Implications of an Empty Tomb

S (Scripture) – Mark 16:4-6 “Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.  Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.  And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.  He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, the implications of these verses are transformational.  I remember many years ago when someone close to me was trying to work through his faith, and he said to me that he believed that there was a God, and he believed that You really lived on this earth…he said that he also believed that You were crucified, but that he “wasn’t really sure about the whole resurrection thing.”  It’s all about the whole resurrection thing!  If You are still dead in a tomb somewhere, how does that result in conquering sin and death (2 Timothy 1:10)?

A (Application) – There is a film being released this month called, “Risen.”  It is the story of what happens after that fateful Easter morning when it is discovered that You are no longer in the tomb.  The Roman soldiers proceed to search out every inch of the city, overturning homes and digging up graves in order to find Your body.  They are on “the biggest manhunt in human history.”  Why would they be so adamant about finding Your body?  Because everyone understands that if You really did rise from the dead, there is a decision on their part about what they are going to do with You – completely ignore the fact, and continue living life as they always have?  Or recognize that You are the Son of the Living God, able to conquer death, and that everything You said on earth was actually true.

P (Prayer) – Triumphant Jesus, thank You for dying for me.  Thank You that even though being my substitute would have been miraculous in and of itself, You didn’t stop there.  I’m so grateful that I don’t serve a God who is dead, but one who is very much alive and at work in my life and in the world.  I pray that all who hear the story of Your resurrection this year (in particular those who watch the movie, Risen) will never be the same again.  May they come to an understanding that hearing that truth and doing nothing with it is walking away from life itself.  You have come that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  That is only possible through claiming the promise of our Risen Savior!

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Demonstrated Love

S (Scripture) – Mark 15:29-32; 37-39 “Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Ha!  You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!’  In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself.  Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross so that we may see and believe!’  Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting HimAnd Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.  And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, I see how brokenhearted You must have been as You were suffering so intensely and in so much pain for the very people that were so malicious to You.  The religious leaders did not “just” crucify You; they mocked You every step of the way and were so intentionally disparaging to Your Name…how You ever just allowed all of that to happen is incredible to me.  You knew that what You were doing on the cross was the ultimate purpose for which You came, and that by dying for the sins of all, the implications of that love would transform all of mankind for all eternity.  The veil of the temple that had kept the presence of Almighty God separate from the people was torn, allowing anyone who puts his or her trust in You the ability to enter in to the Holy of Holies and approach the living God.  You made a way, Jesus.  You were not concerned about “saving Yourself” as the mockers challenged You to do – You were concerned about humanity and put us ahead of Yourself.

A (Application) – There are many people in this world that believe Jesus existed.  There are also many people that believed that He was crucified.  The reason why so many people have yet to place their faith in Jesus as their personal sin-bearer is they do not understand what the implications are of Jesus as the Son of God dying in our place.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

If Jesus died on the cross, and the veil of the temple was torn in two, there was a miraculous exchange that took place that day…for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).”  Instead of our blood needing to be shed, Jesus gave Himself for us in our place.  In dying for us, He gave us life – both victory in our lives on earth, as well as eternal life with Him.  Sometimes in this country that is overrun with churches on every street, this message is heard, but not fully understood. In countries where Christians are persecuted and need to meet secretly in order to avoid being slaughtered, the message of Christ’s love for us, death, and resurrection are fully embraced.  People are living by the power of the Holy Spirit and experiencing God’s presence in a mighty way.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your precious Son to die for me.  I’m so sorry that He went through such abuse, pain, and anguish at the hands of others.  I’m so thankful that You loved me enough to endure it all.  I pray that everyone would understand how great Your love really is, and that if they have not yet received that love and have yet to place their faith in You, that You would continue to draw them to Yourself.

 

Point Blank

S (Scripture) – Mark 14:60-65 “The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, ‘Do You not answer?  What is it that these men are testifying against You?’  But He kept silent and did not answer.  Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’  And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’  Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.  Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’  And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.”

O (Observation) – Oh precious Jesus – this makes my heart break when I imagine how this must have played out between You and the chosen high priest of the nation of Israel.  This high priest was the only one allowed to enter the Holy of Holies in the temple once a year in order to have the sins of the nation forgiven.  He was the only one privileged enough to experience Your shekinah glory up close and personal.  Of all people, he was the human that should have known You the best.  Instead, he finally meets You face-to-face, in the flesh, yet knows You not.  He asked You point blank whether or not You were who You said you were, and rejected Your direct reply.  Instead, he has You condemned to die, and allows, and even encourages, others to spit at, blindfold, beat, and slap the One who has come to save them.

A (Application) – For those of us that have placed our faith and trust in Christ, He has become our High Priest (Hebrews 4:10).

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).”

Jesus is our perfect High Priest.  His sacrifice made it possible for each and every one of us to enter into the Holy of Holies at any time and experience His presence.  He is Emanuel, “God with us.”  Despite having been rejected by the very person who should have received Him with welcome arms, He is now available to all.

The other key takeaway is that just because someone is very religious, it does not mean that they have any relationship with the living God whatsoever.  Clearly, one can be designated as the most important person in the religious world, yet still be empty and miss out on God’s presence.

P (Prayer) – You are Yahweh/Jehovah, the self-revealing One.  You are also the Master and Creator of the universe, yet You desire to know us intimately.  Lord, may we not find ourselves confronted with Your presence face-to-face and not recognize You.  Thank You, Jesus, that You made it possible for everyone to experience Your glory and Your presence.  Your grace is amazing.

Words to Speak

S (Scripture) – Mark 13:10-11 “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.  When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”

O (Observation) – Lord, for the person currently walking in step with You each and every day that is used to being sensitive to hearing what You have to say about a matter, this directive is reassuring.  Despite the times that are coming upon us at some point in the future where we may find ourselves under arrest and tried for our faith in You, we can have absolute peace that You are on Your throne and in control.  My physical life may be taken from me at the hands of another, but no one can take away my relationship with You.

A (Application) – On the contrary, for the person that still isn’t sure if You really do talk to Your people, this notion of being arrested for his or her beliefs and then relying on You to speak for them in that moment can seem very overwhelming and frightening.  The best thing one can do now is get to know You more personally when times are peaceful, so that if and when the time is no longer peaceful, that person will not be afraid because hearing from You will already be a normal way of life.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, You are a Person with a personality, character traits, likes, dislikes, feelings, and a desire to communicate with Your creation.  May we stop seeing “our relationship with God” as some mystical and impersonal state of being, or some box to check off on our list of things to do.  Just like a wonderful marriage, our relationship with You is continuing to grow and mature with each passing day.  Help us to continue to rely on You for the right words to say in the moment You want us to speak them.

A Series of Compromises

S (Scripture) – Mark 12:38-40 “In His teaching He was saying: ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.'” NASB

“He continued teaching.  ‘Watch out for the religion scholars.  They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.'”

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, as I was mediating on this passage, I distinctly saw a picture of my little seedlings that I am growing as they were just breaking through the surface of the soil.  My son asked me, “Mommy, how do they do that?”  I told him that everything the seed needed to grow into a big plant was already inside of it, and that the process started by just barely breaking through the shell of the seed, then taking root, and then showing through the soil.  Even though it took a few days for us to actually see the first seedling above the soil, there had been a lot going on under the surface.  In much the same way, I don’t believe that highly pious, religious people are initially “preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions,” all the while “exploiting the weak and helpless.”  No doubt there are some very disturbed individuals out there who claim the Name of Christ that are merely predators seeking someone to take advantage of…but mostly, the hollow hearts of pious religious people started out wanting to please You. Along the way, there were a series of compromises that resulted in the person elevating themselves and seeking the praise and approval of other people rather than You.  Much goes on under the surface, or, inside the heart, that we cannot see.  But, You see.  Slowly, the person drifts away from knowing the one, true God, and then exploitation of others becomes easy.  It didn’t happen overnight.

A (Application) – Proverbs 4:23–26 instructs believers to, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”  The choices we make each day are moving us closer in intimacy to knowing our Lord and His will, or they are pushing Him away.  According to GotQuestions.org, “James 1:14–16 tells us, ‘Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.’  Sin always begins in the mind.  A sinner must first conceive and dwell on the sinful action before he actually carries it out.  The first line of defense, therefore, must be to refuse to even contemplate a wrongful action.  The apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive, so that it conforms to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:3–5).”

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us victory over sin and death.  Help us to remember that the battlefield is in our mind, our thoughts, and our hearts.  War is constantly being waged around us, and the only means of being victorious is by trusting in You alone.  Equip us to guard our hearts and minds so that we can accomplish all that You have for us to do.  If we have made choices along the way that draw us away from You, help us to confess our sin.  You promise to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we confess them to You (1 John 1:9).  Thank You for never giving up on us, and for continuing to draw us closer to You.

No Day Ahead You Have Not Seen

S (Scripture) – Mark 11:1-6 “As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it;’ and immediately he will send it back here.’  They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it.  Some of the bystanders were saying to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’  They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I see that You know all things, and exist outside of time and space – there is no day ahead You have not seen.  Nothing comes as a surprise to You.  It’s almost as if our generation and each of our lives is a movie that You wrote, directed, and produced, and have seen it so many times that You know exactly what happens next.  Just because You know ahead of time exactly what choices we will make doesn’t make it any less of a choice for us at the time we are making the decision.  This can be difficult to understand, but our free will is operating in the midst of Your sovereignty.

A (Application) – If we truly believe that You know all things and that nothing has happened in our day that caught You by surprise, we should take great comfort in that.  While we are living moment-to-moment and have no idea what our futures hold, You do.  We don’t need to see the end from the beginning in order to live our lives, but great peace comes from intimately knowing the One who does in fact see the end from the beginning.  You are our guide, our shepherd, gently leading us through each day.  Instead of trying to figure everything out on our own and make sense of our complicated lives 100% of the time, we should instead focus our time and energy on getting to know You more, and trusting that You will be with us through it all.

P (Prayer) – Lord, there are those that say You “will never give us more than we can handle.”  This is an absolute lie.  If we could handle everything that You give us, why would we need You?  You give us more than we can handle on our own so that we recognize our need for You, and must absolutely trust You and place our faith in Your abilities rather than our own to get through it.  You promise to never leave us, nor forsake us, and to be with us wherever we go (Deuteronomy 31:6).  You promise us that Your grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).  You promise us that no temptation has seized us but that which is common to man, and that You will always provide a way out so that we may stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Thank You for these (and many other) promises.  May we learn to trust You completely and depend on You for wisdom and guidance as we plan and walk throughout our days.

The Heart of a Child

S (Scripture) – Mark 10:13-16 “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.‘  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”

O (Observation) – Children are born with a tremendous sense of awe, wonder, imagination, excitement, and an absolute trust of those around them.  According to one commentary, “A child trusts without reflecting.  Children cannot live without trusting those around them.  Their trust is not a virtue; it is a vital reality.  To encounter God, the best thing we have is our child’s heart that is spontaneously open, that dares simply to ask, that wants to be loved.”  It is this humble heart that trusts implicitly that we are to have as adults when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.  If we are too busy trying to argue with God about who He is, constantly challenging His promises to us, and forever doubting whether or not He can do what He says He can do, we are wasting so much time wallowing in doubt and unbelief, and ultimately we are missing out on all that He has for us.  [As I sometimes say to my almost four-year-old, “This would all go so much better if you would just trust me and do what I say!”]

A (Application) – Another commentary says, “A child doesn’t have to figure everything out to believe it…children don’t require God to prove anything to them to believe.”  Why is it that adults reach this point of such hardness of heart that we find it next to impossible to believe at times?  Without a doubt, life experiences have shaped our hearts and our thinking – we’ve been hurt by those we have trusted completely.  We’ve been taken advantage of, left out, broken by tragedy, and we slap a label of “wisdom with age” on our hardness of heart.  We ascertain that the less trusting we are, the smarter we are because that is what life has taught us to do.

Jesus is telling us to trust Him.  Just as an infant who can do nothing for his or herself other than utterly depend on its parents to care for all needs, we are to depend on Him.  A baby cannot so much as lift its own head – it must trust completely that the mother or father that is caring for it has his or her best interests at heart.  It doesn’t worry about the future potential struggles of life – where the next meal is coming from, what it is going to wear to sleep, etc.  All of its attention is focused on its parents, completely trusting that they have it all under control.

P (Prayer) – Dear Jesus, help me to continuously depend on You as a little child with a humble heart.  I know You love me with an everlasting love; You never give up on me, and You always are able to turn any of the broken pieces of my life into something beautiful.  I trust You completely. I pray for all who have broken hearts from life’s journey – those that have a difficult time with trusting You – help them to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).