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
NIV Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his REST still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that REST, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my REST.’” And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God RESTed from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my REST.” 6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that REST, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Rest is apparently something more than lack of activity. That’s a good thing to know because lack of activity often seems impossible. There are schedules to keep, projects that need doing, places to be and people to care for. One of the first questions I asked as I began to write was why? Why did God sound so peevish when he said “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’” and then He even repeated it?
I looked at all the modifier words and phrases for “rest” in the 11 times it’s mentioned in the 16 verses of this chapter and here’s something I found that’s worth noting. I’ve been looking at ”rest” as a break from activity when in reality every single mention of rest in Hebrews 4 indicates it’s God’s rest, not mine that’s involved. God swears on an oath He will jealously guard the heart, soul, mind and strength of “we who have believed” and entered the rest He’s completed for them. The reality is God’s rest ”still remains for some to enter.“ In that rest lies His peace, His promises and the priceless value of ”the good news proclaimed to us.”
“God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen, don’t turn a deaf ear . . .[v6-7 MSG]”
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I lay awake as an early morning thunderstorm crashed over us thinking and praying about the presence of God in all circumstances and choices without being anxious. I found myself stumbling over my own words of prayer. It was sort of the “digital” version of prayer where I had to keep backspacing and editing because it’s such a mysterious thing that the Sovereign God is always present in the thoughts, actions, emotions and choices of the believer.
I swear I believe that but then I find myself asking for “something more.” Some “sign” that will be confirmation my heart, mind, emotions and choices are right because there aren’t enough details to guarantee that. That insecurity belies what I swear. I don’t really have a good track record with New Year’s Resolutions so here’s my alternative: Three New Year’s Questions to read and ponder throughout 2019.
• What if the presence of the Holy Spirit really does dwell within us as part of every thought, action, emotion and choice?
• What if it were possible to quit struggling to figure out all the details and be assured the relationship the Spirit has created between God and us through Jesus is enough for “every situation”?
• What if questions are a purposeful part of how God works to take captive our thoughts, actions, emotions and choices guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to give us access to “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”?
“God is always speaking to us, but it requires spiritual discernment to hear God’s voice, see what God sees, and read the signs in daily life.” Henri Nouwen from Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life