Easter Monday- Epilogue: The Never-Ending Story

Just over a week ago, when I decided I would spend time each day writing a post which captured something of and reflected on the story of Holy Week, I didn’t realise what a challenge this would be. Trying to write creatively on a different issue on a daily basis had its difficult moments, often feeling at a complete loss as to what I could possibly say.

In some senses, I am glad to have reached the end of the road having completed the task I assigned myself, happy to take some more time over the next post I write. On the other hand, I am disappointed, for a number of reasons: Holy Week is over for another year, the habit of daily writing was fun (despite being difficult) and I certainly benefited from a daily reflection on the word of Scripture (as, I hope, did you). But, before I bring these reflections to an end, there is one more part of this story which needs told.

As you’ll see from the title of this post, I’m calling this post an epilogue. This is mainly due to the fact that it isn’t technically part of the Easter story, although it certainly is part of the story of Christ.

Further, this is a story that is never-ending. I suppose from our perspective and in our understanding, this is the “end” of the story, but the reality is this is a story which will never end.

I have made this statement many times, and I stand by it: the Bible makes many promises to humanity, all of which have come to pass. Well, all except one: the return of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, as track-records go, the Bible has a pretty good one! Which makes me all the more confident that this final promise will one day come to pass.

The book of Revelation prophecies what will take place at the return of Christ. Now, I should put a warning here- we must be extremely careful when it comes to interpreting this book. John Calvin (a favourite theologian of mine) wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible, except Revelation, because he deemed it too difficult to interpret! So, we do need to be careful.

As such, this following passage which predicts the return of Christ may be pictorial  but the Truth which lies behind it is absolutely true; Jesus is coming back:

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev. 19: 11-16 ESV)

What will the return of Christ herald? The full realisation of the Kingdom of God, and all the wonderful and joyful realities that will bring. And there is none greater than this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4 ESV)

If you are struggling right now, let this be a world of encouragement. If you despair at the pain and suffering in this world, take heart! For there is coming a time when God will come, and he will remove every pain, every heartache, every sorrow. There will be no more sadness or grief, for these things have no place in the presence of God.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that this reality, this fact, that God will one day remove all suffering from this world, will spur you on to hold fast to your faith. Know that God will come, either in this life or the next, and will bring to you the peace which passes understanding, and the strength to face whatever suffering there is in your life.

I also hope that this past week, Holy Week has been a real blessing for you. Thank you for following these posts as we looked at the stories of Jesus throughout the past week! And, as always, God Bless!

Easter Sunday- Long Live The King!

John’s account of the greatest moment in history:

The Resurrection
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going towards the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20: 1-10, 19-31 ESV)

I wonder if you’ve ever asked this question; why did the resurrection have to happen? From a salvation perspective, the consequences of our sins were dealt with at the cross and with Jesus death. So why is it we read John’s assertion in verse 9, “they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead”? He must rise from the dead…why?

Again, I must appeal to much smarter minds than mine when looking for an answer to this question. Here are three points raised by Bruce Milne in his book Know The Truth (an excellent book, which I would comment to you!):

It fulfils his priestly work. Christ’s priestly mediation consisted in going to the cross to bear God’s penal judgement and holy wrath in order to bring us righteousness, reconciliation with God and freedom from sin’s power. In the resurrection God the Father in effect pronounced his divine ‘Amen’ on the priestly work of his Son.

It manifests his kingly work. In the cross Jesus confronted the age-long enemies of our sorry race: sin, death and the powers of darkness. His resurrection proclaims his victory over all three.

It embodies the promise of his future reign. When the disciples met the risen Jesus they were quite literally gazing on the end of the world: God’s final triumph in the creation of a righteous new heaven and earth…The risen Jesus is the ‘first-fruits’ of the coming harvest of the dead at his return in glory.

This is why Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, there are those who object, and I do not wish to get into this argument now (all I will say is this: having examined all the possibilities myself, the only logical conclusion I can draw from the events of Easter is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead! For example: all those who wanted to destroy Christianity had to do was to show his dead body to the world, and that would have been it…but they could not. Why? Because there was no body to show!).

What I do wish to note is this: the poor disciples doubted until they saw the risen Jesus before them. They believe because they have seen. Look at what Jesus says in response to this: blessed are those who believe yet have not seen! What an amazing promise for Christians today, who love the risen Lord Jesus and follow His ways, yet haven’t seen him in the sense that the disciples saw Him.

That does not mean, however, that Christian faith is blind, or based on a lack of tangible or logical evidence (as some would have us believe!). Why did John write his account? So that we might believe! Why do we have the whole of Scripture? So that we might believe!

Again, I don’t have the space to go into the details of this but, having spent years acquainting myself with the Bible and it’s contents, I can give my personal assurance that it is robust, stands up to scrutiny, is wonderfully logical and is a solid foundation for faith in the reality of the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

All world religions have wonderfully ornate tombs which hold their religious figures, but not Christianity. We don’t need a tomb for Jesus, because He is not dead. He is the risen Lord, and this is the Truth I believe and proclaim. He is my Lord and my King!

Good Friday: The King is Dead

Easter Sunday: Long Live the King!!

The King is risen, and His rule is for eternity…but more on that tomorrow, for the last in our series of reflections for Easter 2013!

God Bless!

Holy Saturday- The most forgotten day of the year?

I always find this time of Holy Week the strangest. On Good Friday, Christians gather together and share in the experience of the death of Jesus, remembering the sacrifice and the grief.

When it comes to tomorrow, there will be genuine celebration and happiness at the reality that we do not worship a dead deity, but a risen Saviour.

But what of today? It seems to me that Christians neither continue to experience the grief of the Friday, but aren’t in a place of celebration as we should be tomorrow. It’s almost as if today is a day where business is back to normal, without really being back to normal.

This whole week has been taken up with daily reflections in church, yet today, there’s nothing. Most of us, I imagine, went about business as usual today.

I must confess, I don’t like this. I don’t like the idea that Holy Saturday is somehow a day when things momentarily return to normal before the glory of the resurrection. I admit, there’s nothing to be done about this, its the nature of the world that we are currently living in. But I think it does this whole amazing story a great disservice if we treat the day between Jesus death and resurrection as “back to the norm”.

So, instead of looking at a biblical text today (for there aren’t any which deal with the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday) I want you to scroll back to the top of this feed and spend some time looking at it.

Now, consider this picture:

One word springs to mind when I look at these pictures: bleak.

The first is bleak because of the plain landscape, which suggests, to me at least, emptiness. The second is bleak, not just because of the colour, but because of the obvious features: grave stones.

We might be able to live our lives “as normal” on the day between Friday and Sunday, but back then, life was anything but normal.

The disciples should have been sharing in the Sabbath together. They were supposed to be worshiping God together. Jesus was supposed to be with them, sharing in all of this, teaching them and instructing them. But He’s not there.

Instead, His body lies in a grave, cold and dead. They maybe sit together, but they don’t share any words. Each is consumed by his own thoughts, as they try and come to terms with what has happened.

Some feel intense rage at Judas, their beloved brother who turned his back on them and led their teacher to his death.

Some are filled with grief as they remember the moment in the garden when they ran. They weep quietly to themselves and they think about their teacher being led off by the guards, and all they could do was flee. They feel sick.

Peter is alone in a corner, and no one dares go near him. He is racked with guilt. He cannot believe that he denied knowing Jesus, when only hours before he had promised to follow Jesus to death. He remembers that moment when, as He was led from the High Priests house, Jesus’ gaze fell upon him, and pierced him right to his soul.

Life to the disciples looks anything but normal, and never again will it be business as usual. They look at their future, and it looks like the pictures above: bleak. In fact, from their point of view, they have no future.

Life to the disciples will never go back to normal, but in a way they cannot yet imagine. Their teacher is dead.

And our King is dead. Yes, we can appreciate things from a different perspective. Yes, we know that this is not the end of the story. Yes, we know that there is a chapter still to be written. But, we must take seriously this day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday; we must remember the grief and sadness of this day. We can’t let “business as usual” take away from the reality of the aftermath of Jesus death.

And I only say these things because I know its not the end of the story.

Good Friday: the King is Dead

Holy Saturday: the future looks bleak

But Sunday is coming!

God Bless!