Imagine with me, for a moment, the group of disciples walking through the lush green vegetation of Galilee, climbing the gentle slopes of the mountain where Jesus has asked them to meet him. There’s a spirit of anticipation propelling the group forward. Since the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has periodically joined the group of disciples, but always at a time when they didn’t expect him. He appeared and disappeared without opening doors. It is quite a mystery. Now Jesus has given them a specific location where to meet him and they are excited.
The hot afternoon sun beats down on them from a cloudless, blue Galilean sky. A gentle breeze makes the heat bearable as it sways the brushes and grass along the path. They reach the top of the mountain and wait. Clustered together, they voice their questions to each other.
Will Jesus at this time establish his kingdom? That he is the Messiah they have no doubt – didn’t the prophets of old prophecy that his kingdom would have no end? Their excited chatter hushes. They feel a holy presence settle over them as Jesus suddenly appears. Jesus greets them with a gentle smile – the special people who have faithfully followed him these past three years. How he loves them!
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” His voice rings with power, authority, and love. No one moves. The disciples hang onto every word. Even the wind has calmed so not one word will be lost. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20. “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts 1:5
The disciples’ hearts burn within them as Jesus opens their understanding. Scripture has been fulfilled! The Messiah has come indeed! They are ready to assist Jesus in establishing his kingdom.
The disciples can’t contain their excitement any longer. “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” they ask. Acts 1:6
Jesus says to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8
Wait! Did Jesus say Jerusalem and Judea? Why those are the people who killed Jesus! Those are the people they’ve been hiding from. Witness to them?
“And, behold," Jesus continues, "I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
Jesus lifts up his hands, and blesses them. As he blesses them, Jesus lifts off the ground. The disciples watch in amazement as Jesus rises higher and higher. A cloud appears out of nowhere and gently engulfs Jesus, and takes him out of their sight. Astonished, they shade their eyes with their hands as they watch the cloud get smaller and smaller. Finally, it disappears completely. (Paraphrase of Luke 24:50-51 and Acts1:9).
“Ye men of Galilee.” Startled, the disciples turn to see two men standing near, both dressed in white. “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11
Speechless, the disciples look at each other. Does Peter know what these men are talking about? Or John? Jesus is coming back? When? They turn back to the men in white, but they’re gone. The disciples look around, but the two strangers are nowhere to be found.
“What do we do now?” one of the disciples asks.
“Jesus said that we should stay in Jerusalem until we’re given power, so we should go to Jerusalem,” says another, stroking his beard thoughtfully.
A few of them nod in agreement. That makes sense. If Jesus wants to give them something in Jerusalem then that’s where they should go. Amid a buzz of conversation they start to descend the mountain. Maybe Jesus will return to them in Jerusalem.
Can you imagine being there with the disciples that day? The burning in your heart as the Lord lifts his hands and blesses you? The mysterious way Jesus lifts up and then a cloud gathers him up and takes him away?
This same Jesus, is coming back in the same way he went to heaven. "And, behold, I [Jesus] come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Revelation 22:12
Are you excited for that day? Are you ready? Do you believe? "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death, unto life."John 5:24
Until next time.
“He is Risen! He is Risen!” The disciples must have been startled as Mary Magdalene, and the other women that were with her, burst through the door. Eyes red from weeping, they stared dumbfounded. Had the events of the last few days been too much for them?
“Come and see! The grave is empty!” Their words tripped over each other in excitement. They chattered about angels at the tomb, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty.
The tomb was empty? Peter sprang up and pushed through the door. He would see for himself. Running to the grave, he slowed down when he saw the stone was indeed rolled away. He stooped down to enter the grave. There on the rock ledge lay Jesus’s linen clothes. The napkin that had been wrapped around his head lay off to the side. The tomb was empty. Puzzled, Peter retraced his steps.
Later that evening, when the disciples were gathered together behind closed doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.
“Peace be to you,” Jesus said, holding out his hands for them to see the deep scars.
What joy filled the disciple’s hearts! Jesus was alive!
Jesus is alive! The grave is empty!
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Cor.16:55
Jesus conquered the last enemy – death. He poured out his blood for a sacrifice for our sin – buried our sin in death – and arose to everlasting life! God’s plan for salvation is complete. A redemption plan that was the ultimate act of love for mankind. God demonstrates his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1
Jesus opened the way for all the world to be saved from eternal condemnation. John 3:16-18. It’s all paid for, all we need to do is accept it. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to accept this wonderful gift. You need only ask. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:6
Praise God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Until next time.
A few action-packed days after Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we find him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew the time had come that he would suffer and die for the people he loved so well. He had told Judas earlier that evening – in the upper chamber where they ate their Passover meal – to do what he was going to do, and do it quickly.
After Judas left, Jesus takes the rest of the disciples outside the walls of Jerusalem, to the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The disciples sit down on various benches in the garden, enjoying the coolness of the evening, but Jesus walks a little farther. His heart is heavy. Three years he has walked from town to town, healing the sick and preaching the gospel. He has told his disciples what lays ahead; he has tried to prepare them, but they don’t understand. He has willingly done everything his Father sent him to do, except this. It will all culminate tonight. Jesus throws himself on the ground, dread overwhelming his spirit, and prays.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus fights his hardest battle. The battle against his flesh. He has left all the splendour of his kingdom in heaven, for this moment. Now it all comes crashing down on him, and he staggers under the load. He looks into the cup the Father has set before him, and is repulsed. That cup has every imaginable sin in it – gossip, addictions, stealing, adultery, abuse, incest, rape, murder, witchcraft – the dregs of the vilest criminal offence – you name it; it’s there.
Jesus was a flesh and blood man. He was tempted, even as we are tempted. Jesus is also God, and in that aspect, he has control over his life – to lay it down and to take it up. John 19:17-18. He has a choice to make. Man has no control over his life unless he allows it.
Jesus is holy. Pure. He never sinned in his life. Not once. Now, to save his creation, he must drink that cup and become that sin. Every single sin ever committed, and all future sins, he must take upon himself. Can you imagine?
Have you ever been falsely accused? It makes you mad. It’s embarrassing. You do everything in your power to clear your name. Your reputation is at stake.
Jesus looks into that cup of sin and cries out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me…” In agony, he pleads. His sweat becomes like great drops of blood, dripping from his face. How can he take the blame for all that sin?
Three times he gets up from his knees to seek support from his disciples, just to find them sleeping. How disappointing. His best friends don’t understand his agony. He falls to his knees again and submits himself to the will of the Father, “not my will, but thine, be done.” At last, Jesus overcame. The spiritual battle was over.
Then in the quietness of the late evening, God does a tender, loving thing. He sends angels to comfort his precious Son. From that moment on, Jesus becomes relatively quiet – taking every insult, every whiplash; every nail driven into his body – with great dignity. He submits to it all as a sheep led to slaughter. He is the sacrificial lamb.
The next day, while Jesus hangs on the cross, the sun refuses to shine for three hours as creation mourns the death of the Creator. An eerie darkness covers the land. Even then, Jesus is in control as he says, “it is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.” John 19:30.
No one took his life – he laid it down out of his great love for you and I. He paid the price. “It is finished” he said. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He poured out his blood for every sin that ever was and ever would be. He completed the task his Father had given him.
The earth shook in a great earthquake and the veil in the temple ripped in two. It was no longer needed. God would never again hide behind a veil. Every person was now welcome to come boldly to the Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Even the Roman centurion, seeing all that happened, said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” Mark 15:39b.
What love! What a Saviour!
The price for our sin is paid. Now you and I can boldly come to the “throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Thankfully, we know that the story doesn’t end there. Jesus doesn’t stay on the cross. He doesn’t stay dead. We don’t worship a dead God. No, our God is alive! Stay tuned…
Until next time.
Can you picture Jesus sitting on the donkey as he descends the Mount of Olives? His disciples have put their clothes on the donkey for Jesus to sit on. Others throw their garments and palm branches on the ground before him. Excitement stirs the air as the crowd surrounds him, eager to declare Jesus their king, shouting “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” Mark 11:9-10.
Excitement escalates as they descend the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem. Israel has been under Roman rule for years, and the people are eager to make Jesus their king. They have seen the miracles he performed over the last three years. They praise God loudly, saying, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” Luke 19:38.
How surprised they are when Jesus stops the donkey and starts weeping. Letting his eyes sweep over this beloved city, tears stream over his cheeks as he bemoans the fact that the people don’t recognize who he truly is. He weeps as he foretells the devastation that will come upon the city, because they are too blind to realize Jesus is the Son of God. (Luke 19:41-44).
The Pharisees had already asked Jesus to quiet the crowd. They didn’t like the uproar, maybe afraid that the Romans would see it as an uprising, or maybe just because it was out of their control. They were concerned about public appearance. Blinded by their traditions and self-righteousness, they had no idea they were looking upon the Son of God! They completely missed their opportunity!
Jesus speaks with authority when he tells the Pharisees that if the crowd would be silent, the stones would cry out. Nature itself would break out in praise – yet the religious leaders missed their moment.
I often wonder how we, the church, would have responded had we lived during that time – keeping in mind that the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out on the believers. Yes, they had the Books of Moses and the Prophets, but Jesus was different than what they expected their Messiah would be. The Law of Moses had many rules, and the Pharisees had added many of their own. They were self-righteous.
Today we need to ensure we are grounded in God’s Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to remove the blinders from our eyes.
Until next time.
Most of us want the very best for our children. From the moment they are born we try hard to raise the best children possible. We love them, feed them, hold them, comfort them, and make sure they get enough sleep. We hover over them, doing our best to shield them from every imaginable harm. When they’re happy, we’re happy. When they hurt, we hurt.
When I was pregnant with our first child I had a dream that has stuck with me all these years. I dreamed that I had two children—a boy and a girl. They were probably about four or five years old. In my dream there was a huge fire in a very large pit. I was holding onto both children, desperately trying to keep them back as they pulled with all their might towards that fire. Waking up in a sweat, I was tremendously relieved that it was just a horrible nightmare. Or was it?
This dream has haunted me over the course of my life. There’s a lesson here.
Children are a gift from the Lord. It is our God-given duty to train them up in such a way that they will accept Jesus as their own personal Saviour and go on to live their life for the Lord. As in my dream, we have to continually pull them back from the evil influences around them that can destroy their souls.
However, parents aren’t perfect. Along with trying to raise our children for the Lord we are also working to provide for them. We have work stresses, financial stresses, we chauffeur our kids to different sporting or other extra-curricular activities, housework is never ending, and a host of other things that keep us so busy that sometimes the Lord’s work gets pushed to the back burner. Maybe a missed Bible reading turns into weeks of not being in the Word. A missed church service turns into months or years of non-attendance. We can get side-tracked to the point where we don’t even realize that we’re not really living for the Lord anymore. We have become complacent.
In the meantime, our children are growing up. If we’re not careful, they’re growing up without solid biblical teaching. They are getting to the point where they need to make their own decision—will they decide to follow Christ or not? That’s a decision they have to make for themselves. We, as parents, can’t do it for them. We can only point them in the right direction.
Going back to my dream, these are the children we are desperately trying to keep from falling into the fire. God help us all to keep on track!
Until next time.