to set Jesus free but now his choice has come down to who he fears most; Rome, the Jewish leaders, the anger of the local people, or Jesus himself. Pilate’s decision based on threats, sin and fear was used by God to set in motion His plan of promise, forgiveness and hope: “It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.”