Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A powerful encounter

Matthew 28:1-7 / Mark 16:1-8 / Luke 24:1-7 / John 20:1…

In this passage, we see God building a sure foundation for the faith of believers. These dear women, who loved Jesus, were still having a hard time believing that His words about rising from the dead would be literally fulfilled. This is why they were bringing spices to anoint the body, and wondering who would roll away the stone for them.

Still, among the followers of Jesus, these women were the last to leave the cross, and the first to see the tomb. Although they didn’t as yet believe, their courage and commitment led them to go to the burial site. As they make their way, they encounter several signs of God’s victory.

First, an angel causes an earthquake, rolls back the stone covering the tomb, and sits on it. The stone wasn’t moved so that Jesus could get out; it was moved so the disciples could get in. These women would be able to see the empty tomb for themselves. Christ is victorious over death.

Then the women actually see this angel in a glorified state. This terrifying sight causes the guards to pass out in fear. Both the women and the guards witness the same evidence, but they have different reactions. It depends on your commitments. For those who are against God, the truth is actually a terror. Christ is victorious over His enemies.

The angel speaks a word of comfort (do not be afraid), makes an important announcement (He has risen), and gives a vital exhortation (go quickly and tell). The women were the first to see the signs and became the first evangelists. God is victorious over unbelief.

This is the pattern of God’s victory over you. When we first encounter God’s presence and power, we are most often frightened by the experience. But through His Word, God comforts us with His love, convicts us with His truth, and then commissions us with His message.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Guarding the evidence

Matthew 27:62-66…

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate. Jesus was dead, but the religious leaders were still afraid of Him. They were willing to do anything to put a stop to people believing in Him. The day before, they would not enter Pilate’s palace, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover (John 18:28).  But now they broke their own law by entering into a Gentile dwelling on the Sabbath.

Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise.'  Now they also change their story, admitting their deceitfulness. During Jesus’ trial, they had used Jesus’ words to say that He was talking about tearing down the temple building.  Yet they knew all along that Jesus was not talking about tearing the temple down. They knew He was talking about dying and being raised again the third day (Matthew 12:40). 

Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day. They were afraid that the disciples would fabricate a resurrection to keep the movement alive. Of course the disciples had no such thought at all (John 20:9), even though Jesus had mentioned it many times (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:18-19 / Mark 9:9-10). The religious leaders convince Pilate that if Jesus was a problem before, when the people had believed He was the Messiah, it would be much worse if people thought He had risen from the dead.

So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. By placing the Roman seal on the stone, it would be known if anyone had tampered with the tomb. Ironically, by making sure that there was no way that anyone could steal the body, they actually provided additional witness to the fact that the resurrection wasn’t a fake. The enemies of Jesus guarded the evidence! Indeed, God uses the wrath of men to praise Him (Psalm 76:10).

Think about it. God had all these details worked out, in the midst of all this hardship and hatred, this darkness and deceit. Doesn’t it make sense that you can trust Him with your details, no matter who is against you, and no matter how dark it seems right now (Romans 8:28-31)? 

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Secret no more

Matthew 27:57-61 / Mark 15:42-47 / Luke 23:50-56 / John 19:38-42…

In His burial, Jesus would be fulfilling prophecy. Even though He was counted as a criminal, He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). In facilitating this, Joseph of Arimathea, who, like Nicodemus, was a “secret disciple” of Jesus, was now out in the open and would soon be ousted from the religious elite. His love for his Lord compelled him out of hiding. 

Nicodemus was also “buried” that day. His old life was gone. His spiritual growth parallels that of many believers. As we see him developed in the scriptures, first he was being drawn, then he was being challenged, and finally, here, he was being bold. We can trace the grace in Nicodemus’ life, as he grows from curious (John 3:1-5) to courageous (John 7:32, 44-52) to crucified (John 19:38-42 / cf. Galatians 2:20, 6:14).

Nicodemus’ love for Christ grew, and he showed the most love for Jesus after He had died. He had received grace and was willing to give graciously even though he would be opening himself up to losing his means. Nicodemus was a prominent man but he was willing to take a risk, and then appear foolish to his peers, and then even to lose it all for the sake of Christ.

Having finally died to his old life, it is easy to imagine that Nicodemus was one of the 120 in the upper room, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15). His faith was out in the open, no longer a secret.

How about you? Are you still in the secret stage? Remember, if you are truly growing in grace, the secret will eventually get out.